The American Association of University Professors issued a statement Tuesday to express “a growing concern” regarding the establishment of Yale-NUS College.

In the statement, the Association, which is dedicated to upholding academic freedom and promoting shared university governance at schools nationwide, urges the Yale Corporation to release all documents related to the founding of the Singaporean liberal arts college, and calls for the University to establish “appropriate and genuinely open forums” in which the academic and political dimensions of the new school can be debated.

“We are concerned about the implications of the undertaking for academic freedom and the maintenance of educational standards at Yale and elsewhere,” said the statement, which was written by AAUP members Joan Bertin, Marjorie Heins, Cary Nelson and Henry Reichman.

The statement poses 16 questions of the Yale-NUS initiative — a partnership between between Yale and the National University of Singapore — including whether members of the college community will be subjected to Singapore’s Internet firewalls and monitoring systems and whether speakers invited to campus will be affected by restrictions on visitors to Singapore.

The statement refers to a previous document issued jointly by the AAUP and the Canadian Association of University Teachers in 2009, which addresses problems U.S. institutions face in establishing campuses overseas, and urges them to guarantee “provisions to ensure academic freedom and tenure and collegial governance,” including anti-harassment and anti-discrimination provisions and rights to procedural fairness. Because the 2009 statement “did not cover everything that is now at stake in Singapore,” Nelson said the AAUP decided to release a statement to address Yale-NUS specifically.

Yale-NUS President Pericles Lewis said the school, which will welcome its inaugural class of roughly 150 in the fall of 2013, has shown a strong commitment to academic freedom.

“The AAUP doesn’t seem to have looked at the documents Yale-NUS has circulated already, such as the principles on academic freedom and nondiscrimination,” Lewis said. “It has made assumptions without really investigating the matter.”

In October, Yale-NUS administrators announced that branches of existing political parties in Singapore as well as organizations “promoting racial or religious strife” would be prohibited on the college’s campus in accordance with the nation’s laws.

Nelson, an English professor at the University of Illinois who co-wrote the statement, told the News that AAUP members involved in drafting the statement have read “every single piece of paper that exists in the public domain on Yale-NUS,” adding that they have had access to a substantial archive of documents about the endeavor. Nelson said several AAUP members have been in touch with Yale faculty in Yale’s AAUP chapter — which held an initial organizational meeting on Sept. 26 — in recent months to discuss issues concerning the Singaporean college.

University President Richard Levin said the Yale-NUS charter, which is published on the college’s website, addresses all major aspects of the Yale-NUS agreement except its finances. He added that Yale will not derive any monetary benefits from the project, which is to be fully funded by the Singaporean government.

Still, Nelson questioned Yale’s commitment to academic freedom in establishing a college in Singapore.

“The Yale Corporation can say all it wants to say about academic freedom in Singapore, but it’s not true that in such an authoritarian state one can maintain an acceptable level of academic freedom,” he said.

The AAUP was founded in 1915.

  • Rayner Teo

    When Professor Nelson writes, “The Yale Corporation can say all it wants to say about academic freedom in Singapore, but it’s not true that in such an authoritarian state one can maintain an acceptable level of academic freedom,” he is basically admitting that nothing you can say will change his mind about the “fact” that academic freedoms ‘will’–not ‘may’, but ‘will’–be curtailed in Singapore. Not up for debate, nor even the possibility of being proven wrong by the passage of time. But he should surely recognize that the claim he’s making, “Yale-NUS will not enjoy full academic freedoms”, is an empirical claim that, as yet, remains unproven and indeed unprovable until Yale-NUS opens. I’d urge him to hold his horses.

    If he is worried that Yale-NUS faculty will censor themselves, I have two things to say to that: (1) he clearly hasn’t met them, and (2) I’m pretty sure the Singaporean government has better things to do than bug a few hapless academics.

