Saturday, 2 March 2013

The curious case of Cherian George

UPDATE: 5 Mar 2013

SOME local luminaries have weighed in on controversy over the Nanyang Techonological University’s decision to decline Mr Cherian George’s application for tenure a second time. You know, so far, the suspicion has been over whether he was denied tenure because of his outspokenness, but another facet that hasn’t quite been explored was whether what his work as an academic fits the NTU’s criteria on who gets tenure.

The group said in its open letter to NTU’s top brass: “Singapore universities have made impressive strides of late and have drawn faculty and students from all over the world. They have adopted international benchmarks in faculty assessment that emphasize teaching and research excellence. However, commentators worldwide have noted that such benchmarks, which measure academic publication in specialist journals and expensive scholarly books, discourage the engagement of academics with their immediate social context.’’

Breaking this down, I suppose the subtext is whether NTU thought that “publication in specialist journals and expensive scholarly books’’ as more important than having academics who can promote public discourse in their area of expertise. In other words, maybe Dr George didn’t have stuff printed in the right journals, even if he is known as intellectual busy (or maybe too busy) in the public arena raising the level of political discourse.

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Singapore Doesn't Always Need Internet Censorship to Silence Critics

Singapore likes to promote itself as a business-friendly country where the government has a soft touch. But by firing a professor known for criticizing the government's censorship strategies, ruling elites have demonstrated that they still have a firm hand in controlling political conversation. It should make U.S. universities rethink their research partnerships with universities in Singapore, because such relationships actually help launder the regime's reputation.

As one of Singapore's most high profile censorship critics, Cherian George is guilty of several things. In his teaching, he is guilty of corrupting several cohorts of young journalism students with ideas about press freedoms. In his role as a public intellectual, he is guilty of helping to organize and inform the country's growing community of independent bloggers and citizen journalists.

Through his research, Cherian George has long demonstrated how subtle and sophisticated censorship strategies by Lee Kwan Yew, the 89-year-old father of modern Singapore who ruled for 30 years and still holds considerable influence, allowed the country become "sustainably authoritarian." Singapore's elites, journalists, and democracy advocates have long known about these tricks. But George documented and demonstrated it, with good research and poignant comparisons to Malaysia and other neighbors. And he updated his findings as other figures moved into power within the ruling People's Action Party. Alas, his home base, Nanyang Technological University (NTU), just decided not to give George the protections of tenure. This means his contract will not be renewed, and he will lose the support that comes with his institutional affiliation.

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Was Cherian George's tenure at NTU being rejected by the "higher mortals" above faculty level?
Channelnewsasia Forum, 5 Mar 2013
NTU faculty at the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information chair, Associate ProfessorDetenber met with school faculty on Friday to shed more light on the situation, reaffirming the stance that the school stood behind George on both occasions when he sought tenure.
George’s second denial of tenure means that he will be asked to leave the university a year from now, according to NTU’s “3 + 3 + 3 + 1” policy for lecturers on the tenure track.
The students, led by final year journalism student Bhavan Jaipragas, brought hard copies of the petition to the offices of the university president, provost, college and school deans. After speaking with Detenber, it emerged that the school had on both occasions (in 2009 and this year) backed George’s application for tenure, and that his subsequent rejection was decided upon at a higher level. Link

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NTU faculty to express ‘concern’ over professor's denial of tenure


[LATEST UPDATE: 5 March, 106AM: An open letter has been posted online, urging NTU's administration to review their current decision and its effect "both on the growth of an independent Singapore public sphere and on NTU’s international reputation". The letter, which was posted on an anonymous blog, is undersigned by close to 100 of Singaore's foremost civil activists, actors and political and social commentators. Read the letter here.] 

