Brodhead Administration clings to fantasy that Kunshan will open with degree granting programs next August

Posted at 11 PM Sunday evening

Fact Checker is far more than oversight and commentary on the Kunshan Initiative. Even so, we are impelled to begin this week as we ended last, with an essay on the folly of trying in one grand swoop to create a full research university serving Chinese students in the backwater of Kunshan, the first of a chain of similar universities world-wide.

✔✔✔ Welcome to Fact Checker. Probative. Provocative.

The silence must end. It is time -- no, it is past time -- for President Brodhead and his administrators to speak out honestly on the Kunshan Initiative.

Mr. President, we feel you are obligated:

✔A) To tell stakeholders who do not read Fact Checker -- to tell them for the first time -- that on June 1 the faculty in the Fuqua Business School shot down the two proposals for degree programs that were to launch the Duke Kunshan University.

✔B) To communicate to stakeholders, Duke's partners in China and prospective students that we will not meet the August, 2012 opening date.

✔C) To change your approach to planning for Kunshan in a very fundamental way, to include the faculty in particular as well as other stakeholders for the first time. Up until now, your Administration has not involved the faculty -- only briefed them from time to time about what has been decided. And they were cursory briefings. The faculty must have a seat at the table, to be included in discussion of course, but also to see its ideas incorporated.

✔D) To create a strategic plan for Duke University in Durham, to replace the relic that you pull out every once in a while for worship. The latest plan focuses on construction of Central Campus, a project every bit as big as the original construction of West Campus. This is dead because the financial meltdown cost us the money we intended to spend on this project. Despite this focus on Duke in Durham, you have represented that the plan supports Kunshan. In fact it does not say one damn thing about going into other nations and starting universities for indigenous peoples. Mr. President, neither does your major 2007 address to the faculty on Duke's international aspirations. We need a road map, not an opportunistic leap from one pot of money being waived at us to the next.

✔ E) And, Mr. President, you and your minions have a deep obligation to inform and enable the continuing debate over Kunshan -- not try to stifle it. FC believes administrators can properly be strong advocates for their beliefs: to lead us, to make proposals, to drive them to fruition. But there is a parallel responsibility that is being terribly, deliberately neglected: to provide data so that other people can make up their minds independently, so that opponents are empowered to intelligently and responsibly participate in discussion and debate. Mr. President, you earn a F- on this. An important part of today's essay is a list of relevant documents and financial projects that are currently withheld. We demand their immediate release.


We call upon the Academic Council -- the faculty's elected senate representing all sectors of the university -- to stake out its ground at an early meeting in the new semester, to view in an expansive way the authority conferred by the University's by-laws to approve academic programs. The Council needs time, a staff and a budget to develop a meticulous, independent appraisal of Kunshan and other international adventures before voting on degree programs. The administration's frenzy over Kunshan must not be allowed to railroad a proposal through.

The Council must not tolerate another statement from Brodhead that he spent "almost an hour" discussing Kunshan with the Council's leadership. That is insufficient, a kiss-off for an Initiative that Brodhead himself says will transform Duke in as big a way as James B. Duke transformed Trinity College.

We should note that in re-reading the transcripts of all Academic Council meetings for the past two years, we were quite encouraged. We found an admirable degree of involvement, with increasingly pointed questions. FC salutes the Council for its due diligence.


Fellow Dukies, assume for a moment that you do not read Fact Checker. Would you know that the Fuqua faculty, expressing the most serious concerns about finances and quality, rebuked former Dean Sheppard, Peter the Provost and President Brodhead?

The answer is no.

✔ Was this covered in Duke Today, the on-line newspaper aimed at employees? No.

✔ Was there a news release? No. We found only a few words in response to one reporter from Vice President Schoenfeld, a pathetic bluster that the rebuke (he certainly did not use that word) is good, because now we can make the proposed programs better.

✔ Was this covered in the new issue of Duke Magazine, the principal conduit to alumni, just sent out? No. (While the June 1 rejection of degree proposals by the Fuqua faculty might be considered late breaking news for a magazine, we note that the resignation of Global Vice President Rev. Greg Jones and interim appointment of Dr. Michael Merson, which occurred almost three weeks later, are covered.)

