Yale to Ensure Students in Singapore Have Freedom of Expression

Yale University will ensure its liberal arts campus in Singapore won’t impose censorship amid criticism the city-state’s laws will stifle academic freedom.

Students at the new Yale-NUS College will be able to express themselves freely on campus and skepticism of the venture should fade as people see the “successful education experiment,” Pericles Lewis, president of the Singapore campus, told reporters yesterday.

The college is the first overseas undergraduate campus by the New Haven, Connecticut-based Yale University and is funded by the National University of Singapore, the city’s government and private donors. The venture has been criticized by Yale professors who say they were not consulted in the planning and that they have concerns about civil rights in Singapore, where the government has said restrictions on public assembly and speeches are necessary to maintain social and religious harmony.

“We expect students to express all kinds of opinions on campus,” Lewis said. “The issue is about going off campus and there, students will have to abide by the laws of Singapore.” Most students enrolled so far are Singaporeans and should be used to the city-state’s rules, he said.

On April 6, Yale professors passed a resolution urging the new campus to respect and support human rights and political freedom. The Singapore campus was inaugurated by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in the presence of Richard Levin, Yale’s president, who last year said he was confident his faculty in Singapore could teach and publish without restrictions.

“There will always be critics,” said Lewis, a professor of English and Comparative Literature at Yale. “But as people see the successful education experiment, there are going to be more people praising us than criticizing us.”

Degrees from the new college will be awarded through NUS, as the Singapore university is known. Yale, a member of the Ivy League of eight private U.S. universities, would have authority to hire faculty and set curriculum and admission policies, the university said in the prospectus.

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