In the latest update, Members of faculty at the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information (WKWSCI) have plans to formally convey their concern over the second denial of tenure for journalism professor Cherian George

Yahoo! Singapore has learnt that a meeting was called among faculty of the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) communications school on Monday, where it was decided that a collective formal letter of concern would be written to the school chair, Associate Professor Benjamin Detenber, over George’s implicit dismissal

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An Open Letter

Nanyang Technological University’s denial of tenure to Dr. Cherian George raises important concerns regarding the place of Singapore’s universities in fostering independent discourse in and about our society

It’s hard to see how Dr. George’s teaching and research record don’t meet international standards for tenure. He won NTU’s premier Nanyang Award in 2009 for his teaching. He has published numerous articles in top tier journals and authored two important academic books, Contentious Journalism and the Internet (2006) with the University of Washington Press and NUS Press, and Freedom from The Press (2012) with NUS Press

While we cannot fathom how Dr. George’s output does not meet existing international standards, we would also like to take this occasion to query whether NTU's stated criteria are the only ones we need for our universities.

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The curious case of Cherian George

The Nanyang Technological University probably has its reasons for denying Cherian George tenure a second time, but in the public interest, it might want to make its reasons known. Those who have been tracking the matter online – not on MSM – may know by now that Dr George might have to leave the university within a year, according to NTU rules.

That’s what students who met Dr Benjamin Hill Detenber, chair of the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information, told yahoo news.

“Dr Detenber said tenure-track professors employed in NTU first get a three-year contract before they are put up for consideration for a tenure contract. If they fail to get a tenure contract at the first attempt, they would then be granted another three-year contract. If they fail at the second attempt, they would be then allowed to stay in the University for another year, before being asked to leave,” the students said in a statement.

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Row over rejection of tenure for outspoken academic

The seemingly innocuous denial of tenure to a journalism professor at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University has exploded into a full-blown row over academic freedom after an overseas assessor suggested that he was being unfairly targeted for outspoken political comments.

Cherian George, an associate professor of journalism at Nanyang Techological University (NTU), was denied tenure last month. Tenure would have meant he that could not be sacked from his job without just cause.

George was previously denied tenure in 2009 when he was promoted to the position of associate professor, which was seen as unusual by local experts as academic promotions are normally accompanied by tenure. 

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Freedom of thought scrutinized in Singapore

A Singaporean journalism professor and outspoken critic of restrictions on media freedom in Singapore — where Yale is establishing a joint college with the National University of Singapore — has been denied tenure at Nanyang Technological University for a second time, sparking renewed debate about freedom of thought at Singaporean universities.

George Cherian, an associate professor in journalism studies at Nanyang’s School of Communication and Information in Singapore, was first denied tenure in 2009 and then again in this month. He has been a vocal critic of Singapore’s lack of media freedom and published a book last year titled “Freedom From The Press,” in which he  argues that the city-state’s media system has been structured to enable the People’s Action Party — Singapore’s leading party — to manipulate the media.

In a Tuesday evening statement, the Singaporean university said it cannot comment of specific tenure cases, adding that the tenure process at the school is “rigorous.” 

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Singapore Professor Denied Tenure, Sparks Academic Freedom Debate

A Singaporean university has denied tenure for a second time to an outspoken journalism professor known for his critical political commentary, prompting some scholars and students to accuse the school of curtailing academic freedom.

They say that the Nanyang Technological University has no grounds for refusing to grant a permanent position to Cherian George, an academic who they say has produced acclaimed work on Singaporean media and politics. Mr. George, an associate professor of journalism, had his first tenure application rejected in 2009.

The accusations have revived debate over academic freedom in Singapore, a tightly regulated city-state that imposes restrictions on public assembly and limitations on free speech.

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Tenure denied a second time for Singapore professor critical of media

A Singapore journalism professor who has written extensively about the lack of media freedom in the city-state has been denied tenure a second time, and hundreds of his supporters at home and abroad are demanding to know why. 

Supporters of Cherian George, an associate professor in journalism studies at the Nanyang Technological University's (NTU) School of Communication and Information, contend that his credentials are so strong that politics must be behind the university's unwillingness to give him a permanent faculty position. His first application for tenure was rejected in 2009.

Karin Wahl-Jorgensen, a professor from Wales' Cardiff School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies, said she was one of the outside experts who reviewed George's case for tenure. She called him one of the “foremost public intellectuals in Singapore,” and called the rejection “incomprehensible and plainly absurd.”

