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Singaporean University Snubs Lauded (But Anti-Censorship) Professor 48

New submitter nifty-c writes "Singapore has invested heavily in higher education partnerships with the U.S. and launched an ambitious program of high-tech research with Western countries, but recent events have opened these links to controversy. Prof. Cherian George at Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore, is a communication and information school professor and an outspoken critic of his government's censorship of the Internet. NTU recently fired him, sparking an outcry from critics who claim political interference. This week a group of faculty and affiliates at Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet & Society has 'strongly caution[ed]...colleagues working in the area of Internet and society in any dealings with Singaporean universities.'"
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Singaporean University Snubs Lauded (But Anti-Censorship) Professor

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  • Re:Wait a minute (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Saturday March 09, 2013 @12:45AM (#43123909) Journal

    1. You do realize that being denied tenure is closer to being fired at/before the end of a probationary period, not passed over for promotion from fry cook to shift manager? It is true that the ongoing trend toward permatemping higher education by stringing along assorted adjuncts and other cheap labor has eroded the traditional process a bit; but it is still generally the case that 'denied tenure' = 'pursuing opportunities elsewhere is exciting and mandatory!' rather than 'you will remain an associate professor'.

    2."This guy seemed to be best known for his harsh criticism of the government of Singapore... which the university depends on in many ways! Yeah, that sounds likely that they would want that guy on board." If the state of Singapore is serious about 'academic independence', then sometimes they end up cutting checks to people who say mean things about them. It's the quieter and more bookish version of not having the majority party send the minority party to the firing squad. It's a neat concept. If they aren't up to that, well, their 'universities' are pretty much stuck being fancy vocational schools and nothing more.

  • Re:Wait a minute (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nifty-c ( 113789 ) on Saturday March 09, 2013 @12:46AM (#43123911) Homepage

    Tenure is an up-or-out system. He was fired. He was not denied "a substantial promotion." You don't know what you are talking about.

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Saturday March 09, 2013 @01:01AM (#43123961) Journal

    I read the linked articles and I see that Freedom House, an NGO, says that Singapore has the same rating for political and civil freedom as Nigeria. The Economist compares the democracy in Singapore with that of Liberia. So that does beg the question... what genius sat down and said "this would be a great place to put a new campus for Yale!"

    'Freedom' talks, money walks. It's pretty similar to the (on the whole practically hagiographic) coverage that Dubai gets. If the GDP per-capita is high enough and most of the violence is reserved for locals who get mouthy, rather than expats who don't give a fuck because they can always just fly home, you can have pretty much any western investors, corporate branch offices, or prestige institutions you are willing to buy.

    If you have the sort of unfreedom that is bad for property values(like Nigeria), then you can still get extraction industries and CIA agents; but probably not a Yale branch campus...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 09, 2013 @03:29AM (#43124407)
    Singapore is a remnant from the time when Western countries would support any regime, provided it would not align with the USSR. There is no freedom of press, no freedom of association in Singapore. All depends of the good will of the prime minister. But since 1959, only two different prime ministers have ever been elected, and the second one is the son of the first one.

    There are elections with opposing candidates, but it's also the case in Russia nowadays. As almost all media belong to the government or the prime minister's family. The election system is over-complicated to engineer a very predictable result. While a large portion of the housing is public housing, the government makes threats to remove state funding in constituencies that do note vote for the ruling party. It is said that there is no 'perception' of corruption in Singapore. On the individual level, it might be true, with upstanding public officers. But much of the country's economy is under the control of Temasek holdings, which belongs to the state, and is a pretty opaque company.

    In the end you should not expect freedom if you go to work and live as an expatriate researcher in Singapore. Money, for sure. But as you're getting this money, you also are a pawn of the state to further its control of the population, and help launder the money hidden in the city by corrupt officials throughout Asia.
  • Re:Wait a minute (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 09, 2013 @01:33PM (#43126281)

    MIT gets hundreds of millions from the federal government in research grants and tuition aid. Yet, Chomsky is still there freely criticizing everything he sees fit for criticism.

    I hope Slashdotters will take up this "immediately deflect to another country" tactic for everything else in the future. For example, when US corporations are fairly criticized, we get inundated with replies of "Well, it's not like Chinese companies are any better"

    Only then will we see the fallacy of such an approach to debate.

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