Ask questions about Yale-NUS

Nathan Steinberg’s column (“Stay Home, Yale,” Oct. 10) is an important, independent contribution to Yale’s understanding of what’s wrong about its venture in Singapore. Yet the response to it (the letter “Intellectual freedom at Yale-NUS,” Oct. 14) by professor Bryan Garsten, a very fine scholar and teacher but also an energetic framer of and apologist for Yale’s academic venture in Singapore — and now chairman of its Consultative Group on academic freedom — demonstrates the smooth convergence of two very flawed systems, in Singapore and the United States.

Students of government propaganda and administrative dissimulation should study this sentence about the film “To Singapore With Love”:

Garsten writes, “The only action taken by the Yale-NUS administration was to ask the Singaporean MDA to clarify the relevance of its restrictive rating to universities. Perhaps partly in response to this request, the MDA issued a public statement, reported in the main Singaporean newspaper, indicating that restricted films could be shown in relevant academic settings in universities.”

So, not only did Yale-NUS fail to consult the filmmaker herself; instead of protesting the nationwide ban, it scurried to the government for an exemption in what has become an all-too typical “Yale way,” tactfully asking the MDA “to clarify the relevance” to universities of a blanket, “national-security” ban. And the MDA — “perhaps partly in response to this request,” Garsten hypothesizes — helpfully issued a public statement, not a response, to Yale-NUS, which of course had requested only “clarification” and didn’t want to press the point.

How old does one have to be to recognize a dance like this for what it is, especially in a tiny island city-state of 5.6 million where little moves without the government having a finger in it? Why is Yale dancing as if it were a business investor or consulate? If “Yale” is not actually involved here, why is its name on the college? And why has Yale refused for five years to let its own faculty see the contract that it signed with Singapore?

We’re witnessing a subtle evisceration of essential freedoms of speech and expression in this too easy convergence of chilling regulatory practices in Singapore and in the United States since 9/11. The Yale Corporation’s long-time investors in Singapore who framed the Yale-NUS venture underestimated the costs of this convergence even as they facilitated it. And, step-by-step, we are paying the price. It would be appropriate for Yale to remove its name from the college, instead of giving the impression that it sold its name to a regime that wanted to acquire it for reasons incompatible with Yale’s own purposes and principles.

Jim Sleeper

Oct. 17

The writer is a lecturer in political science.

On Parkinson’s

As a person with Parkinson’s disease, I try to keep up with the latest research developments. That’s why I read George Saussy’s article (“Study hints at cure for Parkinson’s,” Oct. 14) with some interest. Unfortunately, I found it lacking in many respects.

What I found particularly disturbing was the quote attributed to postdoctoral fellow Levant Mutlu: “We found an alternative, easy way to cure Parkinson’s.” Though I wish Mutlu’s claims were true, they are at best disingenuous.

For one thing, the research Mutlu is touting is small in scope. How small? Well, 16 St. Kitts Green Monkeys (eight male and eight female) were studied. That’s hardly definitive.

While scientists say that stem cells might — and that’s the key word here — have enormous therapeutic potential for people with Parkinson’s disease, I don’t know of any that claim they can cure the progressive neurological disorder.

Moreover, the research published in the Journal of Cellular and Molecular Medicine doesn’t claim that it’s found a Parkinson’s cure, at least that’s the message that I got. In fact, the paper describes itself as “preliminary” and notes that its findings “deserve more extensive and detailed study for therapeutic potential in future clinical applications.”

The idea of using stem cells to treat Parkinson’s is not new, and there are plenty of scientists both in the U.S. and Europe who could have addressed the significance of Mutlu’s paper with far more authority than I can provide.

The Yale community certainly deserves better.

Jonathan Berr

Oct. 16

The writer is a freelance journalist.