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NTU responds to outcry over news of lecturer being denied tenure
According to HSBC's latest study Future of Retirement: A New Reality, in order to live comfortably during retirement, people in Singapore indicate that they will require 66% (or two-thirds) of their current annual household income which works out to be S$60,400 or S$5,033 per month.
This is 68% more than in the last 2011 study where the figure was S$3,000. Singapore’s income replacement ratio, together with Australia (also 66%), is the lowest across 15 countries surveyed where the global average is 78%.
Cash remains a big part of Singaporeans’ wealth portfolio. On what makes up retirement income, the study found that the largest proportion will come from cash savings and deposits which constitutes a third (34%) of retirement income here, followed by investments (19%), and property income and assets (12%).
- See more at: http://sbr.com.sg/hr-education/news/singaporeans-must-save-5033-month-comfy-retirement#sthash.2NPi0xpX.dpufNTU responds to outcry over news of lecturer being denied tenure 


The Nanyang Technological University (NTU) has responded to the outcry following news that Associate Professor Cherian George had been denied tenure.

A university spokesperson said NTU has a rigorous tenure process and all NTU faculty staff seeking tenure goes through the same process.

More than 1,000 faculty staff have gone through the process at NTU in the last six years and so far, more than 55 per cent have been granted tenure. 

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NTU clarifies tenure process after outcry


An outcry over academic freedom in Singapore has been sparked after outspoken professor for journalism Cherian George in Nanyang Technological University was denied tenure (Yahoo! file photo) 

Nanyang Technological University defended its tenure process Tuesday night following an outcry over its denial of tenure to an outspoken associate professor.

Below is the statement from a spokesperson for the university: 

"NTU has a rigorous tenure process. All NTU faculty seeking tenure go through the same process. More than 1,000 faculty have gone through this process at NTU in the last six years and so far, more than 55% have been granted tenure." 

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NTU loves to shoot its foot

NTU is infamous for its clumsiness and involuntary addiction of shooting its own foot! Never forget they are the only organization I know of where you can fill out an online form to submit your resignation!

I can't divulge what is shared with me in confidence but the professors I know have nothing good to say about their employer.

They will quickly discover a glass ceiling exists as they try to improve their rankings in the university league tables.

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The Cherian George gate: La trahison des clercs at NTU?

In the following message from the organizers of the petition concerning NTU's unfair evaluation of Cherian's George's quality of scholarship and teaching, and its unjustified denial of tenure to George, it is clear that George's professional colleagues at the School of Communication and Information value his research and teaching at the school, and endorsed his tenure.

However, for some non-academic reasons (political pressure?), either the College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences or NTU refused George his tenure, and thus terminating his services at NTU.

What a disgraceful and despicable act of betrayal of academic integrity (la trahison des clercs) if indeed NTU had kowtowed to Singapore's political masters.

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Cherian George may have to leave NTU WKWSCI next year

Dr Detenber said that WKWSCI had endorsed George on both occasions when he was nominated for tenure, and that the faculty had nominated George to be reappointed as the head of its journalism division but University had turned them down.

The school had nominated Dr George to be reappointed as the head of the division of journalism and publishing in 2010, but the university turned this down.

According to Dr D, the faculty “fully recognised Dr George’s quality”. This is shown through how they nominated Cherian for a teaching award in 2009 as well as given him an important role of helming the Asian Journalism Fellowship.

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Tenure denied for Singapore prof, sparking debate

A former journalist, George holds degrees from Cambridge and Columbia University and obtained his doctorate from Stanford University. He is known for his books such as "Freedom From The Press," which assessed the state of media and politics in Singapore.

Nanyang Technological University did not respond directly to queries from the Associated Press. In a media statement Tuesday evening, the public university said it has a "rigorous tenure process" in place but added that "as all employment matters are confidential, NTU will not comment on any specific cases."

