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Duke’s Brodhead Under Attack

Duke president Richard Brodhead has presided over what could charitably be termed a checkered administration. His botched handling of the lacrosse case led to a reported $18 million settlement with the falsely accused players, as well as millions of dollars in legal fees to fight off (thus far unsuccessfully) a civil rights lawsuit filed by many of the unindicted players. The university experienced a major case of academic fraud after revelations that a member of the medical faculty, Anil Potti, had exaggerated his credentials and fudged his research, prompting him to withdraw four published papers. Potti eventually resigned, and Duke belatedly halted his clinical trials. Whether Duke will suffer legal liability from any patients in Potti’s clinical trials remains unclear.

Now, reports the Duke Chronicle, Brodhead is facing faculty pressure regarding Duke Kunshan University (DKU), a proposal to create a new university, jointly funded by Duke and the city of Kunshan, in China.

Creating overseas branches of U.S. universities is always a complicated task, with the possibility of long-term financial benefits for the home institution balanced against the short-term financial risks. Faculty members complain about exclusion from the process, even though there’s no way such a venture ever could be launched with professors running things. Moreover–as perhaps was most clearly seen in NYU’s venture in the United Arab Emirates–such proposals risk compromising academic values in diplomatic negotiations with the host nation.

Some of the reaction against DKU appears to be little more than the complaints of professional complainers. For instance, Group of 88 extremist Paula McClain, who opened her tenure as chair of Duke’s Academic Council by positioning herself as a leader in “healing” the institution and offering quotes from Nelson Mandela in the process, lobbed attacks on the administration for its allegedly not soliciting sufficient faculty input.

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