Bullying at the University of Newcastle (Australia)

We are working to highlight and stop academic workplace bullying at the University of Newcastle, Australia. We are a group of staff and students who have been bullied for speaking out about misconduct.

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This will help us gather as much information as possible so that we can put an end to this bullying with its’ decades-long history.

“Systemic bullying, hazing and abuse generally are identified with poor, weak or toxic organizational cultures. Cultures that are toxic have stated ethical values that are espoused but not employed, and other non-ethical values which are operational, dominant, but unstated.

Such cultures thrive when good people are silent, silenced, or pushed out; when bad apples are vocal, retained, promoted, and empowered; and when the neutral majority remain silent in order to survive. Those who are most successful in such a toxic culture are those who have adapted to it, or adopted it as their own”. (McKay, Arnold, Fratzl & Thomas, 2008)

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

More truth coming out at the University of Newcastle

A report in  The Australian today states that not only is Senior Lecturer Dr Li Xia reportedly a casualty of the Chinese restructure, but a lecturer with no qualifications in Chinese studies been appointed to teach the students.

"The new lecturer is Lili Mu, an administrative assistant in the engineering faculty who students say had in the past helped in the teaching of Chinese characters."
A student from the University of Newcastle said
"There's not much us students can do about them forcing Li Xia to leave the university but they should provide us with someone with equivalent qualifications."
Another student said that "appointing a native speaker with business qualifications was akin to "someone with an MBA going to China and teaching English".
To make matters worse, a historian of Australian education, Jo May, has been appointed as convenor of the Chinese program.  "Asked whether she had any qualifications in Chinese studies, the university said her status as a senior academic and acting head of school would give students "the leadership required at this important time of transition"."
Chinese studies have been transferred to the Confucius Institute, an institute "aligned with the Government of the People's Republic of China which aims to promote Chinese language and culture".  The Chinese government is a one-party state.
The university stated that "The course is a university course and adheres to same rigorous quality assurance measures the university has in place for all courses."
The head of the faculty in which Chinese falls is Professor John Germov, and the most senior member of uni staff for academic matters is Professor Kevin McConkey - two names which have been brought to our attention on this blog.

46 comments:

  1. I thought the Confucius Institute only taught school children how to hold chopsticks and spit in the streets. They've now taken over the uni program, have they? I wonder how much Australian money's going back to China and what they are teaching our kids in the classroom?

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  2. We are not getting any teaching at the moment. Our classes were cancelled this week with two hours' notice. It really sucks.

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  3. I suspect the two men named above are masters at the game of divide and rule! Are they really having the last laugh? Maybe they are not too deluded by their power to see the joke their uni has become! We just feel so sorry for the poor students.

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  4. Dr Li Xia should be proud of the fact that her students think so highly of her that they are willing to speak out against the UoN. These students are the types of people we should be proud to have graduate from our local University. These students have integrity. They are not at the University just for a degree....but for an education. I hope there is someone in management at the UoN with equivalent integrity that will step in and fix this embarrassing mess. Unfortunately, in my experience, everyone with power at the UoN stick together, because any one who speaks out is simply removed. Being removed though, in my opinion, is no excuse for turning a blind eye to corrupt and unethical behaviour.

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  5. Jo May is no senior academic. She was only a teacher in enabling programs (pre-tertiary) a few years ago. Interesting to see her flying high (one wonders how she's got there!) and has got her hands in the Chinese pockets. So her specialization is the history of education in Australia. Maybe she can tell the Chinese a few truths about the history of education at the UoN. That would make her famous in the world's most populous country since she is so eager for fame and power. She would have to include all the materials from this blogsite. The Chinese would give her a few free trips there, if not an instant promotion because she helped them get their Trojian horse into this country effortlessly.

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  6. She was actually wearing a Chinese silk blouse when she had the meeting with our class (at our request) discussing the proposed downgrading our Chinese major to a minor. We thought it was an insult to the Chinese culture and our teacher.

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  7. I don't get it. So our students are taught by the Chinese government. Does that mean that part of their HECS money will go to China and we pay their salaries? I gather there's no free supper in this world.

