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Yale Professors Ask that Singapore Program Protect Human Rights, Political Freedom

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Yale University (Photo by Christopher Capozziello/Getty Images)

Yale University (Photo by Christopher Capozziello/Getty Images)

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By JOHN CHRISTOFFERSEN, Associated Press

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) _ Yale University professors have passed a resolution urging a planned joint campus with the National University of Singapore to protect human rights and political freedom.

The resolution, approved Thursday, expresses concern about what it calls a history of lacking respect for civil and political rights in Singapore.

Yale-NUS College will open next year with a class of about 150 students and eventually expand to 1,000 with degrees awarded by NUS. It’s the first campus outside New Haven that Yale has developed.

“We urge Yale-NUS to respect, protect and further principles of non-discrimination for all, including sexual minorities and migrant workers, and to uphold civil liberty and political freedom on campus and in the broader society,” the resolution states. “These ideals lie at the heart of liberal arts education as well as our civic sense as citizens, and they ought not to be compromised.”

Yale President Richard Levin said he opposed the resolution because it does not capture the “mutual respect” of the collaboration.

NUS expressed disappointment with the resolution and views expressed before the vote. The university said issues of academic freedom and non-discrimination had been extensively discussed with Yale previously, and an agreement was reached to the satisfaction of both Yale and NUS.

“The college is committed to uphold the principles of academic freedom and open inquiry,” NUS said in a statement.

“The college’s policies and judgments concerning the admission, education, and employment of individuals on their qualifications and abilities will be consistent with NUS’ and Yale’s policies on non-discrimination.”

The Southeast Asian country boasts one of the lowest violent crime rates and highest standards of living in the world, but human rights groups often criticize the government for severe punishments, such as a mandatory death penalty for drug traffickers.

Victor Bers, a classics professor at Yale who supported the resolution, called the collaboration with NUS “very dubious” and said the project should not have been undertaken without properly consulting Yale faculty. He said the NUS is controlled by an autocratic government that does not allow a truly free press or judiciary.

The National University of Singapore is an autonomous university, said Ovidia Lim-Rajaram, director of the university’s office of corporate relations. She said the majority of the university’s funding comes from the Singapore government.

Levin said last year that most of the details of the new partnership were developed by faculty committees. He said the agreement with NUS incorporates language protecting academic freedom and complies with Yale’s policies on non-discrimination.

At the suggestion of several members of the Yale faculty, Levin said a committee composed equally of faculty from Yale and NUS will help bridge cultures and address differences in approaches and practices.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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