Yale University’s new partnership with the National University of Singapore (NUS) could be seen as a interesting means of bringing liberal ideas to a strictly authoritarian country. But the latest news from the Wall Street Journal about the venture isn’t promising:
[T]he Singapore campus won’t allow political protests, nor will it permit students to form partisan political societies. …
Laws in the city-state say protests can be held only at a speaker’s corner in a Singapore park, and even those gatherings face restrictions on what may be discussed. Holding cause-related events elsewhere is illegal without a license from the police.
The college, which is wholly funded by the Singapore government and private donors, expects to admit its first batch of students in August 2013.
Yale-NUS President Pericles Lewis even told the Journal that students “are going to be totally free to express their views” despite the ban, failing to understand that freedom of political speech can be rendered almost meaningless without concomitant protections for freedom of association (as provided in the First Amendment). When Yale’s American faculty, anticipating this sort of problem, passed a resolution urging “Yale-NUS to respect, protect and further principles of non-discrimination for all, including sexual minorities and migrant workers; to uphold civil liberty and political freedom on campus and in the broader society,” Yale President Richard Levin said the resolution “carried a sense of moral superiority that I found unbecoming.”
In 2011, the State Department noted reports of the following human rights abuses in Singapore: “mandated caning as an allowable punishment for some crimes, infringement of aspects of citizens’ privacy rights, restriction of speech and press freedom and the practice of self-censorship by journalists, restriction of freedoms of assembly and association, and some limited restriction of freedom of religion.”