Brodhead checks in from Singapore

Search words Richard Brodhead Duke University Kunshan

Some new information on Mr. Brodhead's three-week spree in Europe, Asia and Africa.

✔ - The Chronicle reports Brodhead will speak at Raffles Institution, noting "Raffles students submit the third highest number of Duke applications of any high school worldwide." The newspaper did not give us any background on this school, named in honor of the Brit who put the port of Singapore on the map, so a Deputy FC was assigned.

We wonder why the President of Duke is rounding up future students at an institution that discriminates against women, denying them access to the first four years of a six year program, and isolating them during the fifth and sixth years.

Or why the President of Duke is speaking to a school that seems to have a very monolithic student body, which is to say no one from the Singapore ghettos known as Chinatown, Little India and Arab Street.

Or why the President of Duke is speaking at a school that has no respect for diversity in sexual orientation, subjecting all students to six years of "sex programme" on "relationships with the opposite sex."

And we wonder if the President of Duke approves of the discipline meted out to students who accumulate too many demerits: caning, which if the offense is bad enough, is done in front of your classmates. In case you are not up to speed on brutal, medieval punishments, the cane not only strikes the victim's naked butt but is designed to rip into it, causing blood and flesh to spray, potentially tearing away muscles and leaving the victim crippled, which explains why the whipper wears surgical garb. Sample offense: posting a "derogatory" comment about a teacher on the Internet.

The Wall Street Journal has called Raffles Institution the "gateway to the Ivy League" because of the number of students it pumps into choice US colleges. Duke is no stranger there: an admissions rep appeared at the school on April 15th, the same day reps from the University of Chicago, Dartmouth, Wellesley and Yale were trolling. All seeking the same prize: students from wealthy parents, supported by a wealthy government, who will pay full freight, the concept of need-blind admissions be damned.

✔ -- Nine days after leaving Durham, Brodhead's blog came alive for the first time. Well sorta. The words are flat, they do not have the usual polish and power that this English professor turned administrator can deliver. This reads as if some PR person churned it out.

For the first time, Brodhead acknowledges he is accompanied by other "officials," although neither he nor PR will name them. So we have our President on a three-week spree designed to spread good-will, afraid to acknowledge the ID of the masked posse he brought along, much less its cost.

Brodhead marvels at the rise of Duke Kushan University -- ignoring in his blog (as the Chronicle does in its news story) that the faculty back in Durham (which under our by-laws must give specific approval) has said "no" to the first two proposals for degrees to be awarded, and the outlook is bleak for revamped suggestions.

In material that the PR people have made available, there is mention of proud partnerships with Yuhan, Fudan and Peking Universities. Please, please do not be so rude as to ask about Shanghai Jiao Tong University, where Brodhead, just 18 months ago, signed an elaborate agreement for joint sponsorship of Duke Kunshan U, as well as other cross-pollenization that was to be the heart of our China thrust. A source in Asia tells FC that Jiao Tong got totally pissed and cancelled the whole deal when it found out that Fuqua Business School Dean Blair Sheppard was secretly negotating to start up an MBA degree program -- not in the backwater of Kunshan as everyone was led to believe, but in competition with Jiao Tong's own MBA program right in the Bund (Wall Street) neighborhood of Shanghai.

Lest anyone recall that Brodhead signed with Shanghai Jiao Tong at a red-clothed table festooned with crossed US and China flags, the job of signing a new, low-level faculty swap agreement with Shanghai's Fudan University fell to Dr. Michael Merson, smiling behind crossed flags. He's the head of Duke's Global Health Initiative who seems to have swallowed a PR pill and become a yes man, temporarily replacing the ailing Greg Jones who resigned.

✔ Brodhead was on stage at the posh 60-story Marriott hotel in Shanghai for another "Duke Idea" presentation to alumni. So funny, there were steps to the stage right in front of Brodhead's big easy chair, the steps carpeted in lush deep red bordered by majestic gold, making it look as if you ascended to Brodhead's throne. These sessions are designed to move rapidly from Brodhead's brief comments on the state of Duke to a structured program where no pesky questions are possible.

This time Brodhead's guest for an "intellectual conversation" was our best Chinese prop, law school grad and University Trustee Xiqing Gao, who holds the dual titles of chief investment officer and president of one of the funds that the Chinese government uses for overseas investment of their vast hoards of surplus cash. Which is to say Gao is very much a member of the Communist regime, reporting directly to the Premier and the State Council.

Brodhead wrote: "It was my privilege to ask Gao every hard question I could think of about the Chinese and US economies." Fine, Mr. Brodhead, why didn't you say a peep about academic freedom?

Gao has been under the gun for sour investments, including a massive infusion of cash during the financial meltdown to save Wall Street's Morgan Stanley, run by fellow Duke trustee John Mack (who has since been ushered over, and now is being shown out). Gao also bought shares in Tokyo Electric Power, which operates the crisis-stricken Fukushima Daichi nuke.

There's one ominous development for Gao. Someone new has just gotten to share one of his titles, and while we do not know how this works in dictatorships, in the US when someone emerges with your corporate title, you are in deep water. From Reuters: speculation is Gao will lose his other title too in jockeying before the Communist Party's 18th Congress in the fall of 2012.

But as the old Chinese proverb suggests, "it ain't over until it's over."

✔ Final notes: While at Wuhan, Brodhead reports he held an open forum for hundreds of students. By golly, alumni or students back home in Durham would welcome such an opportunity too.

And the PR man Schoenfeld told the Chronicle that Brodhead was busy lining up a major donor; the newspaper did not ask if the donor might have given to the mother campus, meaning the money is being chanelled away from Durham.

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