✔ And how about the Chronicle? No. There was a Kunshan story the day after the Fuqua faculty meeting -- but it was stale, stale background. The first mention of the June 1 rejection came in an oblique one sentence, nine word reference in the 7th paragraph of a June 22nd editorial. There has never been a substantial story.


Brodhead must recognize that the current timetable -- actually the second or third, depending on how you count -- is not realistic. Not at all.

Look at what is supposed to happen in the next 11 months:

✔ The new leadership -- Dean Boulding of Fuqua for the next two years and interim global Vice President Merson -- must involve faculty representatives. Not just brief them periodically as erstwhile Dean Blair Shepperd did, but have time-consuming brainstorming sessions. Not days, not weeks, but months of them.

✔ Then Fuqua's tenured professors, tenure track professors, and professors of the practice, about 95 in all, must schedule a meeting to discuss proposals that may emerge. And then, as the timetable from last June suggests, three weeks later take a formal vote.

✔ Assuming there is approval -- and not a return to the drawing board -- the proposal moves to the Academic Council which must also assent, a power derived from the by-laws of the University, our fundamental governing document.

✔ Assuming there is Academic Council approval, faculty must be found. It would seem that most already have their plans set for the academic year -- and are not just waiting for the opportunity of Kunshan to dawn. In fact, few want to go, as the June 1 meeting showed.

✔ after assignment to Kunshan, faculty must prepare courses worthy of a higher degree from Duke, coordinating with each other. (The Duke Kunshan University will award Duke degrees as if the students had been in Durham.)

✔ And then there is accreditation; we are not familiar with this process and only recently has a Deputy Fact Checker been assigned.

✔ Now, please, also consider the time-line from the standpoint of a student in China who might want to enroll at Kunshan. How can they possibly rely on classes beginning on schedule next August? How much will this cost? Who will be teaching? What is their strength?

In getting realistic about the Kunshan timetable, we assume Brodhead will want to avoid the charged word "moratorium," for that's been employed by faculty who have a very realistic and responsible view of Kunshan. But a two year pause seems appropriate, for all the steps mentioned above.


For a start, to inform and enable the debate on this campus as our president must, we call upon Brodhead to release the following information.

✔Mr. President, tell us the status of Duke's application to the local and national Ministries of Education to operate in China. And in particular, tell us what tuition you projected in the application. Has China answered? It is past due. As FC reported in May, there is a huge gulf, with Duke anticipating tuition of $41,000 for Fuqua programs and $46,000 for a masters offered by the Duke Global Health Institute. Duke's consultants have found Chinese families might pay up to $15,000 for degrees -- while the Chinese government has typically approved tuition of only $5,000.

Mr. President, give us an update on projected operating losses. It's been a year since your calculations, and surely some numbers have changed. In fact we know they have.

Mr. President, allow Executive Vice President Trask -- Duke's chief financial offer -- to speak on Kunshan; the muzzling of his comments, amid indications he questions the financial viability, is no longer acceptable.

✔Mr. President, release to us all documents you have negotiated with the Chinese about academic freedom. We are particularly concerned about your weak response to questions relating to access to the internet. Months ago, Peter the Provost told the Chronicle a final agreement was at hand.

✔Mr. President, assure us that people of faith will be able to practice their religion on campus. And that Duke is making space available: a chapel, a prayer room, a meditation room.

✔Mr. President, you must do a far better job of showing how Kunshan will benefit the home campus. Your latter-day thought that faculty going to Kunshan will bring home new context for their teaching in Durham is rather weak, particularly given the small numbers of faculty involved.

✔Mr. President, outline for us the escape clause, that would allow us politely to tell the Chinese that opening the Kunshan campus is an impossibility.

✔Mr. President, it is curious that Duke's other international moves have all dropped out of the news. Coincidentally while you are being charged with going in too many directions at once. City by city, nation by nation, give us an update.

Dick, last week we wrote a very personal essay about your tenure, lurching from crisis to crisis, and questioning how you would survive the turmoil. This week we further advise you that we see a virulent cancer eating into your Presidency. With apologies to John Dean and Richard Nixon.

Thank you for reading Fact Checker and loving Duke.

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