Duke's deal in Kunshan falls apart!!!

✔ Fact Checker here.

You have to feel sorry for Dick Brodhead this morning, with his signature expansion of Duke into China in shambles.

Everything seemed in order back in January when Brodhead, his then international adviser Dr Sandy Williams, Peter the Provost and Fuqua Dean Blair Sheppard went to China and signed a series of formal agreements with Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

What a visual for the TV cameras: an immense fake Hollywood set in a field in the backwater of Kunshan, a long diplomatic table decked with fancy red bunting, with little US and Chinese flags crossed in front of the signatories. You can still view the video thru Duke's website!!

Didn't the Dukies know, didn't their Chinese counter-parts know then of the legal requirement for an international university to be linked to a Chinese school? Surely they must have, for Duke is encountering the same obstacle in India.

Not to mention the silver shovels and turning of the earth last January 21, an event variously described as a "ground-breaking" and "cornerstone laying." The official Duke press release was ebullient: "Construction of the five buildings, designed by the architectural firm Gensler, will begin immediately and is expected to be complete in 2011."

✔ Fast forward to October: picking up the scent that all was not well in Kunshan, FC inquired of Vice President Schoenfeld. There was a snippy, misleading reply in response to a question about construction, the building's footprint, steel into the sky: "Buildings need foundation, utilities and infrastructure before the “steel and stone” go up, unless you’ve come up with a new process." Yes, FC was assured, construction is underway.

At least Schoenfeld answered; VP Jones became the first ordained Christian minister to ignore our correspondence.

✔ Fast forward to November: Brodhead and our new VP for international strategy Greg Jones were originally scheduled for a Prime Time Forum on November 16. That's part of a continuing series of appearances by administrators in Griffith Theater, with live and taped coverage on the internet. The aim is to keep employees informed, which is to say in line and aboard.

But suddenly, without explanation, this was canceled, only to have Jones pop up alone at a sleepy meeting yesterday of the Academic Council in an airless classroom in the sub-sub basement of the Divinity School.

And while the Nov 16th session was to include an update on "a new facility currently under construction" in Kunshan, China, Jones confirmed there is nothing under construction at all, for we are seeking $5.5 million "for design, consulting and construction oversight."

Flashback: December 5, 2009: the administration told the Trustees the city of Kunshan was picking up the entire construction cost, giving us the keys for at least 20 years for free, and throwing in free electricity to boot.

✔ And so it goes. FC has four different dates on file for completion of construction. Duke Magazine this fall had a story about our internationalization, and said we'd take occupancy in 2011. The ink hadn't even dried before we started to see 2012 mentioned.

And what do we have planned in this 200 acre complex. The only thing certain is that Fuqua's struggling (half as many students this year as the Dean "promised") Cross Continent MBA program will be in residence for 9 days, and if the site is also used by default for orientation, for a total of 16.

✔ Back to the November employee forum. The hype included this line: That Duke in Kunshan was "building on its long and successful history of international programs and partnerships..."

Oh how soon we forget. Back on October 18, 2007, Brodhead, before he was affectionately known as Uncle Dick, used his annual address to the faculty to talk about "The International Dimensions of Duke's Ambitions."

He did make a good point: Duke had no strategy, but rather a lot of disorganized, "opportunistic" thrusts into the international scene. Translation: you got money, we're en route.

As Brodhead droned on, he listed our best efforts: "longstanding agreements with the London School of Economics and the Goethe-University Frankfurt Faculty of Economics and Business More recently, Duke positioned itself to become one of the first American business schools to have a significant presence in India through an agreement with the IIMA—the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad."

Today, all of those agreements are dead. Like the PR man said, a "long and successful" history.

✔ Thank you for reading FC.