A joint degree program bankrolled by the Chinese government is causing an uproar among Cornell University professors, prompting soul searching at the Ivy League institution about the extent to which American academics should cooperate with the oppressive regime.
At issue is a program introduced at a faculty meeting in early February, when Professor Alex Susskind, an associate dean at Cornell’s school of hotel administration, touted a joint degree program funded by the Chinese Ministry of Education that he said would generate up to $1 million in annual profits for the university, according to meeting minutes and audio obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.
Susskind’s introduction elicited blowback from his colleagues, who expressed deep concerns about whether Cornell could maintain its academic independence given the Chinese government’s increasing control over all aspects of civil society. The faculty senate postponed a vote to endorse the venture as a result.
“When I talk to my colleagues at Peking University, there’s a dean and then there’s a political officer,” Ken Birman, a professor of computer science, told Susskind. “I’m wondering how we maintain Cornell’s independence and freedom of bias and our standards?”
Susskind said he understands the concerns but doesn’t consider them “overwhelmingly significant.”