Posts Tagged ‘Yale-NUS Singapore’

McYale with the death penalty – and no backtalk

July 21, 2012

Progress continues toward the debut of the Yale branch campus in Singapore. The Asian liberal arts education experiment in partnership with the National University of Singapore is scheduled to begin holding classes next year.

As plans for the new campus emerged, Yale president Richard Levin and his administration assured all that the university would uphold its values despite Singapore’s illiberal political and social climate, including strict limits on free speech. But many faculty and alumni have expressed doubts about putting Yale’s centuries old reputation on the line in anti-democratic Singapore.

Yale international relations graduate student Shaun Tan has documented compromises Western universities make to accommodate repressive regimes. The article, titled Dangerous Liaisons, also noted that Yale received no special license to stretch Singapore’s boundaries.

Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported Yale’s Singapore campus will severely limit political activity. Political protests will be barred on campus, and students will be prohibited from forming partisan political groups.

The new college’s president, Yale professor of English and comparative literature Pericles Lewis, insisted that Yale in Singapore students “are going to be totally free to express their views.” Just don’t express them too loudly or widely, kids. Call it liberal education with Singaporean characteristics.

Totally globalized native New Yorker and former broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen is author of Hong Kong On Air, a novel set in his adopted hometown during the 1997 handover about television news, love, betrayal, high finance, and cheap lingerie. See his bio, online archive and more at www.muhammadcohen.com; follow him on Facebook and Twitter @MuhammadCohen.

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Yale brings liberal arts to illiberal Singapore

September 19, 2011

In the West, Singapore has a well-crafted reputation as the little engine that could, and that does it on time. It’s a charming image that’s almost completely false.

Singapore receives ritual designation annually as the world’s second freest economy, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, from America’s rightwing Heritage Foundation. Singapore’s mythical status as a corruption-free zone is built on the twin pillars of selective law enforcement, such as ignoring widespread reports of unlicensed promoters illegally bringing higher rollers to its two enormously profitable casinos, and lack of laws against practices considered corrupt in the West, including conflict of interest and trade restraining practices. Though it presents itself as a parliamentary democracy, Singapore’s government deploys its full rage of powers to sustain the ruling party’s reign and suppress political free expression.

In its own neighborhood, people know Singapore as the preferred destination for wealth, legally obtained or otherwise. When Singapore says it wants to become the Switzerland of Asia, it’s not talking about tropical alpine skiing. While spouting pieties, Singapore bathes in filthy money stolen from the poor of Asia and beyond, and hypocrisy breeds contempt.

So it comes as a surprise and disappointment that Yale University has fallen for Singapore’s propaganda. Yale will build its first branch campus in the city-state. Bringing liberal arts to an illiberal place, Yale won zero concessions from Singapore on free speech issues and thinks the new campus will help elevate its reputation in Asia. Enjoy your Singapore sting on the rocks, Yalies.

Totally globalized native New Yorker and former broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen is author of Hong Kong On Air, a novel set in his adopted hometown during the 1997 handover about television news, love, betrayal, financial crisis, and cheap lingerie. See his biography, online archive and more at www.muhammadcohen.com.


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