Cherian George calls NTU President’s bluff
Cherian George, former Nanyang Technological University (NTU) professor at the Wee Kim Wee School of Communications and Information, has issued a reply to NTU Head Bertil Andersson over disparaging remarks made by the latter during an interview. In it, Professor Andersson stated that the decision for George to leave the university was an “academic” one.
The original saga
Dr George is known for being an outspoken critic of Singapore, and the failure to renew his tenure led to conspiracy theories that the move was a carefully calculated and politically motivated one. In fact, George was refused tenure twice – once in 2009 and then again in 2013. This was despite the University’s prior assessment that Dr George was already eligible for promotion and tenure.
Dr George described his leaving of NTU as a “forced exit”. His intention was to leave NTU quietly, but this mutual agreement of privacy was violated by Professor Andersson in the interview.
The new saga
In the interview with Times Higher Education, Prof. Andersson stated that George had been placed under the same amount of scrutiny and examination during the tenure process. Additionally, he maintained the stance that the decision was not political in any manner, in a thinly veiled rebuttal to critics of the University’s move.
An indignant Dr George defended his credentials and fought back the “unprovoked smear” in a blog post published 20 days after the controversial interview was released. According to the post, Prof. Andersson himself had agreed that George clearly deserved promotion and tenure. George was then granted a promotion to Associate Professor. However, tenure was withheld because of a “perception” that George’s controversial points of view could pose a “reputational risk” to the University. In subsequent academic reports from 2009 to 2012, there never was any problem with George’s quality of teaching and research, apart from a mild suggestion of moving to another less sensitive and prominent job within the University.
Professor Andersson has since clarified his interview statements, saying that it was never the plan to undermine Dr George. However, George has called the clarification a failure, as the published comments remain biting. Instead, George wants a complete retraction of the comments and an agreement that statements of such intent are never repeated.
The NTU challenge
Finally, in what appears to be Dr George’s winning hand, he has publicly issued a challenge to NTU to release confidential documents about his tenure process to put any claim that he is unqualified to rest; a challenge unlikely to be taken up. On Tuesday (6 January) night, NTU said that it would not be making any further comments.
Dr George seems to have nothing to hide.
Do you think this was a wholly political move, or does Professor Andersson’s statement carry some truth as well?