What next for Kunshan?

Don't forget to scroll down: three stories today.

✔✔✔ Good day, fellow Dukies. FC here. Probative. Provocative.

We assume, indeed we are certain, that despite the departure of Dean Sheppard -- with seven days notice -- his dream of Duke's becoming the Roman Empire of Higher Education lingers within the Brodhead Administration. And what a dream it is: for Duke-branded research universities to conquer the globe, serving indigenous populations, the first in Kunshan, China.

Our president and his administrators owe this great institution more than their devotion to this grandiose scheme. Yes, they are entitled to define what Duke might be and to champion their cause -- but they also have a deep obligation to inform "the other side," to enable debate rather than try to stifle it.

And stifle Mr. Brodhead does, for he understands that information and knowledge are power. With a firm hand on the throttle, he and his minions limit and spin what stakeholders can find out.

Add to this the President's propensity to intimidate opponents (witness the senior professor who was ridiculed when he dared raise questions about access to the internet on the Kunshan campus with Mr. Brodhead at a Bass Scholars dinner), we have a toxic combination that is ill-serving an institution that Brodhead professes to love.

✔ The control of information is a recurrent theme in FC essays, and this morning we start by examining the status of any guarantee of academic freedom on the Kunshan campus.

On March 29, Peter the Provost told the Chronicle that in the weeks ahead, Duke would sign a written agreement -- most of it already formed -- that would embrace academic freedom, or at least internet freedom which was the immediate topic of the interview. Peter said he could not -- for reasons not disclosed -- show the Chronicle what was in place so far.

Surely in the intervening four months, this contract has been signed. And Dukies are entitled to know what is in it. To read it word for word. To examine Kunshan with full knowledge of what we face there.

We can think of no valid reason to withhold this contract from the faculty and other stakeholders; after all, the "other side," the Chinese government, has a copy!

So long as the Brodhead Administration keeps this contract locked up, it cannot become fodder for debate, ammunition for opponents of Kunshan. And that's what we believe Brodhead wants, to avoid what one Trustee who talked to FC on Monday night predicted: that this contract will land with a thud when presented to the Academic Council.

The Academic Council now maintains a China website for such documents, and our contracts with the city of Kunshan, our silent partner Wuhan University and the Chinese regime should be posted forthwith.

✔ Ditto the University budget. There is a pervasive odor that suggests belt-tightening in Durham to allow for subsidy of Kunshan. Indeed Brodhead's rather deceptive presentation last spring to the Academic Council, where he discussed funds from one Duke pocket (the strategic initiative pool) as if they were all that Duke would have to pony up to subsidize Kunshan, concentrated that odor.

We are entitled to know the entire picture.

We are entitled to know too, the status of the strategic initiative pool -- created from something called virtual equity dividends -- which dried up in the last University financial statement. Balance: zero. If Brodhead is counting on this fund for year after year of Kunshan subsidies, we would be well advised to make sure it is being replenished.

Stakeholders in this University, prepared to intelligently discuss and debate our international aspirations, are entitled to see the budget lines where money is moved from Durham to Kunshan. We are entitled to see how, when Sheppard diluted his focus on Fuqua, its financial woes grew. And to see how in the year just starting, the business school will not meet its targets again, primarily because admissions for degree programs across the board are lagging.

✔ Another vital component of the Kunshan formula is the amount of tuition we can charge. In applying in February for the privilege of operating in China, the Brodhead Administration made a specific dollar proposal to the provincial and national Ministries of Education; we are entitled to know what it is, and to compare it with the tuition that must be charged to sustain the financial matrix presented by the Administration in the Duke Kunshan Planning Guide.

But we fear Mr. Brodhead figures so long as he can keep the lid on information about the proposal, then opponents of Kunshan have one less fact to load.

The Planning Guide presents only one actual number: $46,000 plus for tuition for the Global Health Institute's offering. A Deputy FC had to calculate tuition for two masters degrees proposed by Kunshan, scratching for information about the numbers of students who might enroll in two masters programs and the total anticipated revenue. We believe the Brodhead Administration is counting on charging at least $41,000; the national Ministry has never allowed an international university to charge even one-third that.

✔ Also in the financial realm, Executive Vice President Trask owes us more than a smile and a vague statement about revenues and expenditures being uncertain. Tallman, stand up and tell us we are dealing only with guesses, that the entire financial picture is a shaking house of cards. You earned credibility steering Duke through the financial crisis; now use it.

✔✔ And lastly, in our post yesterday, we underscored how tight the time-line is for Fuqua's new interim dean, Bill Boulding, to retrieve what he can from Sheppard's degree proposals which were shot down by the faculty June 1, to prepare new academic proposals, to usher them through the faculty, to secure needed approval of the Academic Council and to start classes by August, 2012.

And we should add, Boulding must prepare new proposals in a manner unlike Sheppard. Rather with full cooperation and collaboration with the faculty, not only hearing their ideas but incorporating them. That healthy process -- unknown to Sheppard -- takes substantial time.

Mr. Brodhead, as embarrassing as it may be to have yet another delay in your pet project, we call upon you now to move the timetable. Now.

To remove pressure from Dean Boulding to have to work within the confines of the current timetable or to be forced to suggest a new one. At least one year delay. Two would be more appropriate to allow for full investigation of all dimensions of Kunshan and other campuses.

Much of the discussion that we envision should have taken place long before we got this far in the grandiose scheme. But that does not excuse our not doing it now.

We cannot continue to tumble into an initiative which Brodhead has stated is the biggest since James B. Duke endowed Trinity College and got it to change its name to his. The president must become fully realistic about the timetable now -- rather than realizing later that he is cornered. Acting now, that would be a hallmark of leadership.

Thank you for reading FC and loving Duke.

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