Friday, May 11, 2012

The Awkwardness of Foreign Entanglements

NYU has a Shanghai campus. When challenged as to whether free speech and free inquiry could really take place at NYU Shanghai, NYU's President Sexton said“I have no trouble distinguishing between rights of academic freedom and rights of political expression. These are two different things.” So then, are the words "New York University" academic or political speech? The latter, apparently, according to the Chinese Internet censors. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education
China’s Internet censors have added “New York University” to their list of blocked search terms, reports China Digital Times. Last week, NYU’s law school offered the blind civil-rights lawyer Chen Guangcheng a visiting-scholar position. … On the popular Sina Weibo microblogging service, searches for “New York University” drew denial-of-service messages on May 10, reports China Digital Times. Other terms banned since the diplomatic row began, and still blocked, include Mr. Chen’s name, and more than a dozen nicknames for him such as “sunglasses brother,” and the name of the U.S. ambassador to China, Gary Locke.
I am all in favor of engaging China and other far eastern nations with undemocratic political systems. But what can it possibly mean to run an American branch campus in a place where even the name of the university is politically unmentionable?

1 comment:

  1. What are they to do though? Whom does it benefit for NYU to take any action or even to complain? If they say it is outrageous, they are really just paying lip service, because they have little influence. Are the people who work with/for the Shanghai campus going to approach the Chinese government? I think their best bet is to work under the radar, slowly changing the peoples' minds, not until there is another revolution, but until the people moving up into Chinese government think more like academic/political freedom-loving folks than the old guard.