Dear Members of the CAPS Community:
I am writing to you in regards to ILR's recent decision to suspend its exchange program with the People's University (Renda) in Beijing. In particular, I would like to emphasize to you the following four points.
First, as a member of the Cornell faculty, and as a Chinese student of politics, I entirely support ILR's decision. 100%.
Second, though, as the Director of CAPS, I want to emphasize that ILR's decision is not a University-wide one to break Cornell's ties with China. At this juncture, we do not foresee any changes taking place within the CAPS-Beida (SIS) relationship. This applies not only to our program at Beida but also to our ongoing efforts to bring Beida Ph.D. students to Cornell to study.
Third, I continue to believe that in times like these, when exclusionary and xenophobic forces on both sides of the Pacific appear to be ascendant, educational exchange and extensive contact between the U.S. and China, is of the utmost importance. Indeed, I think that the potential value and significance of CAPS grows during periods of friction between the two countries. Therefore, it is my desire to do all that we can to continue to make CAPS successful and to preserve the relationship that exists between CAPS and Beida.
Fourth, this being the case, I do have deep concerns about the political climate in China (most pointedly in regards to the situation in Xinjiang and Tibet, but also in the rest of the country). And, it is clear that Beida does not operate in isolation from these trends. Therefore, I am continuing to monitor the situation on the Beida campus, with a particular eye toward possible violations of the principles of academic freedom and freedom of expression. Should I become aware of new developments at Beida that are inimical to our program's academic mission I will bring these matters to the attention of all stakeholders in CAPS and work with you to make a decision as to what measures might need to be taken by our program.
If you have any questions about any of these issues, please do not hesitate to reach out to me with them. In addition, we are hoping to find a forum in the coming weeks where we might all get together to discuss these issues in more depth. More to follow on this front soon.
P.S.- I am including with this note a bit of additional information about ILR's decision.
First, Cornell's Provost has issued a statement about the decision:
Statement of Michael I. Kotlikoff, Provost, Cornell University
"The ILR School at Cornell University has suspended two exchange programs with China's Renmin University. The programs are part of a partnership started in 2014 to advance labor studies in both countries. The decision stemmed from concerns that students at the Chinese institution were being penalized for speaking out about labor rights.
Cornell University has a long history of meaningful exchanges with China as well as an overarching commitment to academic freedom. The decision was made by ILR's director of international programs in consultation with administration officials. It does not, however, impact other Cornell academic programs with partners in China that continue to benefit our students, our two nations and the world, to which this university remains committed."
Second, there has been a fair amount of media coverage of the story, these are links to some of the more important reports:
Financial Times: https://www.ft.com/content/b07c275c-d832-11e8-a854-33d6f82e62f8.
Washington Post (curated by Jessica Chen Weiss, interview with Eli Friedman): https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2018/11/01/cornell-university-suspended-two-exchange-programs-with-chinas-renmin-university-heres-why/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.473221f070eb.'
Global Times (in Chinese, and quite critical of ILR, and factually inaccurate, but included here to give you a sense of some of the negative response to the decision within China, the link is sina.com which reran the story): https://news.sina.com.cn/c/2018-10-29/doc-ihnaivxq5000206.shtml.