    That said, I think it is appropriate to call for Yale to keep its eyes open as Yale-NUS establishes itself in Singapore–after all, eternal vigilance is the price of liberty–but to represent the possibility of curtailment of academic freedoms as a fact is premature to say the least.

    • Jon
      • Rayner Teo

        Not to defend Singapore, but maybe Yale’s name and heft, and the threat that it might pull out, will be a deterrent to any such action. Without having access to the IHT article (which I haven’t managed to find despite some intense Googling), who’s to say whether or not his writing was accurate, or his prosecution was justified? Besides, Singapore today is a different place from Singapore 17 years ago, and if the government invited Yale to be its partner in the project, it knows what Yale stands for. Whatever you say about the Singaporean government, you certainly can’t deny that it does its homework.

        My point remains: since the possibility of academic freedom being curtailed at Yale-NUS is still entirely theoretical at this point, it is inaccurate and premature to present it as a fact that academic freedom *will* be curtailed at Yale-NUS.

        And if you look at the page for Dr Lingle’s “Authoritarian Capitalism”, you’ll notice he writes of the “internal contradictions arising from the imposed institutional arrangements”–I can’t think of a better way to expose these contradictions than to put a liberal arts college in the heart of the action.

        • attila

          This idea that Yale has influence because Singapore will be embarrassed if Yale pulls out… it relies on a complete misreading of the people running Yale (including Salovey). They just want to run around the world having cocktails with other elites. Things like research, education, or core values such as human rights mean nothing to them. The government of Singapore can do pretty much anything it wants with NUS, and if the leaders of Singapore are not complete fools, they realize that.

          • theantiyale

            “cocktails …” Not true. They are positioning themselves to be near and ready when the Giant wakes.

            BTW—Yale has been in “China” for eight decades. Thornton Wilder’s father was responsible for much of “Yale in China”.

          • Rayner Teo

            Point well taken, regarding the mindset of Yale’s top brass. Not having met them or read much from them, I can’t comment on their mentality re: Yale-NUS, but you must be more well-informed than I am.

            At the same time, though, I think you underestimate the attraction that Yale’s name has on the Singaporean end. If Yale pulls out, it would take a really good spin job to hide the loss of as many as a thousand university spots, and a collaboration with one of the world’s greatest universities. It would be a national embarrassment and I think Singaporeans wouldn’t hesitate to ask a lot of uncomfortable questions of the political leadership. Certainly, Singaporeans such as myself, and the intelligent and politically-attuned people that NUS and the other universities are educating, wouldn’t hesitate from questioning their judgement.

            And if a certain segment of Yale’s faculty stopped sapping Singaporean goodwill with their shifty and misdirected commentaries, there would be even more support for Yale-NUS–and make any potential clampdown even more politically unpleasant.

        • Jon

          Rayner wrote: “Without having access to the IHT article (which I haven’t managed to find despite some intense Googling), who’s to say whether or not his writing was accurate, or his prosecution was justified?”

          Precisely, that is why censorship is inconsistent with the ideals of academic freedom.

          That article has been ruled defamatory by the Singapore court, and cannot be distributed in Singapore.

        • Jon

          Professor Lingle wrote “relying upon a compliant judiciary to bankrupt opposition politicians”, and was prosecuted even though he did not mention Singapore directly.

          On whether Singapore has a “compliant judiciary”, Professor Lingle and IHT were found guilty by the court and ordered to pay a huge financial penalty.

          Professor Lingle also wrote “the media are subject to numerous restrictions and forms of censorship, some blatant, some subtle”.

          Is it still true? Well, Dr Chee and Mr Jeyaretnam comments on Yale-NUS are completely censored in the Singapore media, despite it being the “Most Popular” article in Yale Daily News (

          • Mike

            Just last year, Alan Shadrake was jailed for writing a book!

