A number of professors and other faculty members at Cornell University spoke out against the university’s plans to launch a joint program with Peking University in China, according to the Daily Caller.
The professors’ concerns were voiced during a meeting hosted by associate dean Alex Susskind at Cornell’s School of Hotel Administration. The proposed joint program with Peking would cater to mid-level Chinese executives, and Susskind claimed that the program could generate up to $1 million per year for Cornell.
But multiple faculty members protested against the idea at the meeting, citing human rights concerns with regards to the Chinese regime itself, as well as pointing out that such a venture might risk Cornell’s academic independence for the sake of simply generating more revenue. The opposition ultimately led to the Faculty Senate postponing the final vote on whether or not to approve the proposal.
One computer science professor at Cornell, Ken Birman, spoke up against Susskind, saying “When I talk to my colleagues at Peking University, there’s a dean and then there’s a political officer. I’m wondering how we maintain Cornell’s independence and freedom of bias and our standards?”
Professor Eli Friedman directly compared China’s ongoing human rights violations against such groups as Uighur Muslims, saying “if we were running a joint degree program with a Nazi university, then we would have said ‘well, we shouldn’t be doing that, because they’re committing genocide.’”
University provost Michael Kotlikoff, largely dismissing these concerns, tried to pressure faculty into approving the program, claiming that “the proper role of the faculty senate is really to set general principles, not hold individual programs hostage to individual concerns.”
Susskind allegedly responded by saying that he did not believe such concerns were “overwhelmingly significant.”