Analysis: Mr. Brodhead goes to war

First of three essays. The next, written in New Haven, will analyze Brodhead's handling of Kunshan, and compare how his great friend and mentor, Yale President Richard Levin handled Singapore.

✔✔✔✔✔ Fact Checker here.

Dick Brodhead's extraordinary e-mail to a member of the faculty who has been critical of his handling of the Kunshan Initiative makes three points.

A) The faculty was consulted.
B) The finances were explained
C) Academic freedom is protected.

Not one of these statements is true
, and we consider each in turn.


Brodhead says "faculty engagement was extensive," and at the March 24th meeting of the Academic Council, "the issue was discussed for the best part of an hour."

That long? Wow! Let us remember that the president identifies Kunshan as the most important development at Duke since James B. Duke forked over the money.

After the February 25-6 meeting of the Trustees, the Dean of Fuqua Blair Sheppard, himself smarting from criticism that he's left his faculty out cold, wrote the following:

"It is now time to seriously take up the question of our own (Fuqua's) presence in China. The goal of this document is to provide as much information as I can in order to allow us to begin the dialogue necessary to have a thorough consideration of our choices....:"

So who are we to believe. Brodhead that the faculty was involved since November 2009, or Sheppard saying six weeks ago that it is "now" time to "begin the dialogue."


Yes Dick, you and your minion have offered financial details all along, but the trouble is, they were misleading numbers, incomplete numbers. Or as the Chronicle put it on February 22, "hazy at best."

Let us put aside the construction costs. We shall look at the numbers that Brodhead and his tribe gave us on the continuing, annual operating losses.

Dean Sheppard - November, 2009 - Kunshan will pay for everything, everything right on down to the electricity. Duke will have a "free ride." Compare please, the Trustee briefing document, February 2011 "We cannot hope to have world class education in Kunshan without (subsidy)... the founding partners (meaning Duke University, Kunshan and Wuhan University) must play a substantial role."

Sheppard - December, 2009 - Kunshan will pay 100 percent of any operating losses.

Vice President Jones - November 2010 - we expect to ask the Trustees for $1 million a year to subsidize operating losses.

President Brodhead - February 2011 - we will ask the Trustees for $1.5 to $2 million a year to subsidize operating losses. Oh by the way, Kunshan is only going to pay 45 percent of the losses.

Executive Vice President Trask - March 2011 - The Trustees gave Mr. Brodhead authority to go 20 percent over budget, in other words spent up to $2.4 million a year to subsidize.

Peter the Provost - later in March 2011 - Well yes, the numbers Mr. Brodhead gave us were not meant to mean that was the only operating loss Duke would cover. That's just the amount coming from the Strategic Initiative fund.

Later in March, 2011 - Fact Checker reports the Strategic Initiative fund is only 25 to 30 percent of the story. There is also hidden, Enron-style subsidy in:

A) The Fuqua budget. Almost as much as from the Strategic Reserve, never before mentioned.

B) Donations raised in Durham, being sent to Kunshan. Brodhead allows this will be $10 million in the first six years.

C) A juggle so that Duke tells Kunshan that money it is spending for administration in Durham is really part of the joint venture's responsibility -- and we want to count this as part of our contribution for operating losses. No word if Kunshan is letting us get away with this gimmick, or is trying one on its own with its own overhead.

D) An annual loan with no interest or repayment schedule. This is Duke money -- more than the appropriation from the Strategic Initiative -- flowing into Kunshan for operating losses. Nice trick!

The totals: Brodhead has estimated the subsidy total at $37 million over six years. Fact Checker says the grand total -- operating subsidies, capital costs and everything -- will easily be $100 million, more likely $150 million over the first ten years.

Back to November, 2009, Board Chair Dan Blue: the risks of Kunshan are "not substantial."

The Chronicle editorial again: "..the constantly shifting statements coming from Duke administrators do little to engender confidence within the greater Duke community as to the project’s economic feasibility."

So far, Fact Checker has discussed only the initial costs. The agreement for Kunshan to share losses lasts only six years. The agreement for free use of the land and rent lasts only ten years. What next?

And what happens when it comes time to fulfill the dream of a "comprehensive research university, including both undergraduate and graduate programs." There is not one word of Kunshan's contribution to this.

Mr. Brodhead, have you briefed the community on the consultant's report that says your financial estimates are a house of cards -- that we cannot possibly charge Chinese (and they are the ones who will be going to school in Kunshan) as much as we are figuring.

Why not release that consultant's report, Dick? Or the three economic models you gave to the Trustees, rather than just the rosiest of the "Monte Carlo" simulations that you provided to the faculty. Oh yes, Dick, how about the full Duke-Kunshan Planning Guide, all 47 pages rather than the 23 given to the Academic Council.

I also do not follow, Mr. President, your assertion that the Arts and Sciences are not hurt financially by money being sent to Kunshan. There is only so much in the pot. If you give it to Kunshan -- through the Fuqua budget, through the Strategic Initiatves appropriation -- there is less left for A and S.

And Fact Checker would like to know if you will grant an interview. And if you will instruct your deputies to answer e-mail questions, or will they continue to circle the wagons to try to protect you.


What John Spencer Bassett began in 1903, Dick Brodhead is ending in 2011.

As Dukies are taught, Bassett was a professor of history in our forerunner, Trinity College. In October, 1903, he published an article in the South Atlantic Quarterly (notice that this circulated off campus, and was not confined to a classroom). He dared to identify a black, Booker T. Washington, as the second greatest Southerner, save Robert E. Lee, in a century.

From those words, so benign sounding today, the Trustees established a tradition of academic freedom. When the Trinity College bell was rung to celebrate a Trustee vote endorsing Bassett's right to speak his mind, it was not only heard on campus, but in the community outside the campus. In other words, no geographic restrictions on what or where our professors or students could say or explore.

And so, Loyal Readers may ask, how is this relevant to Duke's campus in Kunshan. In discussions of relations with the Chinese regime -- no friend of unfettered inquiry -- Brodhead reports he is "fairly certain" there will be full internet access. He is equally wobbly in discussing subject matter that professors can address in their classes.

What he has not said is that the seven foot high steel wall that already looms around the 201-acre Kunshan campus -- separating it from the rest of a huge new industrial park -- is not only meant to keep outsiders out, but faculty and students inside. There is no, repeat no academic freedom, none, beyond the walls. Duke professors, Duke students will be no better off than Chinese serfs.

This is not the definition of a university, much less a great one.

And here's a well kept secret: the Trustees have considered "risks to Duke's reputation" that include "if we become embroiled in wide-ranging public controversy." In other words, something akin to the current Duke concern for sweatshops or the historical involvement with the city of Durham in its desegregation attempts.


Mr. Brodhead is silent on many aspects of great concern. Whether the city of Kunshan is the best that Duke could do. Whether Dean Sheppard has told officials in Kunshan that he is silently negotiating for a campus in Shanghai that would undercut Kunshan, because key Fuqua programs "won't work" in the backwater. Whether Wuhan University is the best we can do, for his own global vice president apparently was pointing to Wuhan when he identified one potential partner as "weak."

In his letter to Professor Pfau, Brodhead has another failure at time of crisis. Rather than calm the waters engulfing him personally and his administration, Brodhead has only provided velocity and volume for the torrent.

Part two of this analysis in a day or two. Thank you for reading Fact Checker.