BULLETIN - Fuqua faculty shoots down Kunshan degree programs, casting pall over entire China initiative

Developing. Scroll down for texts of two key documents. More documents expected in coming days.

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Moving decisively at a meeting only designed for discussion, and even before a formal vote on June 20th, the faculty in the Fuqua Business School shot down the Brodhead Administration's plans for two graduate degrees that are the heart of the initial years in developing Kunshan.

Loyal Readers, this throws into doubt the entire strategy to start a new university in China, teaching Chinese students in English starting in 2012, which was to have been the signature achievement of President Brodhead. This campus was only the start; others would circle the globe, but the Administration muted discussion of this fact as opposition grew.

The existing proposal for a Masters in Management Science -- by far the largest program -- is on life support. A special committee was instructed to see if any alternative is feasible and report back in the fall. This seems more of a sop to a few faculty who favored the MMS degree, rather than a viable proposal. A source told FC, "Some of the faculty were unwilling to leave the administration high and dry, and there was a lot of talk of 'intangibles' (reputation, endowment) as justifying a money-losing program."

The current proposal for a smaller Executive MBA program is dead.

A senior professor told Fact Checker at 1 AM Thursday that he/she has never seen a faculty so united -- and so negative.

The moves by tenured faculty, tenure track faculty and Professors of the Practice -- about 95 in all -- are a stunning rebuke to the leadership of Brodhead, Provost Lange and Fuqua Dean Blair Sheppard. For two years, they've been told they should be consulting faculty and incorporating their ideas, instead of moving forward on their own in secrecy.

The moves by the Fuqua faculty are also a victory for several senior professors with endowed chairs who took leadership roles in revealing hidden dimensions of the Kunshan Initiative, principally Prof. Thomas Pfau, Eads Professor of English and Professor of German.

A mole in the heart of Allen Building told a Deputy Fact Checker that Lange, particularly, was shaken when he learned of the depth of the faculty's opposition. Only Fuqua's operations area (one of eight major areas of study in Fuqua, including finance, economics, accounting, marketing, management, decision sciences, operations, strategy)supported Kunshan. This area has a concentration of professors of Chinese ancestry. Under Duke's by-laws, the faculty must approve any degree program, a grant of authority that is being taken seriously and viewed in an expansive way. Duke's partners in China -- the city of Kunshan and Wuhan University -- have known of this provision since the start of negotiations.

FC has learned that a Boston consultant's report that the Brodhead Administration steadfastly refused to release flatly contradicts many of its assertions on Kunshan. For example, we were told Kunshan is "right next" to Shanghai, but now it turns out to be a two hour drive, not a quick nine minute train ride described by Dean Sheppard. We were told about two and three bedroom apartments on campus for faculty, but we now learn faculty children can find English language instruction only in Shanghai.

And one of the special faculty committees studying the grandiose expansion plans has revealed that Fuqua already is bleeding big money, with enrollment seriously lagging for the fall semester.

As far as we can determine from initial reports, academic freedom did not play a role in the Fuqua faculty's discussion. Nor did the fact that the new campus -- so far as we can find out -- has no chapel or any other accommodation for religion, a rather interesting historical snub for Duke, a school with a Christian cross on its shield and a pledge to Jesus Christ in its Aims.

Some of the discussion focused on the fact that no one on the current faculty wants to go to Kunshan to work. Not even for six weeks. One proposal for three weeks even met opposition -- as did another that would have faculty shuttling to China twice over a three week period.

That this emerged as a major factor shows the disconnect between the Administration and faculty. If faculty had been involved from the start, this would have emerged on the night of June 1.

One of the big surprises was the revelation that Fuqua School has lost money for four years (I thought these guys knew how to run businesses!!!) and the number of students entering various programs in the fall will not meet projections. Fuqua will find it hard to meet its balanced budget forecast for next year. In the words of the faculty committee, "All this leaves the School with dwindling financial reserves. Consequently, the School has limited, or no, ability to absorb losses from (Kunshan)."

The losses projected for Kunshan seemed based on "overly optimistic' assumptions, to quote one committee member.

