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Yale Professors Want Singapore Campus to Protect Human Rights

Yale University professors are pushing the school to protect civil and political rights at the branch campus in Singapore scheduled to open next year.

At a meeting yesterday, faculty members proposed a resolution that demands the campus “respect, protect and further the ideals of civil liberties,” Victor Bers, a classics professor at the New Haven, Connecticut-based school, said in an e-mail. The resolution may be voted on at the April 5 faculty meeting, Bers said.

The campus, which Yale will run with the National University of Singapore, will be the first overseas branch in Yale’s 300-year history. It is one of a number of campuses in East Asia being developed by U.S. colleges including New York University and Duke University. Those campuses face restrictions on academic and political freedoms, and Yale professors said they are concerned about human rights in Singapore and the faculty’s exclusion from the planning.

“Colleagues, our honor and judgment are being tested by the Yale-NUS enterprise,” Bers said at the meeting, according to an e-mailed copy of his remarks.

The meeting was attended by more than 140 professors as well as Yale President Richard Levin, Bers said.

Bers noted that Levin spoke out in opposition to the New York Police Department’s monitoring of Muslim students at Yale and wondered what his response would be to a similar government intrusion in Singapore.

“President Levin did us proud by issuing a public protest,” Bers said at the meeting. “Does he plan, as a member of the Yale-NUS board of trustees to stifle himself in comparable circumstances?”

Human Rights

Singapore’s government censors the media and uses the courts to silence criticism of the regime, according to Human Rights Watch, a New York-based group. Last year, Levin said he was confident that Yale’s faculty in Singapore could teach and publish without restrictions.

Yale-NUS College is scheduled to open in August of 2013 with 150 undergraduate students and will grow to about 1,000, according to Yale. Its board includes Levin and members appointed by both Yale and NUS.

Christopher Miller, a Yale French and African-American studies professor, raised the issue of homosexuality, which is illegal for men in Singapore, he said. Because it is seldom enforced, Yale has been lured to believe it won’t be a issue for faculty and students, he said.

“There is no confusion about the law on the books: male homosexuality is illegal,” Miller said in remarks he made at the meeting and e-mailed. “But the Singaporean government has managed to create a ‘twilight zone’ around the question of enforcement. And Yale has fallen into their trap.”

Yale, a member of the Ivy League of eight private U.S. universities, was founded in 1701.

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