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  8. The truth of the matter is Newcastle's confucius institute arrangement has been condemned nationally and internationally and the ultimate casualties are our students and the local community. The uni can carry on with their circus, but decent Aussies won't be part of this. They'll study elsewhere.

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  9. Someone at the top must have bagged a lot of goodies for something as weird as this to have happened to our poor students.

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  10. The article in the Australian tells me the uni's no more than a community college.

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  11. There should be a royal inquiry into Newcastle's dealings with the Confucius Institute. They have sold Australian interests to the dogs and sacrificed our students in the process. Shame on the uon.

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  12. Who's running the show at Newcastle? The Chinese or the Australians? Who gets to benefit the most? Why can't they find qualified teachers for our kids?

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  13. So they sacked the qualified lecturer that students obviously liked and appointed an admin staff in his place just to annoy the students. That sounds so typical of the Newcastle uni. The one they got rid of must have been good and a threat to his colleagues.

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  14. It looks like the Chinese government will be running the university very soon through its willing Australian proxies. I wonder what these Australian proxies are getting in return.

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  15. At the UoN, it's normal practice to get a plumber to do the brain surgeon's job!

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  16. Removing the Rose-Tinted Spectacles (Part 1)
    by Professor Ian Gow

    http://academiccouncil.duke.edu/wp-content/uploads/2008/05/Agora-China-Report1.pdf

    ³The Chinese no longer have to persuade, they seem to have everyone eating out of their hands. The pull factor is being replaced by a push from the foreign institutions. But we are not thinking sufficiently about how to engineer a win-win situation.²

    China: Threat or Opportunity?

    Much of the discussion about China in the higher education sector is missing the point. The reality is that when it comes to higher education, China may be more of a threat than an opportunity. There is no question in my mind that China is aiming to become - and is well on the way to becoming - the new global hub for higher education. I am not saying that we should not get involved with China. However, British institutions must
    stop viewing this aggressively ambitious country through rose-tinted spectacles. Make no mistake: China wants to be the leading power in higher education, and it will extract what it can from the UK. In particular they want to benefit from our strengths in science and technology, and to absorb our talent and our intellectual property. I think handing over our research in these key areas is incredibly naïve.

    There is evidence that only top institutions in China will be allowed key strategic partnerships and they will be urged to make all future partnerships with top 20 foreign institutions. Meanwhile Chinese universities are continually being instructed to increase modules and degrees taught in English. This big push for institutions to switch to teaching in English is not only a threat to our ability to recruit students from Asia Pacific, but it also means westerners can now study in English in China much more cheaply than they could here in the UK. Vice chancellors have to be far more aware of China¹s plans for HE in English and at least consider whether it is a threat or whether, by careful and
    continual recalibrating, it can continue to be an opportunity.

    UK institutions are rushing to partner with China but the risks are very considerable. They are capable of gaining more from the partnerships than we are if we do not do our homework properly and negotiate a win- win situation. At present we may procure a short-term win, but without thought will lose out in the end. It is not enough to hope it will all be ok in the long-term.

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  17. Removing the Rose-Tinted Spectacles (Part 2)
    by Professor Ian Gow

    http://academiccouncil.duke.edu/wp-content/uploads/2008/05/Agora-China-Report1.pdf

    Setting up a Campus: The Reality

    Under 2003 law, joint foreign ventures must have at least a 50/50 control share between China and the foreign institution. The president must also be Chinese. However, the real issue is not the legal requirements, but the fact that China frequently reinterprets what they mean. Plus they have laws for Sino-foreign joint ventures but no enabling regulatory frameworks, which means they default to the older higher education regulatory systems where China has much more control. I think it is
    unlikely that any other institution will negotiate the sort of freedom that the University of Nottingham and the University of Liverpool achieved. It is much more likely that institutions will come in and teach and research what the Chinese want them to teach (science and technology) and where they want them to teach it. Officials are keen to push all new projects towards the under-developed Western provinces.

