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Jackson Diehl on the Loss of Academic Freedom on Satellite Campuses Abroad

Washington Post editor Jackson Diehl wrote yesterday on the disappointing trend of U.S. universities opening satellite campuses abroad only to leave students on those campuses subject to the restrictions on expression enforced in their host countries—a problem we’ve written about before. While “unfree countries [are] spending billions of dollars to buy U.S. teaching [and] U.S. prestige,” Diehl explains, U.S. academic freedom has already been a casualty at satellite campuses like Yale-National University of Singapore (Yale-NUS) and New York University-Abu Dhabi (NYUAD).

In his article, Diehl notes the clear disconnect between what American universities operating campuses abroad promise and what they deliver:

Is it possible to accept lucrative subsidies from dictatorships, operate campuses on their territory and still preserve the values that make American universities great, including academic freedom? The schools all say yes, pointing to pieces of paper — some of them undisclosed — that they have signed with their host governments. The real answer is: of course not.

At Yale-NUS, for example:

[The] governing board adopted a policy of preventing students from creating campus branches of Singaporean political parties, engaging in partisan political campaigning, or “promoting religious strife.” It also said students will be bound by Singapore’s laws, which restrict speech and ban sodomy.

In effect, as professors Seyla Benhabib and Christopher Miller argued in the Yale Daily News, “an institution bearing Yale’s name — headed by professors and staff taken from Yale-New Haven — is in the business of restricting the rights of students.”

Diehl relays similar problems at NYUAD:

[A] reporter for the Chronicle of Higher Education visited Abu Dhabi and reported that professors “use caution in broaching topics such as AIDS and prostitution; the status of migrant laborers; Israel and the Holocaust; and domestic politics and corruption. Any critical discussion of the Emirates’ ruling families is an obvious no-go zone.”

Ultimately, Diehl concludes, the less-lucrative option of open online courses might be a way to give students around the globe access to U.S. universities without sacrificing personal freedoms.

Check out the rest of Diehl’s article in The Washington Post.

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