Cornell suspends program in China over academic freedom
- Cornell University has suspended its participation in two exchange programs with Renmin University of China over concerns about academic freedom, according to Inside Higher Ed.
- The School of Industrial and Labor Relations (ILR) at the U.S. university announced it was suspending the six-year-old program when a Cornell professor who played a key role in the initiative said he could not get answers to concerns about student protestors being mistreated. Students supporting worker rights reportedly had been punished, put under surveillance and pressured by Renmin and other universities.
- The partnership is one of 29 with American institutions listed on Renmin's website. It had been ineffective of late, according to Eli Friedman, director of international programs for ILR, because the environment had become "increasingly restrictive" with regard to academic freedom.
Other higher education programs abroad with U.S. ties are in question due to academic freedom concerns. The future of the U.S.-chartered Central European University (CEU), in Hungary, has hinged on the politics of that country.
CEU recently announced plans to move to Vienna because it could not get approval to operate freely in Hungary, where the government has increasingly become far-right. Georgetown University has faced criticism, too, over the issue of the treatment of migrant workers in Qatar where it has a campus. More recently, nearly two dozen American universities with campuses or interests in Saudi Arabia are facing concerns about their academic ties to the country following the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Inside Higher Ed reported.
According to the Cross-Border Education Research Team at the University of Albany, SUNY, more than 50 U.S. universities were operating or developing 77 branch campuses abroad as of December 2017, up from 59 in 2005. These arrangements often test university policies and standards. During a panel session at a 2016 gathering of the Scholars at Risk network, participants suggested that American institutions may be willing to overlook — or even participate in — abuses to gain the revenue and prestige afforded by an international presence.
Meanwhile, Chinese investors are taking interest in U.S. educational properties, purchasing shuttered campuses or buying controlling interests in existing institutions. Some deals have been criticized or halted due to concerns about academic freedom.
- Inside Higher Education Cutting Ties