Much has been written here and elsewhere about how American and British universities take foreign money. University presidents say their institutions retain academic independence and intellectual integrity, but evidence suggests otherwise. Sparked by Yale University’s decision to establish a program in Singapore, a country where free speech and political criticism are limited, Shaun Tan, a student currently completing a master’s degree at Yale University, has penned an important article in The Politic examining the phenomenon. Tan describes several cases. For example, there is China:
The Chinese government… has financed Confucius Institutes at universities including Columbia, Stanford, and the University of Chicago. Ostensibly meant to promote study of Chinese language and culture, something many Westerners rightly perceive as important, the cash comes with strings attached. Affiliated universities must sign a “memorandum of understanding” endorsing the “one-China policy” that precludes recognition of Taiwan as a state. Confucius Institutes have also been known to act as lobby groups in universities, attempting to block guest speakers who they perceive as anti-Beijing.
And Abu Dhabi:
Clinched by a $50 million donation to NYU, and the promise of much more to come, NYU-Abu Dhabi opened in fall 2010, making it the first liberal arts college outside America… [University President John] Sexton warned students and faculty at the new campus that they couldn’t criticize Abu Dhabi’s leaders and policies without repercussions. However, he denied that such restrictions would betray the spirit of a liberal arts college. “I have no trouble distinguishing between rights of academic freedom and rights of political expression,” he said.
He provides many other examples. His well-researched piece is a must read.
Foreigners flock to American universities because of their freedom and opportunity. How sad it is then, as Tan describes, that so many American university presidents are willing to compromise basic values in order to make a quick buck, often padding endowments which already reach billions of dollars. That will not bring progress; it is simply intellectual prostitution.