Playwright Alfian Sa'at claims he was made a scapegoat over Yale-NUS dissent module cancellation

He has alleged that the report by Yale University has painted a very different picture of his interactions with Yale-NUS College.

Matthias Ang | October 03, 2019, 12:18 PM

Playwright Alfian Sa'at has taken to Facebook on Oct. 2 to claim that Yale-NUS College is scapegoating him over the cancellation of the controversial course, "Dialogue and Dissent in Singapore".

Account by Yale-NUS not reflective of his interactions with institution

In his post, Alfian expressed his "surprise" at the production of "a narrative" that did not reflect his own experience of interacting with the college

He further added that he was disappointed that the university had taken advantage of his restraint and silence over the matter, and alleged that the following allegations had been made against him:

  1. That he had rejected all revisions suggested by the college,
  2. That he had insisted on compelling students to "simulate" a protest,
  3. That he was ignorant of the legal risks of international students carrying signs in Hong Lim Park, which subsequently has resulted in,
  4. Creating a caricature of himself as defiant, reckless and incompetent.

Messages will prove such allegations are defamatory

Alfian subsequently stated that he was in possession of emails and WhatsApp messages that could "definitively" prove that such allegations were defamatory.

He then added that it was the prerogative of the college to cancel the module, based on their own assessment and evaluation, and that it was imperative that the college took full responsibility for their actions.

Alfian concluded his post by stating that he was in the midst of writing a press release and highlighted that he would "go public" should further inaccurate allegations be made against him in the press.

Here is his post in full:

What exactly did Yale say?

On Sep. 28, Yale University released a 11-page report on its fact-finding mission into the issue of the course's cancellation by Yale-NUS College.

The report did not mention Alfian by name, and referred to him as "the instructor of the proposed module".

Here's what the report specifically stated:

  • That throughout June and July, the college maintained contact with Alfian, and found it difficult to reach him by email.
  • That Alfian supposedly did not adequately address concerns about the academic content of the module proposal by college staff in subsequent efforts to revise the syllabus.
  • However, Alfian also purportedly felt that he did not receive clear instructions on how to address these concerns.
  • Additionally, college staff also felt that the proposed module did not propose to study activism so much as to engage in it, and that Alfian lacked academic expertise in the area.
  • Alfian was also highlighted as supposedly being "dilatory" in submitting his own revisions and that he subsequently rejected all revisions put forward by the college's staff and a student.

    • This in turn raised further concerns about whether he intended to offer critical engagement in the module.
    • His revisions were also considered as inadequate by staff.

  • Alfian also supposedly did not provide timely assurance on the legal risks posed to international students over the potential scenario of carrying protest signs to Hong Lim Park that they had designed.

    • The playwright himself allegedly confirmed that he had not found a satisfactory way of including international students in his plan.

The report then concluded by reiterating that Alfian should have been given a clearer explanation sooner, of the alleged inadequacy of the materials he submitted for the module.

Mothership has since reached out to both Yale and Yale-NUS for their statements on the matter.

More details about the report

Top image collage from Yale-NUS website and screenshot from YouTube