Sleeper's shorter piece was in the Sunday New York Times. He probes mercilessly at the hypocrisy of claiming to run an institution devoted to the liberal arts in the place where political discourse is severely constrained. His main focus is on the Yale-NUS [National University of Singapore] venture, which Yale President Levin probably hoped would be his crowning venture, but which may well turn into an educational nightmare. Consider this quotation from the head of the Yale-NUS governing board:
“We must look at ‘liberal’ in the sense of broad, rather than free,” Kay Kuok, a businesswoman who leads the Yale-N.U.S. governing board, told the government-controlled Straits Times. “It’s freedom of thought; I’m not necessarily saying freedom of expression.”Huh? What does that mean? That you can think anything you want--you just aren't allowed to say what you are thinking? On pain of arrest?
The longer piece, on a site called OpenDemocracy, is called Globe-Trotting Universities Serve Diplomacy and Markets, not Democracy. It is hard work trying to figure out how these arrangements with authoritarian regimes are really governed--of course American universities tend not to be awfully transparent about their funding, and the nexus surrounding enterprises in China and Singapore is even more obscure. But there is no free lunch. As Sleeper says in a sidebar Huffington Post piece,
It's devilishly hard to track arrangements under which China, Kazakhstan, Abu Dhabi, and Singapore are "buying" liberal education's prestige by bearing all or most costs of constructing the campuses, paying faculty salaries, and subsidizing students' tuition to lure American university leaders who, thinking like the business corporations on whose boards they also serve, are eager to expand their colleges' "brand names" and shares of burgeoning new markets among Asian middle classes.
For example, the contract between Yale and Singapore for the brand-new Yale-National University of Singapore College that opened last month remains secret, despite repeated Yale College Faculty demands that it be opened.
Also secret are many of the funding arrangements. "Yale has had no part in financing Yale-NUS, which is largely funded by the Singaporean government, in addition to private contributions," notes Yale undergraduate Cindi Hwang in"Exporting the Ivory Tower" on the website Foreign Policy in Focus, but not until Kenneth Jeyaretnam, the brave secretary general of Singapore's oft-harrassed Reform Party, read the official Budget documents for 2013, did anyone tell me that the Development Expenditure for the National University of Singapore had shot up from S$19 million [Singapore dollars] in 2011 to S$54 million in 2012 and estimated to be S$43 million in 2013.
"That could be the cost of construction of the Yale-NUS campus. So, close to S$100 million in capital expenditure likely was spent on building the new campus," notes Jeyaretnam, who holds double honors in economics from Cambridge University and ran a successful hedge fund for several years. But none of what he has observed has been officially disclosed or discovered by the country's cowed or government-controlled press.If you sleep with dogs you'll wake up with fleas. The OpenDemocracy piece has this stunner about fiddling with admissions data:
Although the Yale-NUS admissions office claims that it culled its inaugural class of 157 from among 11,400 eager applicants, making the new college one of the most highly selective of its kind, 9,000 of those applications were made thanks solely to the Yale College admissions office in New Haven’s decision to put a small box on all application forms to Yale that, if checked, would forward the same application, automatically and without elaboration, to the Yale NUS admissions office in Singapore.
“Despite the Admissions Office’s assurances, applicants may have felt that their decision of whether or not to check the NUS box might affect their chances of admission at Yale in New Haven,” wrote Diana Rosen in the Yale Daily News. “Or, the Yale-NUS option on the application may have simply served as way of convincing applicants that they were improving their chances of receiving a diploma with the name ‘Yale’ on it. It’s deceiving and it’s wrong.”
The last thing Yale should want is to have the integrity of its admission numbers compromised by connection to something so sketchy. Such a sad ending to the Levin era. I am so glad that the Harvard Corporation, President Faust, and Vice-Provost Jorge Domínguez have largely kept Harvard out of this business.