Dr Cherian George, an outspoken media critic and former journalism professor at Nanyang Technological University (NTU), criticised NTU’s president Bertil Andersson for his remarks on the former’s departure from the university and challenged NTU to disclose the facts behind his denial of tenure in 2013.
In an interview with Times Higher Education (THE) in early December, the university president had said that the decision to not grant Dr George tenure was “an academic decision”, instead of a “political” one.
A clarification from President Andersson was later published by THE, stating that “there was no intention to lower the reputation or standing of Dr George in his field of work”.
Dr George, who is now a professor at Hong Kong Baptist University, stated in a blog post that the clarification failed to “reduce the sting of his (Pres. Andersson’s) published remarks”:
“They amount to a statement by the NTU president that the reason I was forced to leave his university was that I was unable to meet its academic standards required for tenure”.
Dr George added that the university only gave political reasons for its decision not to grant him tenure in 2009.
Dr George also wrote that background information about his tenure application in 2009 – which led to his promotion to Associate Professor – was removed. “This redaction was done without my consent or knowledge, before internal and external reviewers received my dossier,” Dr George wrote.
Departure from silence
Professor Andersson’s statement, which Dr George said was “incorrect, insensitive and injurious” to his reputation, was a relative departure from the university’s silence surrounding the controversy. In earlier statements published in 2013, NTU had said that it would not comment on specific cases, adding that the tenure process was “purely a peer-driven academic exercise”.
Professor Andersson had also in a 2013 State of the University address said that the school’s tenure process “should not be influenced by political pressures… (and also by) pressure groups from within or outside the university”.
In his blog post, Dr George called on the university to “put the matter to rest” by breaking its silence on the issue through the disclosure of documents relevant to his tenure case. These included the minutes of both tenure committees, his annual appraisals from 2009-2012, as well as letters from independent reviewers.
“NTU has told third parties that it is not appropriate to discuss personnel matters, ostensibly to protect my confidentiality,” Dr George said. “I am prepared to waive any confidentiality rights that I may have…. If NTU declines, that is its prerogative – but any embarrassment it avoids would not be mine.”
According to The Straits Times, NTU said that it had already stated its position on several previous occasions and will not be making any further comments.