|Wall St Journal
July 17, 2012
BY Shibani Mahtani
WHEN Yale University welcomes students to its joint venture with the National
University of Singapore next year, campus political life will bear little resemblance to that of its Ivy League model.
The joint venture is the first new college to bear Yale's name in 300 years -- and the first attempt to start a liberal-arts school in one of Asia's leading financial centers. But the Singapore campus won't allow political protests, nor will it permit students to form partisan political societies.
Students at the new school "are going to be totally free to express their views," but won't be allowed to organize political protests on campus, said Pericles Lewis, the college's new president, in an interview last week.
Although groups will be allowed to discuss political issues, he said, "we won't have
partisan politics or be forming political parties on campus," including societies linked to local political groups akin to college groups supporting Democrats and Republicans in the US, he said.
The venture has come under sharp criticism from Yale professors and rights advocates
who say the New Haven, Connecticut-based school's mission as a haven for free thought and expression is incompatible with Singapore's tightly controlled political system, which includes restrictions on public assembly, limitations on free speech, and laws that criminalize homosexuality.
Laws in the city-state say protests can be held only at a speaker's corner in a Singapore park, and even those gatherings face restrictions on what may be discussed. Holding cause-related events elsewhere is illegal without a license from
The college, which is wholly funded by the Singapore government and private donors,
expects to admit its first batch of students in August 2013.
In response to questions about campus protests, Singapore's Ministry of Education
said faculty and students of Yale-NUS College "will have to comply with the university rules as well as Singapore laws" and, as in all academic institutions in Singapore, wouldn't be allowed to participate in student demonstrations and protests on campus unless approved by the university administration.
"As in all our public universities, the Yale-NUS College will uphold the principles of academic freedom and open inquiry," the Ministry of Education said, while noting that all students and faculty members "shall also act in a manner sensitive to the Singapore context."
In April, Yale's faculty passed a resolution expressing "concern" overSingapore's "history of lack of respect for civil and political rights," and a number of professors have spoken out against Yale operating in Singapore.
In response, the city-state's Ministry of Education said it was "disappointed" but
labeled it an "internal issue to Yale."
Other Singaporeans have criticized Yale professors for what they say is failing to
recognize the progress Singapore has made over the years in allowing greater freedoms. Among other steps, the government has loosened restrictions on the Internet, leading to robust political debate on blogs and other social media.