Presidential Statements Regarding Yale-NUS College

Yale-NUS President Pericles Lewis and Yale President Richard C. Levin, released the following statements, respectively, on Yale-NUS on July 19, 2012.

Statement by Yale-NUS President Pericles Lewis

July 19, 2012

Yale-NUS College is committed to academic freedom and open inquiry. Yale-NUS’s policy specifically protects academic freedom for research, teaching, and discussion on campus and for publication of the resulting scholarship. 

Students at the National University of Singapore already have substantial opportunity for political debate and engagement, and the new College will have opportunities as extensive. Political forums are regularly held, with representatives from a variety of parties invited to share their views. In terms of political engagement, students at NUS can join any political party, and some of the political parties have youth organizations. Students interested in these activities are free to join them, as will be the case for students at Yale-NUS, but these organizations are based off-campus. Also, there is lively debate and political culture on the blogs as well as in other media, including media on campus.

Any college or university must obey the laws of the countries where it operates. We are aware that there are restrictions on speech and public demonstrations in Singapore. When I was appointed President of Yale-NUS College, I invoked John Stuart Mill’s statement from 1848, “It is hardly possible to overstate the value of placing human beings in contact with persons dissimilar to themselves, and with modes of thought and action unlike those with which they are familiar. Such communication has always been one of the primary sources of progress. ” I think this remains as relevant today as when Mill wrote it. In my view, progress depends on continued engagement and dialogue rather than retreat or insularity.   

I believe without reservation in the mission of the new College, and my Yale-NUS colleagues and I are working to create an intellectual community where open debate and critical inquiry will thrive.

Pericles Lewis
President, Yale-NUS College

Statement of Yale University President Richard C. Levin

July 19, 2012

In a letter to faculty colleagues issued today, Yale-NUS College President Pericles Lewis has clarified the policies of Yale-NUS College regarding freedom of expression, which have been incompletely or incorrectly represented in some recent press accounts.

Yale entered its partnership with the National University of Singapore in full awareness that national laws concerning freedom of expression would place constraints on the civic and political behavior of students and faculty. We negotiated language protecting academic freedom and open inquiry on the Yale-NUS campus, as well as the freedom to publish the results of scholarly inquiry in the academic literature. But we indicated in the Prospectus circulated in September 2010 that freedom of assembly was constrained in Singapore, and that students and faculty would have to observe national laws, as do students and faculty in Yale programs from London to Beijing. These subjects were discussed at the Yale College faculty meetings in March and April of this year. We understand the concerns of those who supported a faculty resolution and we intend to be open and accountable.

We undertook this partnership to advance in Asia both the development of liberal arts curriculum and pedagogy encouraging critical inquiry. These in themselves are objectives worthy of a great American institution of higher learning. Singapore is a hub with connections throughout South, Southeast, and East Asia — an appropriate location for an institution designed as an example for these regions. We should not expect that our presence in Singapore would instantly transform the nation’s policies or culture. Instead, we have worked in fruitful partnership with colleagues at the National University of Singapore to design what is a thoroughly imaginative and exciting new college.  The result will speak for itself.

We have approached our engagement in Singapore in the spirit that has characterized Yale’s many other engagements around the globe: that we have much to learn. Social norms, practices, and values differ widely across nations and cultures. We (our students and faculty) seek to embrace these differences and seek to understand them, as the first step toward building the cross-cultural understanding that must be the foundation of global citizenship and cooperation in the face of the great challenges confronting our planet. We believe that engagement with difference, and the education that inevitably flows from it, is a far more effective instrument for advancing the human spirit than either isolation or insistence that ours is the only true way.

Richard C. Levin
President, Yale University

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