            “Court to Hear Appeal by Critic of Judiciary”

          • Rayner Teo

            I hope you’ve read Alan Shadrake’s book, Mike. Because I did my part for free speech, I bought the book, read it, and I want the ~$20 and those 8 hours of my life back again. Alan Shadrake, sadly, is a conspiracy theorist who managed to read between the lines, find what he wanted to find, spew a book-length ramble about it, and miraculously find a publisher. His claims are as pungent as they are unsubstantiated. Am I happy that he was prosecuted? Of course not. But it’s really, really charitable–and really, really insulting to all real academics out there–to call it ‘academic’ in any sense.

          • Mike

            It’s a misguided view that you can deprive him of academic freedom simply because you regard his evidence unconvincing. “Controversy lies at the heart of free academic inquiry”. UNESCO puts it as “open communication of findings, hypotheses and opinions lies at the very heart of higher education” (UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Status of Higher-Education Teaching Personnel)

          • sieteocho

            What they did with Alan Shadrake was pretty strange then. If his theories are insane, then why would they run the risk of jailing him and making themselves look bad in the process? Why would they do the same to all the conspiracy theorists out there, and lend them credibility that they wouldn’t otherwise have?

            I suspect that he did hit on a few uncomfortable truths, although I might actually go read that book and change my mind.

            I’m actually sympathetic to the view that freedom of speech isn’t an entirely good thing. Think about the way the Republican Party has been behaving all these years, carrying out campaigns of disinformation in the name of “freedom of speech”. Although I’d also say that the solution to this problem, being able to sue anybody for libel and jailing them, is probably worse than the problem itself.

          • Rayner Teo

            I don’t know, I’d consider that suggestion (that the judiciary is used as a tool by a certain unnamed country’s leadership) potentially libellous. More importantly, I’m guessing that Dr Lingle couldn’t produce any hard evidence for it–that, for example, he didn’t have it on tape or in writing, that a politician ordered a judge to rule in a particular way so as to bankrupt an opposition politician. I’m pretty sure, too, that a claim like that couldn’t appear in a peer-reviewed journal, not for fear of prosecution but for the simple fact that there’s no proof.

            Jon is stealthily pushing us to consider academics’ freedom rather than academic freedoms–which is certainly a legitimate move and an important point to consider, and on which I wouldn’t care to defend Singapore’s record. (Maybe others would.) Neither would I care to defend Singapore’s press. But this is a completely different point from the concerns of most of the AAUP letter, as well as the YDN article, and if that really was the AAUP’s concern then it should have made that clear. And if you or the AAUP are concerned about academics’ freedom rather than just academic freedom, then you really should be concerned about the regime of freedoms that *all* Singaporeans and people living in Singapore operate in, not just those of academics.

            And I don’t know that Dr Chee and Mr Jeyaretnam are “censored” in the Singapore media–I think it’s simply that they’re slow to churn out an article on an event in a small New England city halfway across the world at which they didn’t have any reps and can only rely on second-hand sources. I know Today and Straits Times are in the process of getting their articles out. Does this article (on a website run by the Straits Times) sound like they’re being censored?

          • Rayner Teo

            But I must thank Jon for linking us to Dr Lingle’s IHT article–it must have taken some effort.

          • Jon

            Rayner, it is libelous only if untrue. Do you believe that statement to be untrue?


            On J B Jeyaretnam: “The privy council held that two innocent persons had suffered a grievous injustice — fined, imprisoned and publicly disgraced for offences of which they were not guilty.”

          • Rayner Teo

            It’s easy to infer what country he’s referring to, but Dr Lingle’s statement as applied to Singapore, which he presents as fact, can’t be proved with the evidence at hand. Can you (or did Dr Lingle) produce evidence that the judiciary complied with some orders issued from higher up? I don’t think so. But on the off-chance you indeed had such evidence, I did write “potentially libellous” earlier. I don’t ‘believe’ or ‘disbelieve’ statements of fact.

            So what sphere of freedoms are you concerned about? do you accept or reject my argument that Professor Nelson’s claim on academic freedom at Yale-NUS remains unproven? because that’s all I came to point out. and, since you brought it up, is the media still imposing a blackout on Dr Chee and Mr Jeyaretnam, in your opinion?