Moreover, the proposed programs were structured very thin, an effort to try to boost profits: tenured faculty would account for only 25 percent of the courses offered in Kunshan, versus about 80 percent at Fuqua in Durham. Cheaper adjuncts would carry much of the Kunshan teaching load, a move regular faculty in Durham found risky to education quality.

There was also discussion of the fact that no Chinese seems interested in either degree program. With respect to the MMS, Chinese want to study internationally. With respect to the executive MBA, the consultant calculated precisely 340 people might conceivably want to apply -- in a nation of 1.4 billion.

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  1. This backs up what those of us "on the ground" have been hearing for months that aren't even in Fuqua and says something about how out of touch and disengaged the Brodhead administration is from the campus community.

    There was talk that every Fuqua faculty member, as a requirement of their employment, would be required to spend at least one semester at the Kunshan campus. But there were no incentives offered for them to go there - many were particularly upset because China and Kunshan in particular had no connection with their research interests.

    We've also been hearing lots of grumbling about the drain on Duke resources caused by Kunshan, with faculty and departments cutting to the bone here at home while they saw no particular advantages to Duke with expanding in Kunshan.

    I hate to compare Brodhead's group to a previous administration, but President Nan, when I started working as a lowly staff member in a new center at Duke many years ago, took the time to have lunch with us and talk about the goals of our group. She seemed informed, offered ideas, and talked with us about how we fit into the university's larger goals.

    The current crop of Deans and administrators have shown in meeting with members of our group that not only do they not know what we do and what we provide the Duke campus, but have no clue on what we should be doing. With a director of the Center that just seems to drift with the political winds and not set any clear agenda, I've spent the last three years expecting to be laid off as we have no clear goals and duplicate what other groups are doing at the university.

    The problems with the Brodhead administration go deeper than Kunshan. The university has really lost its vision and core sense of what makes a Duke education worthwhile, with the current administration offering no clear path or ideas on Duke's future, just small, reactionary ideas based on something they read in "USA Today" or a trendy business magazine. There's just no leadership.

    I for one will be happy when there's a thorough house-cleaning or when the economy improves enough that I can find a position at another university that has an administration that knows where it's going.

  2. Shame on whomever is sharing confidential materials with you, in violation of requests that these materials be kept confidential.

    If faculty cannot be trusted to keep confidences, it will make people (faculty, administrators) even more reluctant to engage faculty in discussion on sensitive matters, such as this discussion on Kunshan.

  3. I'm grateful to the faculty who have shared information about the Kunshan initiative, and shed light on what has been a very secretive, closed process. To suggest that "it will make people even more reluctant to engage faculty in discussion on sensitive matters" only helps to illustrates how faculty have been left out of this critical review process. Faculty should have been engaged and consulted from the start - before the school invested substantial time and money in Kunshan, and certainly before construction started on a new campus. It is not the faculty who cannot be trusted.

  4. The commenter who is disturbed by the sharing of confidential materials might want to read this piece from Duke Magazine, highlighted in Duke Today. There's some food for thought about the struggles for Duke's character and faculty roles in decision-making on campus.


  5. I agree that faculty should be involved in the decision making and should have been involved more in the past with this venture -- before the school invested substantial time and money in Kunshan.

    But, if faculty who call for having more information and being more involved in the decision making process respond by making that information publicly available (by sending it to fact checker), this will ensure that faculty will only receive information that the administration is willing to make publicly available and discussion on sensitive issues will be held behind closed doors.

    Releasing these confidential documents may be a good strategy for embarrassing the administration (which seems to be the real goal of fact checker) and stopping the Kunshan effort, but it is counterproductive at best if the goal is to get faculty informed and involved in these discussions.

  6. I agree that this approach is counterproductive. The release of these documents only justifies the administration's attempts to limit the information released about Duke Kunshan. Unfortunately, it seems there's more disclosure and discourse as a result of Fact Checker's efforts (here and on the Chronicle website) than through the administration's actions.
    I don't think the release of these documents is the root of the embarassment - it is the underlying lack of faculty support for the Kunshan initiative that they reveal. This failure to gain faculty support would have come to light with or without the release of the documents.


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