Penn Not Going to Make Big Deal About Chinese Repression of Academic Freedom

Some wonder why Amy Guttman hasn't taken a stand.

The Daily Pennsylvanian reports about concerns on Penn campus about  Xia Yeliang, a professor at Peking University’s School of Economics who recently lost his contract with that university, purportedly because of his pro-democracy work in that country. Why is this Penn’s concern? Because it is a “partner university” with Peking, with close ties to Wharton School, the School of Dental Medicine and Penn Nursing.

The DP explains:

In 2008, Xia signed a petition demanding changes to China’s single-party Communist rule. In 2009, he wrote an open letter criticizing then-head of China’s Propaganda Ministry, Liu Yunshan, for which Peking University asked him to confess to wrongdoings. He did not agree to the university’s demands.

More recently, Xia has criticized Chinese President Xi Jinping’s new catchphrase that promotes a “Chinese Dream.”

Penn’s Faculty Senate Chair Dwight Jaggard said in an email that Xia’s firing has not come up in meetings of the Penn Faculty Senate Executive Committee, but he would be “personally disappointed if his reported expulsion from Peking University was due to his speech, research or views.”

A graduate student at Penn, who asked to remain anonymous because she had previously worked at Peking University, said she would like to see Penn respond to the issue.

“I don’t know how or should the University respond,” she said. “But I have more expectations from [Penn President] Amy Gutmann. We don’t have to threaten and say we will stop working with PKU, but maybe a word of concern. I look up to Amy Gutmann as a scholar and higher education leader, so I would like to know what she would say on issues like this.”

Academic freedom is a paramount value for American scholars. Will they defend it abroad, as well?