George said he learned of the rejection last week, but he declined to comment further. A former student of his, Bhavan Jaipragas, began a petition demanding that the university disclose reasons behind its decision to deny George tenure, along with details on how it assesses the teaching quality of faculty members seeking tenure 

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NTU PROFESSOR DENIED TENURE MAY HAVE TO LEAVE JOB

The Nanyang Technological University associate professor whose denial of tenure caused an outcry within his faculty may have to leave the university by next year.

According to a statement from a group of students who met with Benjamin Hill Detenber, chair of the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information (WKWSCI), NTU policy states that journalism associate professor Cherian George would have to leave his position within a year after being rejected for tenure a second time

“Dr Detenber said tenure-track professors employed in NTU first get a three-year contract before they are put up for consideration for a tenure contract. If they fail to get a tenure contract at the first attempt, they would then be granted another three-year contract. If they fail at the second attempt, they would be then allowed to stay in the University for another year, before being asked to leave,” read the statement, which was sent out to all signatories of a petition protesting Dr George’s denial of tenure.

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Cherian George: Heat on Air-conditioned Nation

Air-conditioned Nation author Cherian George is now in the news in India and Indonesia. I saw an Associated Press (AP) report on him published online by the Jakarta Post and the Hindustan Times.

According to the AP report, even one of the experts who reviewed his case is surprised that the associate journalism professor was denied tenure by the Nanyang Technological University (NTU). AP reports:

Karin Wahl-Jorgensen, a professor from Wales’ Cardiff School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies, said she was one of the outside experts who reviewed George’s case for tenure. She called him one of the “foremost public intellectuals in Singapore,” and called the rejection “incomprehensible and plainly absurd.” 

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Tenure Denial Raises Academic Freedom Concerns in Singapore

A prominent Singaporean academic who has been critical of the country's ruling party was denied tenure for a second time. Cherian George, an associate professor of journalism at Nanyang Technological University, has written about the restrictions on the press imposed by the People's Action Party. Although George was denied tenure on the ostensible basis that he did not meet NTU’s standards for teaching and research, one of his external reviewers, Karin Wahl-Jorgensen of Cardiff University, said she found that claim to be “blatantly absurd."

“His record is stellar in both respects, so much so that he could easily get a full professorship elsewhere in my estimation,” said Wahl-Jorgensen. "In addition to being a popular teacher and a well-known public intellectual, his academic profile demonstrates excellence in research and a significant international standing, as well as an extremely high degree of productivity.”

“To put it bluntly I am baffled by this decision and worried about what it means for academic freedom in Singapore,” she said.

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Thinking tenures – what is the position of our varsities?



I can count in one hand the number of times that I have met Prof Cherian George face to face. He comes across as a measured speaker, keen to balance his arguments but not afraid to assert his beliefs.

I am more familiar with his writing, from reading his blog entries. I cannot say that I always agreed with his views, but I definitely respect the way he strings his arguments together, a technique that allows readers to easily structure their thoughts around an issue.

For that reason, I can understand why his student have risen to his defense when word got out that he has been refused his tenure at the Nanyang Technological University. It is in the interest of students to protect intellectual assets that they feel ensure a good education for them.

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NTU denied tenure to outspoken assoc professor Cherian George, sparking outry and questions over academic freedom in Singapore universities

Yahoo! News Singapore, 25 Feb 2013
An outspoken associate professor for journalism in Nanyang Technological University (NTU) has been denied tenure, sparking an outcry and raising questions over academic freedom in Singapore.
Cardiff University professor Karin Wahl-Jorgensen tweeted Saturday morning that Cherian George, associate professor at NTU’s Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information (WKWSCI), was denied tenure “on the grounds of quality of teaching and research”.
In subsequent tweets, Wahl-Jorgensen, who revealed that she was one of the reviewers for George’s case, said she was “outraged” at the decision not to grant him tenure, and that it could have been “because he sometimes expressed political opinions”.
An adjunct senior research fellow at the Institute of Policy Studies and former journalist with The Straits Times, George has spoken out against media control and has been critical of the ruling People’s Action Party. He joined NTU in 2004. Full story
Related:

  1. Tenure denied for Singapore prof, sparking debate - The Jakarta Post
  2. Tenure denied a second time for Singapore professor critical of media - The China Post
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