Sunday, November 04, 2007

Is Duke Partnering With Repression?

Ed Rickards, an attorney with undergrad and law degrees from Duke, say it is after examining an agreement Duke’s entered into with the government of Singapore.

The agreement’s financially lucrative for Duke and, some say, will boost the University as it seeks to fend off national criticism for its “throw them under the bus” response to the attempted frame-up for gang-rape of Duke students by then DA Mike Nifong and Durham Police.

But Rickards, in a letter today in the Durham Herald Sun, disagrees:

In his annual address to the faculty, President Richard Brodhead again chanted "great international university" as if repeating this mantra would do the trick.

He got more mileage out of his trip to China two years ago, and then he employed a new word: Duke's growing international intertwining involves "trade-offs."

I wonder what he means by that.

Consider Duke's richest international deal, the seven-year franchise for the government of Singapore to award Duke medical degrees.

I assume the "trade-off" is $310 million for getting in bed with a government ranked by human rights activists as the most repressive in the developed world.

Warwick University, a top ten school in England, refused this very deal, fearing "the government will interfere if academic reports cast a negative light on their policies."

Can you imagine what would happen if Duke sent a female doctor to Singapore, and she wanted to research and publish on reproductive freedom, a topic the government bans? And if the female doctor arrived with her lesbian partner? And if one was white, the other black?

Is the "trade-off" leaving core values like academic freedom and equality behind?

Duke should be a beacon for the pursuit of truth, freedom of speech and thought, and for fulfilling its Statement of Equal Opportunity, which "prohibits discrimination and harassment, and provides equal ... opportunity without regard to race, color, religion, national origin, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity, sex, or age."

Brodhead may find succor in the word "trade-off." I think sell-out might be more honest.
For a much more positive, “don’t look there” take on the Singapore deal, see this in Duke Magazine, an Alumni Association publication which parrots administration positions.

Chronicle columnist Kristin Butler published a column sometime back which wasn’t nearly as “rah-rah” on the agreement as Duke Magazine. In fact, if I remember correctly, Butler was at least as critical of it, if not more so, than Rickards.

But using The Chronicle’s search tools tonight, I couldn’t call up Butler’s column.

I’ll try again tomorrow. In the meantime, I hope one of you will provide a URL to Butler’s column.

Like all her columns, it was well worth a reader’s time.


DukeEgr93 said...

Bottoms Up

Anonymous said...

Well, every time I have been to Singapore I have felt very safe, and I am white.

Of course, it might be that I am more comfortable with Chinese people since I grew up with them and married one and try to understand them.

Singapore is no big deal.

Anonymous said...


If Duke is comfortable working with PLO, Al-Qaide, PKK and other terrorist organizations’ sympathizers, why not Singapore? In my view, this is the least of Duke's problems. At least, in the Singapore deal they are getting some financial benefit. By contrast, the terrorist sympathizers at Duke are all on full scholarships.

Kyle Phua Kok Loong said...

Enough has happened for overseas Univ with SG: UNSW and John Hopkins incident happened... SG is a fast learning society - and I hope its collaboration with Duke would turn out better.. Its collaboration with MIT is doing well (with lots of $$ given and played by MIT terms) - why not Duke University?

I think as long as Duke knows that some of their academic freedom has to be pinioned - i think Duke would do just fine