Media academic and ex-Nanyang Technological University don Cherian George has finally come out with his first public statement about the tenure controversy.
For more than a year, the 48-year-old had been publicly silent about the circumstances surrounding his “forced exit” from NTU.
A bit of context: More than 1,000 people signed an online petition last March asking NTU to explain its decision. A denial of tenure for academics means a denial of job security. When NTU subsequently turned down an appeal by George in May 2013 against its decision not to grant him tenure, he could not remain in NTU anymore.
Here’s a summary on why he partly thinks it was bad fengshui which did him in:
1. A former NTU colleague told him that his furniture arrangement in his office was bad fengshui. His desk was positioned to face the window, which meant that his back was to the door.
2. Another big fengshui faux pas: His two tall bookshelves were facing him and the books were pushed deep in. This means that the multiple shelf edges are pointing towards George like many knives.
3. He think his ex-colleagues’ observations are “the most internally coherent theory about why things went wrong” between him and NTU leadership.
4. George will bring two traditional Chinese guardian lions from Guangzhou with him to Hong Kong to protect him from negative forces in future.
5. He will be starting work at Hong Kong Baptist University’s school of communication. Why Hong Kong? He hopes that “this will be made up for by the stimulation of an invigorating new environment”.
However, George’s public statement doesn’t go into detail about what really happened but what we do know is that with him moving on, NTU’s loss will be Hong Kong Baptist University’s gain.
In a Nov. 4, 2013, interview with NTU’s student newspaper, The Nanyang Chronicle, this is what George said he stood for:
Question: What motivates you to speak out against press controls in Singapore despite the negative attention you’ve received?
I think as academics, we have a greater obligation than most citizens to contribute to public debate because we are in a very privileged position.
An academic is supported by public funds to inhabit this world of ideas. There are not many professions that are given the time and resources to read, think and share ideas.
It is a great blessing to be able to do so, and with it, there is an obligation to be mindful of the responsibilities one has. Working in the world of ideas isn’t a luxury for self-indulgent purposes. It’s really to serve your society.
So that’s the big answer. As someone who was and is a journalist, and who lives and breathes journalism, this is an issue I care about. When I sense through my own direct experience, and through my research, that the media situation in Singapore could be a lot better for its citizens, there is no choice for me but to speak out on these issues.
Interested to know more about Cherian George? We interviewed him last December.
Other articles about Cherian George:
Top photo from here