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Should Yale-NUS College Sue TODAY Newspaper for Defamation?

That was a surprise question that popped up in our mailbox today.

Turns out, what one of our readers was referring to was a report by TODAY newspaper, titled “Yale-NUS courses ‘do not match’ students’ academic expectations”.

The gist of the article – “Lack of depth in modules, staffing issues among reasons for students dropping out”.

This conclusion was drawn based on 3 percent of the school’s 330 students.

In other words, about 10 students.

The article also condemned YALE-NUS College, based on the opinions of 2 students.

Several of the students who supposedly spoke ill of YALE-NUS have stepped forward to slam TODAY for prompting them for negative answers just to fit their story about how bad YALE-NUS is.

Let’s see what one of those students, Rocco Hu, has to say:

“I take issue with the title and content of this TODAY article.

The title “Yale-NUS courses do not meet students’ expectations” does not reflect the fact that the opinions stated therein come from only two ex-students, out of several approached for interview, and that ex-students form only a tiny fraction of the original total student body. In fact, by framing the situation as such, the newspaper conveys the impression that the majority of the student body is dissatisfied with the college. That is untrue.

I remember distinctly in the interview with this reporter that the issue that came up repeatedly was one of “fit”. She had in fact explicitly checked that with me. Bewilderingly, the way this ‘report’ was put together did not reflect that at all. In fact, one could not help to suspect that the paper is pushing a sensationalist agenda, one that seeks to slander an institution that was and is carrying out ground-breaking pedagogical work right here in Singapore.

The report also does not accurately reflect the experiences of those who chose to leave. It gives the impression that the experience was an overwhelmingly negative one, by asking for and citing only downsides to the experience. Clearly, any academic system has both benefits and trade-offs. For some of us who chose to leave there was a mismatch between what the college had to offer, and what we ourselves desired for our education. Others would not, and do not feel the same, as attested to by the many impassioned rebuttals below.

Personally, I have grown in many important ways in my time at Yale-NUS, and in ways that I could not have at any other institution in the world. I acquired an appreciation for some of the great works of Indian, Sinic and Middle-Eastern civilization and their contributions to world knowledge and culture, contributions often omitted in the Eurocentric narratives of world history found in many universities, even Asian ones, and also in popular culture. The college did what twelve years of formal schooling in Singapore could not, and sparked in me a newfound passion for Chinese language and culture, even supporting me generously in a study abroad language program. Under the auspices of the college, I have also experienced a lot of the world I would otherwise have not.

I decided to leave because I had developed very specific and specialized interests that are better met elsewhere, and realized that I am the kind of student who would prefer a traditional academic environment. But that’s just me.”

The most succintly-put award goes to Frank Young:

frank young
Other students, like Glen Killian Koh, have also chimed in to tear apart the TODAY story.

2 students, does not an entire cohort make.

“Why not interview the remaining 300+ students and ask us why we love the school instead? Why give this article such a sensationalist title when you said it yourself that these issues are “teething issues typical of new colleges”? Every school has a drop-out/transfer rate and it not uncommon for students to feel like the college they decided upon does not fulfil their academic desires, this is a matter of personal preference then and not necessarily an institutional problem as this article seems to suggest. Would have appreciated to see at least an acknowledgement of this.”

Probably YALE-NUS College isn’t that bad an educational institution after all, seeing how its students are able to perform proper analysis of a situation and draw conclusions from the collected data, and unbiased interviews.

As for TODAY, what’s the vendetta against the liberal arts school?

A report like this tarnishes the school’s reputation, and the school could take a large financial hit if potential students get the wrong impression of the school.

It’s probably not personal though, Yale-NUS.

TODAY has in the past taken on Amos Yee’s grandmother (asking an old lady to comment on children and social media), and apparently, even taken a shot at the Catholic Church, forcing the church into releasing a defensive statement.

So, what happens when you release the leash on a watchdog?

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