    Many UK vice chancellors and other senior managers go over to China where they are wined, dined and courted, and given the impression that this is a wonderful place to work. They therefore tend to assume that everyone would think that going to China to work would be very attractive. This is an error. The day-to-day reality of working longer term in China is much tougher. There is a world of difference between a brief senior management tour and longer term working in China with all the difficulties that
    entails.

    The biggest single problem for any institution setting up a campus in China is continually securing enough high quality staff able to teach in English to the highest levels. Inevitably only a small number of people will be excited about an opportunity to leave the UK to work in China. Many academic staff do not want to work abroad at all, and some might like an experience working elsewhere but would not go to China for ideological reasons. Of those who might consider coming, some will have family commitments that might prevent them. New campuses have to compete with elite Chinese institutions for this limited pool of people. Generally it is easier to persuade people to spend one semester in China for two or three years, but this is not the vision that the Chinese have. Chinese students (and their opinionated parents) want western faces if they are paying the higher fees. The Chinese government want us to send our top research staff - especially core research staff in the sciences - to work full-time for three years or longer. There is a reluctance to let foreign institutions hire Chinese academic staff, even if they are are outstanding Chinese academics currently working at your home institution. Top research academics who come to China have to carry out much more onerous and time
    consuming academic administrative duties than back home, and therefore their research output often suffers. When such stories are fed back to colleagues in the UK it is inevitably off-putting.

    Vice chancellors must be very careful not to get sucked in too quickly to agreements. Often when confronted with the next stage they will find the agreement has apparently changed - partners are very adept at changing direction because ³Beijing said no². When the new venture has attracted publicity, suddenly your exit costs become very high: you are risking alienating a very powerful country and driving away Chinese students who might come to your university. And withdrawal could mean a serious loss of face for your vice chancellor. These costs are such that if things do not go according to plan many institutions may have to stay in but with an uncomfortable compromise. Most importantly universities need to remember that in China the agreement is the beginning of the negotiation.

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  18. Removing the Rose-Tinted Spectacles (Part 3)
    by Professor Ian Gow

    http://academiccouncil.duke.edu/wp-content/uploads/2008/05/Agora-China-Report1.pdf

    Helping the Competition?

    There are certainly big opportunities in China. However, there is not enough thought within institutions, government, or the Higher Education Funding Council for England about how we protect our advantage. The Chinese are expanding fast and we are rushing in to help them catch up and possibly surpass us. They are working hard to stop student outflow and to attract foreign students. The Tsinghua University masters programme in Chinese law, which is taught in English, attracts more than half of its
    students from abroad. Students can get MBAs or other masters or undergraduate degrees for a lot less in China - enjoying a combination of lower fees and a very low cost of living. These students will have the added benefit of learning Chinese and making connections in one of the world¹s most important countries. Another emerging issue that people are missing altogether is the growing number of millionaire Chinese ex-pats who may be keen to help set up Chinese campuses abroad.

    We seem at times to be falling over ourselves to partner with China, but in the process we are feeding a major competitor. It may be that we have to do this in order to compete and collaborate. Yet there must be some strategy to ensure that we can win. British universities should not be in China as a government tool for furthering Sino-British relations. They should have an eye on the competition, on their own reputation, and on generating surpluses to develop their academic strengths further. Learning to manage reputational and financial risk is paramount if British institutions are to maintain or strengthen their global competitiveness.

    Watching the new changes in the Sino-foreign higher education joint venture legislation and its administrative guidance - and how they interpret that legislation - is very worrying. The Chinese government are allowing foreign partnerships, but with the Chinese institution very much in control. The University of Nottingham¹s Ningbo campus and The University of Liverpool¹s joint institution with Xi¹an Jiaotong University are two brave attempts at partnership with China. Yet this is a model that is unlikely to occur again, unless a world class US institution manages to get through. The institutions currently negotiating entry will gain it on Chinese terms, with the Chinese very much in control. The Chinese no longer have to persuade, they seem to have everyone eating out of their hands. The pull factor is being replaced by a push from the foreign institutions. But we are not thinking sufficiently about how to engineer a win-win situation: we are simply rushing to establish any sort of partnership, to get out there. Unless emerging Sino-UK strategic alliances are better thought through, British higher education could be sorry.

