FC admits the following is a diatribe. Don't write in and complain.
There are three posts today. Scroll down: changes in ACES. Parking rules for move-in days. And in case you missed our Friday post, Brodhead Administration giving up on opening Kunshan on present timetable.
✔ Since no one believes the news release that Blair Sheppard voluntarily stepped down as Dean of the Fuqua Business School -- with seven days notice, barely three months after Peter the Provost extended his term until the year 2017 -- you would think he would take a back seat for a while. Low profile, low key.
But no, with full chutzpah, there was Shep guiding Duke's male basketball players and hangers-on around the Kunshan Campus, as if nothing had happened to his career.
In his favor, the official story line was that he and former vice president Greg Jones noodled this meaningless publicity stunt, so maybe it was fair for Shep to see it through.
But as the trip progressed, we learned more and more that Shep and Jones weren't the only initiators, that there was a commercial motive as well: Nike -- which pays to outfit all Duke teams -- dictated the schedule. For example, having the Duke coaches and their Georgetown counterparts all in Shanghai on the same day for clinics festooned with Nike banners. The precise financial arrangements are secret, but we know that in some schools Nike cuts checks directly to the coaches, by-passing any salary scrutiny.
The gawking at the new campus was a vapid look-see by the team and its followers, avoiding the very substantial issues that swirl around this folly. Look at what one MBA student wrote in the English-language Shanghai Daily, to see the mistaken perspective:
"The premise is simple yet powerful. As Duke University embraces the necessity of preparing global leaders, it is important that its students learn about and get to know China from China, not solely from a classroom at the University's campus in Durham, North Carolina. This is about moving beyond the traditional four walls of a lecture hall into the world's teaching lab."
That's the vice president of the Fuqua student government speaking, one Fallon Ukpe, this position granting him a free-bee to bolster the numbers on the trip.
Slight problem, the Kunshan campus is for Chinese, we're lucky if a handful of students from Durham ever go there, or any from Kunshan make it to Durham, and a big qualm is what contribution this international venture will make to Duke in Durham. If any.
While the Chronicle's reporter on one of three buses in the entourage joined the excitement by saying he heard someone exclaim "wow!", at least the team -- which stepped from its charter jet wearing basketball uniforms -- did not don yellow construction hats for its pictures, avoiding duplication of the silly shot Brodhead and wife were in when they hit Kunshan in July.
✔ In one of his most ludicrous statements, Shep compared Kunshan with Palo Alto (home of Stanford, in case you are a Philistine), noting that both were within the ambit of major financial and cultural cities, Shanghai and San Francisco.
Now FC has been privileged to spend considerable time in Palo Alto and some in San Francisco, and so far as I know no one who practiced his or her religion -- whatever it was -- was beaten to a pulp by the government. So far as I know, every academic in Palo Alto who spoke his or her mind went on with his or her business right on his or her schedule -- no one interrupted by detention or shoveling into a gulag.
And all my friends and contacts in either city seem to get my e-mails readily, and respond freely.
Moreover, Palo Alto has given birth to Hewlett-Packard, and served as an incubator for Facebook, Google, Logitech, Intuit, Sun Microsystems and PayPal. Not bad for a city with a total population of 64,403. No one has called this place a backwater, nor went on a tour that was restricted to a couple college buildings under construction because there is nothing else in town to see.
It's hard to say what Kunshan's population is -- 1.2 million is mentioned for the city proper and surrounding areas -- because hordes of people are not counted as residents. They are peasants who left the rice paddies in rural China in search of a better urban life.
Rather, they find themselves crowded into dormitories behind barbed wire, protected by safety nets in case they try suicide from the upper floors, all in the walled compounds of the factories built by exploiters from Taiwan where they typically labor 72 hours a week. Sample job: one woman whose sole responsibility was to stick four rubber pads on the bottom of each mouse whisking by on an assembly line.
As he led people along a boardwalk above the marsh around the campus, Shep specifically praised the never-before tried curved glass wall in one of the rising buildings. Whoops. So far as FC can determine this is the wall that would not hold up the roof, prompting Duke to spend an extra $5.5 million on architects and engineers to make sure everything was up to Duke standards.
And the former Dean noted that, unique in China, you'd be able to drink the water on campus. Uhmmm our understanding is that some of the water will be from rain basins near land fertilized by human excrement, some of it from recycling. So if you don't mind the cold stream arching from the cooler toward your face being hot urine just an hour ago, you're all set.
✔ Yes, as Shep continues to sing praises of Kushan, let's remember he is the one who sold us a bill of goods. He said Kunshan would not cost Duke a cent and we'd have 20 years free occupancy of the land and buildings. Today's truth: we have a six year lease, and Kunshan has negotiated its share of the subsidy down to 45 percent over the next five years, and we have no idea in hell what will happen after that.
Let us remember Shep is the one who planned a masters program with classes twice the size of Durham, with only 25 percent of the faculty holding appointments in Durham, the rest being far cheaper adjuncts. Shep is the one who foresaw tuition of more than $40,000 a year, because, he explained, Chinese who pay through the nose think they are getting quality. Never mind that the government is only likely to approve a tuition for $5,000 to $10,000, Shep assured his faculty that within two years, Fuqua would be making money on Kunshan, as if turning a quick profit were a value here at Duke.
And Shep was the one who thought all this would sail through his faculty for approval, and then through the Academic Council. What a misreading: even in Fuqua there seemed to be only six professors out of 95 eligible to vote in June who were ready to approve. And campus wide, the chair of the Council said the only support he could find was "tepid," with no one stepping forward to "champion" the initiative.
All of this is bad enough, but just about the same time that Shep was speaking, President Brodhead was on public radio in North Carolina bragging that Kunshan would be just the first of a series (franchises?) of full-scale research universities spawned by Duke, spanning the globe. Given the official (and out of date) projections that this one alone will put us $40 million in the red over six years, one has to wonder how many sinkholes the President thinks we can afford all at once.
Upon departure from the Kunshan campus, basketball staffer Jeff Capel won the Brodhead Obeisance Award with his twitter, "Pretty amazing vision by the leaders at Duke."
We note that no one went on the supposed nine minute train ride into Shanghai but rather changed hotels, trading up from a Marriott in the lake country west of Kunshan into a Ritz Carlton.
✔ OK enough of the diatribe. Let's look forward. As we reported last week, our administrators are ready to concede that we'll miss the August, 2012 opening date in Kunshan, but the issue remains how honestly this will be handled.
Will Brodhead himself speak? Will he leave it to Peter the Provost? Will they punt to the hapless Dr. Michael Merson, sitting in as VP for global strategy.
Or will our administrators just skip the coming announcement and let stakeholders figure it out. It won't be the first time.
The next few weeks will be very telling about their character and the way they view stakeholders.