Two Yale School of Management affiliates sit on the board of RYB Education, the Chinese preschool education provider at the center of child abuse allegations that have prompted widespread outrage in China.
Joel Getz, a senior associate dean at SOM and Liang Meng SOM ’97, a Donaldson Fellow at SOM and co-chairman of the school’s Greater China Board of Advisors, currently serve on RYB’s six-person board.
The abuse allegations emerged last Wednesday, when several parents of children enrolled at a Beijing kindergarten — one of nearly 500 operated by RYB Education — alleged that their children were pierced by needles, fed unidentified pills and sexually molested at the school, according to Chinese state news agency Xinhua.
The Chinese police said in a Tuesday press release that they had detained a kindergarten teacher suspected of disciplining students with needles but denied other claims made by parents. Chinese police said the hard drive storage for the surveillance camera footage in the schools, which could have provided evidence of the alleged abuse, was damaged, though the British Broadcasting Corporation reported that around 113 hours of footage have been recovered.
In a press release from last Friday, RYB announced its plans to “perform a thorough self-inspection across all RYB teaching facilities and review and inspect all practices in these facilities, through a special task force led by the independent directors of the Company.”
Meng has profited significantly from his relationship with RYB Education. According to the Nikkei Asian Review, a financial newspaper, the private equity firm that Meng founded with Kevin Zhang SOM ’94 bought a 47.1 percent stake in RYB Education in late 2015 and made $42.6 million by selling part of its holding after the education company went public on the New York Stock Exchange in September.
Together with Neil Shen SOM ’92, Meng donated $3 million to Yale in April to establish the Yale China Fund for Emotional Intelligence, which is designed to help early childhood educators in China cultivate emotional intelligence skills to make them more effective teachers.
Getz declined to speak with the News about the allegations and referred to the company’s press release. “The company is deeply saddened by the alleged maltreatment towards children by the RYB teacher, and extends its apologies to all of RYB’s parents, children and the public for the negative impact resulting from this incident,” the press release states. RYB Education and Ascendent Capital, the private equity firm co-founded by Meng, did not respond to requests for comment.
Before joining SOM in 2008 to lead development and alumni relations, Getz served as director of development at the Clinton Foundation in New York. According to the SOM website, Getz raised more than $135 million annually for former President Bill Clinton’s charitable initiatives.
Before that, he directed the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, assisting then–New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg in raising funds to improve the city.
Half of the members of RYB Education’s six-person board, like Meng, have backgrounds in finance. Dennis Zhu, who received a business degree from the University of Chicago, worked at the Hong Kong branch of Oaktree Capital, a global asset management firm, for eight years as a managing director and as a senior advisor. Zhenhong Chang is now president of Beijing FYJS Investment.
Grace Kao, faculty director of education studies at Yale, told the News that, although she does not have specific knowledge of the alleged child abuse, the concentration of people with no background in education on the board could be problematic.
“Educational institutions should be operated and managed by experts in education,” Kao said, adding that such people can range from teachers and school officials to education policy experts and researchers.
Four teachers at another kindergarten run by RYB Education in Jilin Province in China were convicted in April of jabbing students with needles in December 2015.
Jingyi Cui | firstname.lastname@example.org
Clarification, Nov. 29: This story has been updated to reflect that a task force comprised of independent directors will conduct inspections of RYB’s teaching facilities. The headline has also been updated to reflect the connection of two SOM affiliates to the education provider’s board.