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    1. Let the traitors of our national interests be punished for these sins!

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  19. I am a Novocastrian and I am ashamed of this happening in our backyard. Why is it that Newcastle Herald never reported these developments? The community have a right to know.

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  20. The UoN's downgrade of Chinese from a major to a minor has said it all about general attitude to serious academic engagement with China. It's the only uni in the whole of Australia who doesn't teach Chinese History and the only Chinese History course it has, has been been taught by a Lecturer from Japan! What a cynical joke about the history of Sino-Japanese relations! The Newcastle historians might be laughing all the way to the bank as they get to artificially keep their comfy jobs and pay off their mortgages teaching British History, African American History, Soviet War History (that's very useful for modern-day Australia, isn't it?), the History of Napoleonic Wars and the History of Scottish feminism! It all goes to make Newcastle a very bigoted oversized country town with the mindset of the 1950s. Hurray to the UoN! If I were the Confucius Institute, I wouldn't want to have anything to do with this circus here. What the hell do they get out it? It's an insult to the People's Republic of China considering the global influence of its civilisation. The mind just boggles!

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  21. John Howard would have done a better job than the UoN in the treatment of Chinese. The Chinese government should be ashamed of what the UoN has done to the academic study of its language and society.

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  22. Maybe there are still Soviet spies hiding in the woods in Newcastle. Another cold war might be coming.

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  23. They might even catch a few Chinese spies!

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  24. Should ASIO be notified of the Newcastle development?

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  25. I can see the dinosaurs at the Newcastle Humanities School are busy keeping their species alive and breeding a few more along the way while the rest of the modern world pass them by.

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  26. Their Social Science School is even more colourful. Follow the link here for an intriguing account of the history there. Makes compelling reading and be prepared for a surprise!

    http://stop-b-uon.blogspot.com.au/2011/09/university-of-newcastle-in-news.html#comment-form.

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  27. What? A couple of mainland Chinese people just marched into the uni to offer our students a 12th-rate course, replacing the Australian teacher who's been tried and tested for years. There are two serious issues at stake here for Australia - 1. employment of unqualified foreigners by bypassing Australian selection processes and 2. immigration, both of which they obviously got around by fixing the deal with those at the uni who fear the competition of a strong academic Chinese program because it obviously threatened their own disciplines. They all know the fact that at the metropolitan unis Chinese courses easily enrol hundreds of students and are going even stronger. This is so sickening and twisted and it's racism at its worst - having a Japanese person teaching Chinese history - the UoN really knows how to rub shit into Chinese noses - I wonder how he/she taught the "Rape of Nanking". Of course, that war crime never really happened, did it? Is the Confucius Institute really so proud to be in this partnership or are they just so happy that they didn't have to pay an immigration lawyer thousands of dollars to get a P. R. here, neither did they have to go through a gruelling Australian job interview, for which they may have had bugger all chance of being short-listed? Who gives a damn who teaches Chinese history anyway? The DVC (Academic and Global Relations) must think it's pretty kosher for it to have gone on for years and years in his own university.

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  28. It's been a joke among us students who have done Chinese at the uni, that being the only Chinese history course on offer. Oh, and the lecture on "pingpong diplomacy" - that was the funniest one we had, when it was given by our Japanese lecturer, of course. Speaking of distortion of history!

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  29. The Hanban (the Chinese government office that owns the confucius institute) and the Chinese foreign office should lodge an official complaint with the Australian embassy in Beijing, protesting the distortion of history in an academic program at the UoN as it is the ultimate insult to Chinese sensitivities. It's disgraceful and should be stopped immediately.

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    1. I thought that this website was addressing issues of Bullying in the Workplace at the Unversity of Newcastle. Not about political relationships between the University of Newcastle and the Chinese Government. Where can a I find a more realistic website that is dedicated to the issue of bullying at University of Newcastle without the distractions of the Hanban.

