The Yale president has weighed in on Yale-NUS College's recent announcement of the cancellation of a one-week course titled, “Dialogue and Dissent in Singapore”.
In his statement, Yale President Peter Salovey said that "Yale-NUS has become a model of innovation in liberal arts education in Asia", and hence "any action that might threaten these values is of serious concern".
Salovey also expressed his concern about the cancellation to the president of the National University of Singapore (NUS) and the president of Yale-NUS.
Reason for cancellation
On Sep. 13, Yale-NUS announced the cancellation of the programme.
Yale-NUS President Tan Tai Yong said the proposed activities would “infringe our commitment not to advance partisan political interests in our campus” and expose their students to “the risk of breaking the law, and incurring legal liabilities”.
Tan also told The Octant, Yale-NUS’s student-run publication, that the decision was made for “risk mitigation”, particularly for international students, who could lose their student pass for engaging in political activity.
Led by playwright Alfian Sa’at, supported by other journalists & activists
The project was to be led by Singaporean playwright Alfian Sa’at and programme manager Tan Yock Theng.
It was supposed to be an installment in the university’s “Learning Across Boundaries” (LAB) programme, one of the 14 projects offered.
The LAB projects are part of the formal curriculum and compulsory for first-year students.
According to The Sunday Times, an early outline for the programme said it would look into modes of dissent from “citizen journalism to artistic works, from ‘accommodationist’ tactics such as pragmatic resistance to ‘radical’ strategies of civil disobedience”.
A panel discussion with veteran journalist PN Balji, historian Thum Ping Tjin and freelance writer Kirsten Han was also slated to be part of the programme.
A total of 16 first-year students are affected by the cancellation and will be reallocated to the other 13 projects.
They were informed on Sept. 13.
Inaugural Yale-NUS college President to conduct fact-finding
Salovey said that Pericles Lewis, Yale University’s Vice President and Vice Provost for Global Strategy, will conduct the fact-finding into the matter.
Lewis was the inaugural president of Yale-NUS college from 2012 to 2017 and helmed the college since its founding in 2011.
According to Yale News, Lewis "oversaw the articulation of the college’s mission, the development of its curriculum, and the recruitment of students, faculty, and staff".
One of the reasons cited by Tan for the cancellation was that the risk of breaking the law.
Tan said that such a stance is not acceptable by the college's mission of operating within Singapore laws, which incidentally, is a position set out by Lewis as the Founding President back in 2012.
Salovey concluded by expressing his gratitude to Lewis "for the work he will do to gather all the facts central to this matter".
He added that Yale will determine the appropriate response once they have a full understanding of what happened.
Top photo from Yale and Yale-NUS Colleage Facebook.