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Yale president: No government interference in decision to cancel class on dissent at Yale-NUS

The Yale Faculty Advisory Committee found no suggestion of violations of academic freedom or open inquiry, although various administrative errors, mostly in considering the module, were made

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Singapore—Peter Salovey, the President of Yale, has said that the decision to cancel a module centered around dissent and organizing resistance at Yale-NUS was an internal one. He added that it was made without the government interfering in the independence of the institution.

Earlier this month, Mr Salovey had tasked Yale University’s Vice President and Vice Provost for Global Strategy, who was also the inaugural president of Yale-NUS (2012-2017), Pericles Lewis, to conduct fact-finding regarding the cancellation of the course on dissent.

Mr Lewis’ report shows that the Yale Faculty Advisory Committee found no suggestion of violations of academic freedom or open inquiry, although various administrative errors, mostly in considering the module, were made.

The module, entitled “Dialogue and Dissent in Singapore,” was to be led by Singaporean playwright Alfian Bin Sa’at and was meant to be part of Yale-NUS “Learning Across Boundaries” (LAB) initiative. It had been scheduled from September 29 to October 5 but was cancelled on September 13.

Mr Alfian is the resident playwright at local theatre company Wild Rice. He is known for being a poet, playwright and short-story writer whose topics include race, sexuality and politics.

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Upon the cancellation of the course, Mr Salovey released a statement that said, “When I learned of this impending decision, I expressed my concern to the president of the National University of Singapore and the president of Yale-NUS.

In founding and working with our Singaporean colleagues on Yale-NUS, Yale has insisted on the values of academic freedom and open inquiry, which have been central to the college and have inspired outstanding work by faculty, students, and staff: Yale-NUS has become a model of innovation in liberal arts education in Asia. 

Any action that might threaten these values is of serious concern, and we at Yale need to gain a better understanding of this decision.”

Mr Lewis came to the country shortly afterward and met with Mr Alfian, as well as over 25 faculty members and college leaders. Upon flying back to the United States, he presented his findings the Yale Faculty Advisory Committee on Yale-NUS College, and published his report on September 29, Sunday.

The report can be read in full here.

The Yale President also released a statement after the report was made public, which said,

“Members of the Committee who have visited Yale-NUS College say they have found a healthy spirit of academic freedom and open inquiry there. The committee has made a number of procedural recommendations.”

He added that the report from Mr Lewis reassured him of “Yale-NUS’s strong commitment to academic freedom,” writing, “I myself have observed over my eight years of involvement with Yale-NUS College that it has become a model of innovation in liberal arts education in Asia. I am proud of Yale’s involvement with Yale-NUS and would like to express my confidence in its faculty and leadership.”

He extended thanks to Mr Lewis and the Yale Faculty Advisory Committee, as well as the faculty at Yale-NUS College, for their work on the matter. -/TISG

Read related: Yale President asks for clarification on cancelled Yale-NUS College programme on dissent

Yale President asks for clarification on cancelled Yale-NUS College programme on dissent

 

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