The Asianist

Balanced and fact-based analysis of Asian affairs

Posts Tagged ‘richard levin

Behind The Yale and NUS Controversy

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For those who follow US-Southeast Asia relations closely, the recent controversy over the establishment of a joint liberal-arts college in Singapore between Yale University and National University of Singapore has been interesting to watch.

Though Yale trustees signed off on the project a year ago, the campus is set to open in 2013, and faculty members have don’t get a say on whether the initiative goes through or not, some are still lodging ‘symbolic’ protests over the partnership. Earlier this month, Yale University professors voted 100 to 69 to pass a resolution expressing “concern regarding the history of lack of respect for civil and political rights in the state of Singapore”. Prominent journalist Fareed Zakaria, a Yale graduate, recently dismissed such opposition as “parochialism bordering on chauvisism”, while Yale’s own president Richard C. Levin, opposed the move. The faculty’s protest has nonetheless stoked nationalist sentiments among some in Singapore.

In a piece in Today, a Singaporean newspaper, Yale graduate and former NUS professor Michael Montesano offers an interesting take beyond these polarizing perspectives. He attributes the controversy to Yale’s failure to engage a range of stakeholders before undertaking the initiative with NUS and Singapore. The result, in his view, is a crisis that could lead to Yale’s president possibly losing his job. Here are a few paragraphs from his piece:

Yale’s leadership entered into an arrangement with the Government of Singapore and into a partnership with NUS without adequately considering the need to build support for its Singapore adventure among stakeholders at Yale. This has proved a grave mistake.

Yale’s leadership has every formal right to enter into its partnership with NUS. But in disregarding the need to bring other interested parties at Yale along, it has nevertheless pitched the university into a deep crisis of governance and imperilled Yale’s ability to be a reliable partner for Singapore over the long run.

In the weeks ahead, as media attention to these errors leads Yale alumni to understand the magnitude of the commitments to Singapore that the university has made with so little explanation, this crisis may well grow even more serious. Already, some Yale alumni are sharing with one another the thought that his mishandling of the NUS tie-up should cost Yale’s president his job. This outcome would only further undercut Yale’s ability to serve as a reliable partner for Singapore.

I’d encourage those interested to read the full piece here.

Picture: NUS

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