Academic Council -- citing University by-laws -- stakes out broad ground in continuing debate over Kunshan

✔✔✔✔✔ Good day, fellow Dukies.

Amid the continuing furor over what many feel is the faculty's minimal role in the Kunshan Initiative, the chair of the Academic Council has issued an extraordinary, pointed memorandum affirming no academic program can begin without approval of the faculty in Durham.

Using quotes from the University by-laws and a 2009 Council resolution, chair Craig Henriquez, associate professor of biomedical engineering and computer science, indicated the Council -- the campus-wide elected faculty senate -- will take an expansive view of its responsibilities, considering any limitations on academic freedom that would thwart education efforts and weighing the financial stability of each program.


✔✔✔✔ Loyal readers, also on Tuesday, with the Brodhead Administration in damage control mode, Provost Peter Lange tried to bolster the stock of Fuqua Dean Blair Sheppard by announcing his re-appointment to a second five-year term.

The announcement to Fuqua stakeholders was most unusual, however, in that it acknowledged faculty frustration with the dean and other stresses in the business school from Sheppard's unbridled drive for global expansion. Lange revealed he had summoned Sheppard for a series of corrective discussions. Lange said these meetings will continue.

A press release issued not by the news bureau but personally by Michael Schoenfeld, principal spokesman for the Brodhead Administration, filtered out any mention of the counseling.


The faculty in each individual school involved with a degree -- for example Fuqua and a masters program -- must approve before the Academic Council begins consideration. A month ago Henriquez noted that even this preliminary process was not underway -- a measure of how divorced the faculty is from Kunshan.

Henriquez went out of his way to note that recent approval for a master of management studies program in Fuqua -- along with discussion of a template to allow easy transport of the program to other cities -- is not tantamount to approval which must still be granted city by city.

With the new Duke Kunshan University planning to issue Duke degrees, as if the students had been in Durham, Henriquez said administrators have assured him that the Chinese have been made aware that all agreements reached with administrators are tentative.

Henriquez's memo to all faculty came simultaneously with the release of minutes (actually a transcript) of the Council's March 24th meeting, so members can vote on whether to approve them at the next regularly scheduled meeting on Thursday.

The minutes reveal question after question peppering President Brodhead, and his waffling answers. For example, his strongest statement on academic freedom is that he hopes the Chinese realize it is a necessary ingredient on the campus. As Fact Checker reported on Monday, we have learned that all discussions with the Chinese pertain to activity on the campus itself; the seven foot high steel wall already in place around the 201 acre campus is also the boundary for free thought, and outside professors and students will be as restricted as serfs.

Henriquez himself set the tone for the meeting. According to the minutes, he opened discussion of Kunshan by reminding everyone of the exuberant global news conference in 1999 when President Nan Keohane announced the Fuqua School of Business would have a campus in Frankfurt. Millions of dollars later, the campus went belly up. History "does make us cautious," he said.

Facing Brodhead, Henriquez said the entire drumbeat for Kunshan was coming from administrators and he was unable to find "the faculty champions for this project."

Henriquez also cited the cost of Kunshan -- analyzing it in terms of cost per person involved. "It is clear that the resources spent there may limit or alter programs that might be proposed at Duke (in Durham) that potentially could have greater impact on more faculty and students. It is important that we understand how this venture and what we spend there will lead to a better Duke."

The Brodhead Administration has steadfastly maintained that Kunshan is not at the expense of Durham, but has not demonstrated how this is so.

✔✔ Provost Peter Lange revealed during the meeting that while the faculty has been given 23 pages of the Kunshan Planning document -- after FC obtained a copy from a mole and blogged -- there are the additional 24 pages still kept secret -- and on top of that 30 pages of appendix.

Henriquez started his Tuesday memo with announcement of a website -- created almost two years after Kunshan appeared on the horizon -- to keep professors and other stakeholders informed. See http://academiccouncil.duke.edu/ under hot topics. Yes hot topics. Fact Checker has been demanding this for six months.

Hernandez issued his memo before lunching with senior faculty members who have been raising serious questions about Kunshan. Originally their thrust was to have a petition from the faculty to the Council for appointment of a special committee that would undertake a formal investigation. However, the senior faculty recognized the Academic Council would not have the resources for a probe of the magnitude needed; one idea under current discussion is for an investigation that would have a budget and staff, with faculty members working on the investigation relieved of teaching responsibility. So far news of the luncheon has not percolated to the Fact Checker mole!

In a sign of the current atmosphere, hot topics says it will soon post "faculty questions about Duke in China."

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