Mole: In confidential Kunshan briefing for senior Deans, the Brodhead Administration skips over concerns about finances and academic freedom

✔✔✔ FC here. On duty all summer. No vacation. Check back often for new posts.

The following report was enabled by a mole who attended the Dean's meeting described below.

Last Monday, the Brodhead Administration -- through Nora Bynum, director of global strategy -- briefed the top deans from every Duke division on the Kunshan Initiative.

✔ The briefing -- behind closed doors -- showed a disconnect if not an arrogance: the growing concerns on campus about financial viability and the truncated academic freedom being offered by the Chinese were not mentioned at all.

✔ Nor were the Deans offered key documents that the Brodhead Administration is withholding. These include 24 pages excised from the Duke Kunshan Planning Guide given to the faculty's senate, the Academic Council; 30 pages of appendixes; and the reports of outside consultants (FC believes there are six to eight reports) that in some instances are highly critical of Duke's course.

Our mole says this may indicate the Brodhead Administration is going to tough out demands for release of these documents, and resist a thorough, expansive faculty review before the Academic Council vote necessary under university by-laws to start any academic program.

The briefing was typical of the administration's thrust into China: the deans were told some of what is happening. It was not a give and take session to plan what is happening, nor a session where the deans were expected to contribute and where their ideas would be incorporated.

There is some news in the briefing, however. Perhaps hearing that portion of the faculty uproar occasioned because Kunshan has gone forward without collegiality and appropriate consultation, a new China Faculty Council was scheduled to be convened for the first time last Thursday. The Council will advise Peter the Provost and Rev. Greg Jones, VP for global expansion. We do not yet have a report on Thursday's meeting, nor any indication who will sit on the Council.

The Council will form several working groups, with these under consideration. Curriculum design. Seed funding for research and training. Connection between faculty or school-led research and projects. Fellow Dukies, if this were October 1, 2009, this would be appropriate. Coming in May, 2011, it is too little, too late.


For the first time, the Brodhead Administration has revealed its long-term development timetable for Kunshan. Originally conceived as a full scale research university established in one swoop, the plans were scaled back.

PHASE ONE: In the first six years, Fuqua will offer most of the academic programs. There will be two non-degree undergraduate programs involving a minimum number of students, to satisfy a technical requirement of the Chinese government.

PHASE TWO: In years 2017-2020, Duke Kunshan University will move toward with additional graduate and professional degrees as well as Research Centers. And of utmost interest, this line: "During this phase, DKU will develop or collaborate with others to develop a world-class undergraduate degree program."

✔ PHASE THREE: In years 2020-2024,
"By the conclusion of this phase, DKU will have fundamentally realized its goal of establishing a comprehensive university with world-class education and research quality.

We hasten to point out that the city of Kushan has committed itself only to constructing buildings for the first phase, and letting Duke have access without rent for ten years. It's any body's guess what happens then.

And we hasten to point out further that the city of Kunshan has committed to paying 45 percent of the expected massive operating deficits for only six years. After that, it's any one's guess.

✔Fact Checker got a laugh out of a map projected in front of the Deans. In its continuing effort to bring Shanghai, a city of 22 million, and Kunshan, a backwater, together, we are told by the Administration that the cities are 37 miles apart. An artfully drawn arrow illustrates this.

But unless you are a Deputy Fact Checker, you would not recognize that the arrow points to the most westerly part of Shanghai possible, along with the most easterly boundary of Kunshan. The distance between Duke's campus and the center of Shanghai is not revealed.

We can only repeat our findings on the high speed railroad that is also shown connecting the two cities, trying to knit Shanghai with the backwater of Kunshan:

A) The railroad is not designed for people, but to open up the vast inner region to manufacturing. It will carry freight to the Shanghai airports and seaport.

B) The cost of a seat between Kunshan and Shanghai equals approximately half a day's pay for people working in the electronics factories of Kunshan.

C) The seats will require a reservation one day in advance.

