We are working on improvements to FC, including an open forum for Loyal Readers. Please bear with us while this is created, and send us e-mail (Duke.Fact.Checker@gmail.com) with your thoughts. Here is a wonderful contribution we received Monday, spawned by our post about academic freedom and its absence from the Kunshan campus.
One wonders why Duke doesn't seriously consider an alternative argument? Yes, Duke (and all institutions of higher learning that want to be taken seriously on the international stage for the next many decades) need to have a coherent policy and approach to a presence like China. And, yes, in my opinion, they should have given more play initially to explore how this could be accomplished by expanding and changing programs in Durham, rather than (or at least before) launching a major salvo into Kunshan. But there seems to be a third option now.
Why wouldn't Duke take the lead in articulating a strong (and uncompromising) position on academic and internet freedom? Take the stage and lay out a series of very public principles that *have* to be met before Duke will consider international partnerships.
Freedom of thought is the cornerstone of higher education; if you compromise that, you've compromised everything. Invite China (or any other country) to consider ways to partner with us, but only once they have demonstrated that they can meet this standard of freedom of thought. Stating this principle loudly and clearly would set Duke apart from our peers and provide much of the hoped for PR benefit for Duke that is probably behind much of the administration's (including the Board's) fondness for (the Kunshan) project.
Absent such a commitment from China, we should expand our curricular options here in Durham to teach about and learn about freedom of thought -- over history and around the globe -- and expand opportunities to invite international students at all levels to come to Duke to learn about freedom of thought.
It could build up an awareness of international opportunities and challenges, but one built on an educational foundation that Duke believes in as a founding principle, rather than on the inadequately articulated principles that we are hearing now (that is, apparently, business opportunities and competition with other universities), none of which seems terribly lofty or foundational...
There is much talk about the wonderful university system we have in the U.S. and throughout the west being our strongest 'export'. Perhaps. But that argument would be much stronger if it were built on a foundation that we can all believe in. Freedom of thought should be the defining principle of that 'export', so that our international partners recognize exactly what it is they are getting. Education is not just a series of classes, books, and lecture notes.
It is the 'way' of learning that is foundational, not the 'what' of learning. We should be happy to work with potential partners to explore ways to have them adopt and benefit from our 'way' of learning. That -- not buildings and campuses festooned with the Duke logo -- is the 'export' we should be debating.
COMMENT FROM A LOYAL READER
I'm not sure openess and freedom of information is something the administration actually stands for....if we've learned anything over the past several years, it's that the administration is actually quite fond of censorship. I completely understand why they have no problem going to China where the government censors information when they at home censor information daily about the Duke campus. The fear is likely there among professors to speak out about it also (for fear of their jobs). So in essence, Kunshan CAN be exactly like the duke campus.
An excellent suggestion that, like all thoughtful input tendered in this regard, is destined to fall on deaf ears. Until the current leadership of the university has been removed, there is no prospect of improvement. Those currently in charge have no principles other than to immortalize themselves and to feed their professional ego and vanity at any cost. They have become so thoroughly detached from actual teaching, research, and meaningful intellectual work that compromising intellectual freedom (or indeed the very notion of it) means nothing more than a bit more of reality to 'spin' in ways favorable to their agenda.