          • Jon

            Without FOIA in Singapore, you can’t provide direct evidence. Here are some circumstantial evidence in the public domain:


            “sudden transfer in 1986 of senior district judge, Michael Khoo — one of the ablest judges to grace the subordinate court bench — to the attorney general’s chambers following his acquittal of Joshua Benjamin Jeyaretnam, an opposition MP,”

            “prosecution appealed the acquittal. The chief justice allowed the appeal with the unusual instruction for it to be retried before another district judge”

            “Jeyaretnam alleged in parliament that Khoo’s transfer had caused “public disquiet,” implying that it had been motivated by political considerations”

            “In a rancorous parliamentary debate, it emerged that Khoo’s transfer was not a “routine departmental transfer,” as claimed by the prime minister. In the result, Jeyaretnam was expelled from parliament, and disbarred from law practice.”

            “Jeyaretnam appealed the disbarment to the privy council, which, in allowing the appeal, roundly castigated the chief justice and the Singapore courts for their legal reasoning. It was a telling indictment of Singapore’s courts. The privy council held that two innocent persons had suffered a grievous injustice — fined, imprisoned and publicly disgraced for offences of which they were not guilty.”

            “This was the same privy council, which the prime minister had earlier praised”

            “I can only express the hope that faith in the judicial system will never be diminished, and I am sure it will not, so long as we allow a review of the judicial processes that takes place here in some other tribunal where obviously undue influence cannot be brought to bear. As long as governments are wise enough to leave alone the rights of appeal to some superior body outside Singapore, then there must be a higher degree of confidence in the integrity of our judicial process. This is most important. (Author’s underlining)” Lee Kuan Yew in parliament, March 15, 1967.


          • Jon

            Rayner wrote: “Jon is stealthily pushing us to consider academics’ freedom rather than academic freedoms”

            If Professor Lingle is not allowed to publish and express his opinions in IHT, do you classify that as impinging on academics’ freedom or academic freedoms?

          • Jon

            Rayner wrote: “I don’t know that Dr Chee and Mr Jeyaretnam are “censored” in the Singapore media–I think it’s simply that they’re slow to churn out an article on an event in a small New England city halfway across the world at which they didn’t have any reps and can only rely on second-hand sources. I know Today and Straits Times are in the process of getting their articles out.”

            Really?? have time and space to feature cleavages from all around the world, yet have no time and space to devote to Yale NUS? And can you provide the link to the ST article?

  • boogs

    So, I was listening to NPR this morning, and there was this piece about the NHL strike. Seems that most of the problems right now among owners and players stem from the fact that the NHL’s business model is failing because it expanded, unwisely, years ago into cities in places like Texas and south Florida that had no deep fan-base for ice hockey. Rather than change the business model (by shutting down franchises) to return to something more sustainable, the NHL has decided to stick to its guns and look elsewhere for new revenues. I think this expansion into Singapore is extremely unwise for Yale, an institution that has too many irons in the fire already (expanding the number of residential colleges, transforming its student body and facilities into MIT-Lite, growing its administrative positions by leaps and bounds–like all the other stylish institutions of higher learning–while starving the faculty of any real growth, moving into the West Campus, destroying the humanities and its Graduate School, etc.). Singapore seems like the last place Yale needs to be investing its time and limited emotional and intellectual energies. They say there’s none of Yale’s money involved…so they say.

  • resident

    “If there is a person alive to whom they will build monuments 100 years from now, it is Lee Kuan Yew, the Singaporean leader who did more than anyone else to promote and implement the marriage of capitalism and authoritarianism — an arrangement he euphemistically referred to as “Asian values.”

  • Jon
  • jane

    You can’t even comment on the Singapore judiciary without fear of prosecution!

    Isn’t it funny that the court will judge whether you have scandalized the court?

