Brodhead e-mails entire faculty on international initiatives, but dodges all questions that vex them

✔✔✔✔ Seven weeks after returning from a three-continent spree on Duke's credit card, Richard Brodhead got around to sending a post card home. In a rare e-mail sent to all university faculty -- but no other stakeholders -- he is exuberant about Duke's international adventures -- but silent on the very substantial issues confronting them.

The post card reads like a PR man wrote it. His descriptions of countries that he went to in Europe, Asia and Africa -- "excitement" and "an exquisite green landscape" -- lack depth and color and character. His discussion of the work that Dukies are doing in each location -- "I can't do justice to all the people and programs I visited" -- does not have the poise and power that we have come to expect from his words.

For those of us waiting for Brodhead to break his silence on Kunshan, there was disappointment. As he has correctly said, this initiative in a Chinese backwater (he of course did not employ that word) is the most important step for Duke University since James B Duke bribed (not his word either) Trinity College to change its name to his.

But something is going radically wrong with the Kunshan Initiative, swept under the rug. Can anyone recall the last time we heard from Brodhead?

Our president and his team have never, never reported to the general faculty, much less other stakeholders, that the faculty in Fuqua rebuked him and on June 1 tossed out plans for two degree granting programs at the heart of the new Duke Kunshan University.

The Fuqua faculty acted for reasons which our President -- cloaking himself in Teflon -- has never acknowledged, much less taken responsibility for.

The financial projections do not add up. They do not for the two proposed programs, and it is unlikely sandpapering them will change that. We are likely to lose $35,000 or more on every student who enrolls, now and in the future.

There is no enthusiasm for the initiative; even professors in Fuqua told they can fulfill one-half of their annual teaching requirement by going to China for just six weeks are not interested. As the chair of the Academic Council publicly told Brodhead to his face, support throughout the university is tepid at best. And there is no champion speaking up.

✔✔✔ Brodhead should have assured the faculty that in the dawning academic year, they would play a vigorous role in defining the future of Kunshan. Boy, would that be a change.

He should have said that Peter the Provost is proposing to move the deadline for the start-up, so that there will be no academic programs for two years.

The president should have said that in this period (notice FC did not pull out the word moratorium) he would provide the faculty with all the resources they need to fulfill their mandate under University by-laws to evaluate independently and approve all academic offerings. He should have pledged this, given us his word.

That means a staff for the Academic Council. That means a budget. And it means a flow of information previously kept secret. Dick, start with the agreement your administration has apparently reached with the Chinese on academic freedom, a subject of vital interest to faculty. Or more accurately, the agreement that defines how far Duke will bend in limiting academic freedom in Kunshan. Your provost said months ago this document was almost complete.

✔ Brodhead should also have addressed all the places Duke is trying to land all at once, for, as he told UNC public radio, Kunshan is merely the first. Mr. President, how about uttering the word Kazakhstan for the first time, where, as FC revealed two weeks ago, you are planning to run a new business school. Or Brazil, what's up there? Or all the other cities that we started to become familiar with. St. Petersburg, Delhi, London and all the others. Why did you drop them from the radar as opposition to Kunshan grew?

✔ Our president should also have commented on the shaky team he has put together -- in shambles we would say.

The two people most responsible for driving us into Kunshan are gone. Greg Jones, vice president for global strategy, stepped down for health reasons barely a year after he bounced the vice provost for international studies back a notch or two. Blair Sheppard departed ka-boom. The new dean of Fuqua, Bill Boulding, won only a two year term, and Jones's replacement, Dr. Michael Merson, not even that.

Yesterday we learned that another important driver, Bruce Kuniholm, whose Sanford School was also planning a start-up in Kunshan, will depart next June.

✔✔ And so Dick, like a parent or friend expecting a long detailed letter and getting a post card, we are disappointed. Yes, you tried to address a couple of issues.

For those of us who see no strategy, only opportunism, the president wrote: "when you travel the globe and are able to connect the dots in experiential fashion, you can see how compelling each individual project is and how the parts add up to a whole."

For those of us who think Kunshan is the wrong idea in the wrong place, he repeated his mantra: "Eighteen months ago, Duke's Kunshan site was a muddy field; today an academic village is halfway built. In five or ten years, this will be a major educational 'draw,' a place for bright students to learn together from around the world."

For those of us who question precisely how building Kunshan to teach Chinese students in English will bolster Duke in Durham, he proclaimed his assurance, but did not say at all how this was going to be true: "What's more, the energy of our international programs circles back to Durham; the insights gained abroad enrich our work here and remind us anew of the importance of scholarly inquiry in its many forms."

So Dick, we really do want to hear from you again. We urge you to send another post card, to everyone and not just faculty. We invite you again to a Fact Checker interview, and if that's too much for you, we invite you again to submit any material you wish that would enlighten us as to your position.


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