McYale with the death penalty – and no backtalk

Progress continues toward the debut of the Yale branch campus in Singapore. The Asian liberal arts education experiment in partnership with the National University of Singapore is scheduled to begin holding classes next year.

As plans for the new campus emerged, Yale president Richard Levin and his administration assured all that the university would uphold its values despite Singapore’s illiberal political and social climate, including strict limits on free speech. But many faculty and alumni have expressed doubts about putting Yale’s centuries old reputation on the line in anti-democratic Singapore.

Yale international relations graduate student Shaun Tan has documented compromises Western universities make to accommodate repressive regimes. The article, titled Dangerous Liaisons, also noted that Yale received no special license to stretch Singapore’s boundaries.

Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported Yale’s Singapore campus will severely limit political activity. Political protests will be barred on campus, and students will be prohibited from forming partisan political groups.

The new college’s president, Yale professor of English and comparative literature Pericles Lewis, insisted that Yale in Singapore students “are going to be totally free to express their views.” Just don’t express them too loudly or widely, kids. Call it liberal education with Singaporean characteristics.

Totally globalized native New Yorker and former broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen is author of Hong Kong On Air, a novel set in his adopted hometown during the 1997 handover about television news, love, betrayal, high finance, and cheap lingerie. See his bio, online archive and more at; follow him on Facebook and Twitter @MuhammadCohen.