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    2. Dear Don Adams,

      You may not be aware of the fact that at least one senior academic staff has been bullied out of her job and many students have had their program disrupted as a result of the university's actions concerning Chinese. This is the reason for the existence of this particular section of the forum.

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    3. A staff member who knows about the BA review and will speak outMarch 19, 2012 at 11:00 PM

      I guess what this section of this blog site shows is that if you speak out against the corrupt management decisions at the Uni of Newcastle you are simply bullied out. It doesn't matter if it is plagairism, misconduct, or somewhat questionable agreements with foreign institutions....you either keep quiet or your life is made hell and you are eventually bullied out. The key thing about this section is that Dr Li Xia is being forced out because she stood up for what she believed was the best for her students....and yet the Uni replaces her with two people....to me there is something here that suggests she was doing her job particularly well...when the uni needs two people to do she was previously doing by herself.I have heard she is being made redundant....I thought if a position was redundant it wasn't going to be refilled....especially with double the staff! This is a classical approach by the Uni to get rid of whistleblowers.....I have seen so many redundancies forced onto staff who has taken similar stands as Dr Li Xia. As a tax payer I want answers....where is our money going at the Uni of Newcastle?

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    4. It's the disturbing to see what the uni does to distinguished scholars and academics. I'm a member of the School where this dreadful deal was fixed. It is hair-raising stuff to think about. They used Dr Li Xia's credentials to get the confucius institute and replaced her with no-hopers from God knows where, by manipulating the so-called "external" BA review, the conduct of which should be investigated by an independent body. Pretty much overnight, I lost an esteemed colleague who was loved by her students. She's a rare creature even in academia - she's a highly cultured person with a formidable intellect. What I admired about her was that she never went for any of those "prizes" to elevate herself. She has enough in herself not to need one. I miss her integrity and grace, qualities that are sadly missing in this place.

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    5. There's no knowing why this madness here. Suffice it to say that some individuals'/interest groups' private agendas got in the way of public good at the expense of great scholarship and pedagogical needs of the students. What an indictment on the state of higher education in this country.

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  30. In Australian interests, the ACTU and the immigration department should be notified of the Newcastle development, which is horrifying to any Australian.

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  31. Has anyone seen this?

    http://www.theherald.com.au/news/local/news/general/new-lambton-man-dies-after-ingesting-toxic-compound/2492264.aspx

    Does anyone know why this poor soul appears to have taken his own life at the university?

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    1. Sincere condolences to the family of our recently deceased colleague. Shocking loss of a talented and youthful man. May his spirit rest in peace.

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  32. The Hanban will be horrified to know what their Newcastle confucius institute has been up to. They should have better people here, Chinese and Australian, and remove the badies for making a joke of China.

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  33. a complainant against UoNMarch 22, 2012 at 2:25 PM

    AnonymousMar 16, 2012 11:57 PM


    Could you pls let me know what ACTU stand for?

    I'd like to lodge an appeal against this hell UoN to all of the govermental organisations and would like to see if I have missed one of them....

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    Replies
    1. ACTU - The Australian Council of Trade Unions
      Representing Australian Workers and Their Families
      http://www.actu.org.au/

      Good luck with your endeavours!

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  34. We are certain if the leaders of the Hanban saw the comments here on this blog, they would withdraw their Confucius Institute agreement instantly. They would be too ashamed to be associated with the UoN. Face-saving is very important for our people and government and China doesn't need this sort of publicity. It is too embarrassing.

    It is really baffling as to why the UoN has not honoured ITS part of the deal by providing the "suitably qualified teachers". We hope they exist and the UoN can find them. Our students and the Hunter community deserve better then what the Uni's given them.

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    1. Hi guys at Newcastle,

      We just saw this site - it's not the Hanban who's running the show; it's China's largest emigration agency cum overseas education consortium who's behind it all.

      We bet among the operators of the Newcastle CI, there are a few sons and daughters of top leaders of that country calling the shots.

      Tough luck your students don't like it, but that's how it is because your guy in charge of foreign affairs and marketing is in their pockets. That's how it is. Like it or lump it.

