19 July 2012: Statement by Yale-NUS President Pericles Lewis

Yale-NUS College is committed to academic freedom and open inquiry. Yale-NUS’ policy specifically protects academic freedom for research, teaching, and discussion on campus and for publication of the resulting scholarship.

Students at the National University of Singapore already have substantial opportunity for political debate and engagement, and the new College will have opportunities as extensive. Political forums are regularly held, with representatives from a variety of parties invited to share their views. In terms of political engagement, students at NUS can join any political party, and some of the political parties have youth organisations. Students interested in these activities are free to join them, as will be the case for students at Yale-NUS, but these organisations are based off-campus. Also, there is lively debate and political culture on the blogs as well as in other media, including media on campus.

Any college or university must obey the laws of the countries where it operates. We are aware that there are restrictions on speech and public demonstrations in Singapore. When I was appointed President of Yale-NUS College, I invoked John Stuart Mill’s statement from 1848, “It is hardly possible to overstate the value of placing human beings in contact with persons dissimilar to themselves, and with modes of thought and action unlike those with which they are familiar. Such communication has always been one of the primary sources of progress.” I think this remains as relevant today as when Mill wrote it. In my view, progress depends on continued engagement and dialogue rather than retreat or insularity.

I believe without reservation in the mission of the new College, and my Yale-NUS colleagues and I are working to create an intellectual community where open debate and critical inquiry will thrive.

Pericles Lewis
President, Yale-NUS College

Click here to read statement of Yale University President Richard C. Levin