D) The high speed railroad will not run after 8PM. Because of uncertainties in negotiating the teeming mass that is Shanghai to reach the high speed rail station, the international airport warns people arriving on most flights from the U-S not to count on a connection, but to stay overnight at the airport.

E) Only a few of the high speed trains (some schedules have shown as few as two, other information indicates far more, and all will likely change as more sections of the full Beijing-Shanghai route are completed) will stop in Kunshan, as the train approaches 350 kilometers an hour.

F) The high speed Shanghai station is no where near the Bund, the historic, cultural and financial hub of the city where Fuqua's Dean Blair Sheppard is clandestinely planning a campus that will take the business school's premiere programs out of Kunshan. The high speed rail is a 35 minute subway ride from the Bund.

G) On the Kunshan side, Duke is in the K-STEP industrial park. With only 700 cabs in the entire city, it's any one's guess how Dukies will get to and from the train station. Peter the Provost has estimated this at 15 minutes. Beware: it is dangerous after dark.

We are still waiting for ANY senior administrator from Duke to tell us he actually rode this railroad. We say HE because all of the senior administrators who have gone to Kunshan -- save the Nursing Dean -- are male. And white.

An interesting omission: in describing the imperative for China, the administration has backed away from its original assertion that Duke is in a particularly favorable position to carry the international flag.

In the briefing, Bynum, the director of global strategy, stated that we are waiting the Chinese Ministry of Education on the provincial level, to see if they approve of the campus and move the proposal to the national Ministry.


✔✔ This would indicate to FC that the Trustee meeting on Friday and Saturday of Commencement weekend (May 13-14) will not focus on China. Indeed, the chair of the Trustee committee on the initiative, David Rubenstein, won't even be in attendance.

Here's what we are watching for out of the Trustee meeting:

A) The election of a new chair, with Dan Blue reaching term limits. The vice chair Rick Wagoner has the inside track, but there is no indication if he wants the job; since being canned at General Motors, he has taken a very low profile.

B) The election of a new vice chair will be key. In the past, the vice chair has often led searches for the highest officers, including a new President.

C) The Trustees will adopt a budget for the new fiscal year starting July 1.

1) How will the Arts and Sciences fare, after being brutalized during the financial meltdown.

2) Will the Trustees change the assumptions for income from our endowment, budgeted at 8.5 percent, while in the past decade our endowment earnings have only averaged 6.5 percent.
This would be prudent, but yield far less endowment income for the current budget.

3. And will they be dipping into the endowment (or more precisely what's called funds functioning as endowment) to cover red ink in the 2011-12 budget. For three years, Duke has been doing this, in order to cushion the impact of the financial meltdown. The coming budget is supposed to be balanced without this crutch. It is a major test of the Administration's fiscal discipline. In the current fiscal year the budget called for $72 million in deficits covered by special withdrawals, obviously not sustainable.

4) Will financial aid continue to require spending from the endowment at a rate above the norm, so that to pay for today's need blind admissions, we continue to rob future generations.

5. D) We will be watching for any hints of the start of a new fund-raising campaign. Consider please, the recent gifts of $15 million for the nursing school and $10 million to endow aspects of our medical enterprise, as well as the transfer of $80 million from The Duke Endowment over several years to pay for renovations to Page, Baldwin and the Union. These are the kind of transactions you would expect the development people to capture as part of their new campaign.


✔✔ We expect the faculty concerns about Kushan to grow during the summer, and emerge in the fall in the new Academic Council. The faculty of individual schools proposing a new academic program votes first -- followed by a vote of the Academic Council.

There have been some signs the Council will be taking an expansive view of the authority granted it under the by-laws, raising questions about financing, academic freedom and how all this is going to benefit Duke/Durham and whether we might be better off moving in another direction.

We note the new Academic Council website on Kunshan includes a sub-section for faculty questions about the initiative -- and no one has posted a thing yet. Stay tuned, Fellow Dukies.