      Your uni has no control over this. It's been led by the nose by the consortium because there's one guy in the uni who wanted it and that's good enough for the Chinese.

      Who cares about your principles. Trying selling them to the Chinese.

      They want money and influence. Newcastle's given them a big winner and the guy who nailed the deal for them must have been handsomely rewarded.

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  35. Please take real actions to save our thriving Chinese major. No art exhibitions will help us students and save our academic program, even God himself opens the exhibition. Deliver damage control where it matters!

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  36. Read below and see the sort of guidance the UoN desperately seeks from China a la the Confucius Institute!

    London book fair interrupted by protest

    British Council is not the first and will not be the last well-regarded
    institution putting commercial or whatever interest before principles.

    Several years ago, Fairbank Center at Harvard University helps the Minister of the General Administration for Press and Publication (Gapp)set up a modern China photo exhibit at Harvard University to illustrate the development and progress that China has made.

    In essence, Fairbank Center helped promote its propaganda. Somebody from Fairbank Center even tried to get an official proclamation for the exhibit from City of Cambridge in Massachusetts.

    However, the application encountered strong resistances from residents at the City Council's meeting and was rejected.

    Nowadays, not only corporations want to make deals with China regime but also universities, particularly many prestigious higher education institutions such as Harvard, Yale, Stanford etc.

    They all want to be the adviser of Chinese government, set up executive MBA program, Law Center (this is ironic since China is not ruled based on law), jointed campus .... The list of potential projects can be very long.

    Many American "scholars" enjoy the VIP treatments they receive when visiting China. Many at Fairbank Center tour China quite often and meet high ranking Chinese officials. After coming back, they sing the Chinese government's praises and start self-censoring their research and comments about China.

    I do not remember when was the last time I read or hear any criticism against Chinese regime's policies and treatment of Tibet, persecution of Falun Gong or Christians etc from professors from institutions such Harvard, Yale, Stanford which with strong ties with Chinese government.

    Several years ago I once covered an culture event at Harvard Yen-Ching Library. At the end of his presentation, A Chinese visiting scholar from Beijing University pumped fist in the air and said with a raised voice "Under the leadership of General Secretary Jiang Zeming (Hu Jingtao's predecessor), following the guide of Three Represents, Chinese culture will......"

    After that year's event, I stop covering this annual event.

    Some people just try to make a deal with Chinese regime regardless what happened in China as long as they are money to be made and career advanced.

    Timothy Pi

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  37. China's rise in rankings held back by dodgy deals
    • by: Michael Sainsbury
    • From: The Australian
    • June 06, 2012 12:00AM
    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/chinas-rise-in-rankings-held-back-by-dodgy-deals/story-e6frgcjx-1226385290103

    CHINA'S efforts to have its universities counted among the world's best continue to be thwarted by the ability to pay large sums of cash to buy degrees and widespread academic malpractice, senior academics say.

    China has a program to lift its top 30 universities into world rankings and its elite group of nine into the stratosphere occupied by those such as Harvard, Yale and Princeton.

    The country produces a wealth of scientific research, but some of that has been tainted by serial allegations of plagiarism.

    "All kinds of academic misconduct is widespread in China, such as the trade in academic degrees, plagiarism, bribery. People line up to hand in bribes for academic degree promotion," Gu Haibing, a professor at Beijing's Renmin University said.

    In a searing essay in business magazine Caixin, Wang Yong, a professor at China University of Political Science and Law, detailed the problem. "Some struggle to scale the ivory tower.

    Others walk into a hotel room with a bribe in hand," Dr Wang wrote.

    "It's a method that's been recounted by professors across the country. Promotions, tenure and titles can be bought and sold for the right amount of cash."

    Dr Wang said that at the heart of the problem was the relationship between China's tertiary education sector and the ruling Communist Party. Dr Gu agreed.

    "All the misconduct is the result of the monopoly of power on academics, that the (Communist) Party appoints presidents (vice-chancellors) and party secretaries of universities, without any proper procedure of election by the teachers," Dr Gu said.

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