    • Mike

      As that Roman poet once said, “Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes?” (Who Shall Guard the Guards?)

  • theantiyale

    An Open Question for President Lewis:

    Will an office of TheYale Daily News be allowed to operate Yale-NUS campus? Would it be (as the AAUP queries) “subjected to Singapore’s Internet firewalls and monitoring systems” in creating and filing its reports?

  • Second Mouse

    Yale is setting up shop in a country where:

    -Press freedom is ranked 135th in the world
    -The Gini coefficient is 2nd highest in the world
    -The government continues to claim that criminalising homosexuality in the form of 377a is completely constitutional and not a form of discrimination

    This is the real face of Singapore (the one they didn’t show you in the brochure):

    I guess the most gay-friendly, liberal Ivy League college is going to give stodgy old Singapore a makeover, eh? Yale, the new frontier of human rights and progress in Asia. I’ll believe it when I see it.

    • Grandice Sze

      Yes. Thank god we don’t have oil fields though. Else, it would be West Point setting up shop here instead of Yale. So much for human rights.

  • officerexit

    Why is it that stakeholders at Yale and wise observers are not discussing Yale and its lack of leadership? It is not just Richard Levin – though he is the President. Let’s take a look at recent investigations into Yale’s “Best Practices,” and other campus activities. In several instances Yale has been caught blatantly ignoring federal laws.

    1. Feds audit Yale’s government grants. Huge fine had to be paid.
    2. The Yale-Singapore partnership for a college in Singapore – which Levin and Lorimer have pushed forward in “branding” efforts. The faculty was not properly consulted. Several Yale Corporation Board members (former and current), including Charles Ellis, Lorimer’s husband, have heavy financial ties to Singapore. Lorimer and Highsmith are now at Bett’s house trying to keep the NUS initiative going.
    3. Yale cited by DOE for underreporting sexual assault and rape.

    4. The Annie Le murder/rape. Annie was in pharmacology dept where the Dept Chair is a known sexual harasser Joseph Schlessinger (google Schlessinger/Garceau). This female employee went to every office at Yaleto try to get help – to try to just get transferred! Guess what? HR tried to demonize Garceau for reporting the truth. Yale had to settle the harassment suit in 2006 for him – and he has been promoted at Yale!
    This is the culture Annie was working in.
    5. Sixteen students filed Title IX complaint against Yale in 2011. DOE OCR response to Yale is detailed in 6 page agreement listing line-by-line requirements Yale must
    adhere to because they were NOT following the laws.

    There was not equal access to services on campus – specifically public safety
    in relation to sexual harassment, assault and rape. See the recent list
    of sexual misconduct victim stories. ( The “tragic, tragic stories” Assistant Secretary for the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights has referred to. Leadership deliberately looked the other way – just as PENN State leadership did.

    6. Patrick Witt, quarterback Rhodes Scholar applicant Yale supported
    for the award – despite that fact that there was a serious sexual
    assault complaint against him – again through the “inadequate” system at Yale.

    7. The student who died tragically because she was not trained properly or observed while using equipment in the lab. If Yale were not a private university – they would have been held liable for the lack of training, supervision and would have been forced to change their practices, pay OSHA fines, and settle with the family.

    8. If you really want to look into the hostile environment at Yale for women you can take a look at Nathan Harden’s book “Sex and God at Yale.” Oh my. Harden’s politics are
    not the focus here. Read this book and decide whether you would like to be a female student at Yale. Levin stepped down only days after this was published.

    Arrogance and lack of accountability, plus the hostile environment for women, are the three most critical problems at Yale. Think of Yale’s responses to all of these events. Has Yale shown any moral compass or accountability – critical to leadership?

  • alinskaya
  • Michelle

    Free speech in Singapore?? Well, the Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has just threatened a blogger with legal action after the blogger exposed that state assets developed with taxpayers money were sold to a $2 company owned by its political party (PAP). Serious case of conflict of interest, and a challenge to freedom of expression!