Kunshan Initiative battered by national and international news articles. Faculty uproar featured.

Please scroll down to see our report on this weekend's Trustee meeting. Developing: Fuqua schedules faculty vote on academic offerings in Kunshan. Brodheads to take lavish summer-time tour of Asia and Africa. We will post soon.

✔✔✔✔ FC here. Good day! As the faculty revolt against Kunshan has grown, Duke's thrust into China has become big national and international news.

One headline on a recent story: "If you built it, they might not come."

Ouch. That is from the May 10th edition of "Inside Higher Education," an authoritative daily web newspaper that is closely watched, particularly since it has the latest job openings.

That story focused on the December, 2010 report of consultants that Duke hired to shore up its case for Kunshan. As it turned out, the China Market Research Group challenged basic assumptions about the amount of tuition that can be charged, the numbers of students who might attend, and their intellectual ability.

The Brodhead Administration had hopes of keeping that consultant's report -- and others like it -- secret. But Fact Checker got a copy from a mole and defiantly offered a .pdf file to anyone who requested it. More than 300 Loyal Readers responded.

✔ As "Inside Higher Education" points out, the main finding of the consultants was that Chinese will pay -- on average -- only $15,000 for a Duke degree. The Duke Kunshan Planning Guide, given up grudgingly by the administration after being revealed by FC, includes revenue estimates based on tuition of $41,000 a year. One master's program, in global health, is foreseen as charging more than $46,000 in tuition.

✔ A secondary finding is that few Chinese would be interested in Duke's programs in Kunshan -- preferring by an overwhelming margin to go overseas for education. The lack of interest was particularly acute for the global health degree.

✔ The report also challenges specific statements from President Brodhead and Fuqua Dean Blair Sheppard, among others, about the prospects for donations to help cut losses in Kunshan. While Sheppard has talked in terms of charging full-freight to corporations sending their employees to earn the master's degree, the consultants could find no employer interested at all.

✔✔ The faculty revolt and deep questions about Kunshan have also made headlines in the Herald-Sun, which is better known for its gobbling and regurgitating effusive press releases than its probative reporting on Duke. There was also an article in the Triangle Business Journal, a regional paper focusing on the economy.

✔✔ International publications have chimed in. "University World News" did an excellent, major story on-line that detailed how the Brodhead Administration has rolled over the faculty in planning Kunshan -- and went on to show how financially the new university could either flop or become a very significant drain on the mother campus in Durham.

This article presented an interesting conflict between the vice president in charge of our global expansion, Rev. Greg Jones, and the Dean of the Fuqua Business School, Blair Sheppard.

Discussing the marketing consultant's finding that many Chinese think U-S universities are interested in their country merely to make a buck, Jones said: "We are not worried about some of the things other universities are worried about. We are not bothered about taking money out of China. We try not to loose money but we will reinvest money. More a matter for us is what are the conditions and whether we want to be present."

The article -- which had extensive quotes -- included this contradiction from Dean Sheppard: "it should be possible within a fairly short period to be making money on our China activities." Sheppard has also stated, although not included in this article, that he chose a new one-year master's degree as the principal offering in Kunshan because it does not require much in the way of faculty.

✔✔✔ The highly influential Chronicle of Higher Education has also chimed in, its most recent article focusing on the repressive government in China and new fears for academic freedom. Headline: "In China, Political Chill Begins to Reach Universities"

After describing the long-standing repression of activists and most recently members of a small Christian Church in Beijing, the article turns to attacks on academic life. This comes at the same time that Brodhead has been trying to sell Dukies on the idea that the Chinese realize how a liberal education must be free of intimidation and limitation.

Brodhead has been his wishy-washy self when pressed for specifics: whether the Duke Kunshan campus will have unfettered internet, unfiltered e-mail, and uncensored texting. He has talked of "trade-offs" but we think the word "sell-out" is more accurate.

As bad as the on-campus situation will be, FC has reported that there are no assurances at all about off-campus activities of students and faculty. Our essay recalled how Duke's tradition of academic freedom started with John Spencer Basset's expressing his opinion -- expressed not in a classroom -- but in a magazine circulated throughout the south.

Among the examples cited in the Chronicle of Higher Education:

-- Peking University (cq) announced in March that it would expand a pilot counseling program to help struggling students, including those for the first time who suffer from "radical thoughts."

-- Teng Biao, professor at China University of Political Science and Law in Beijing, was held without charges for 70 days and finally released. Speculation: the regime wanted to send a message to his colleagues lest they try to replicate protests and uprisings across the Mideast.

Thank you for reading Fact Checker. All summer. No vacation.