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Dr Cherian George, one of Singapore's foremost public intellectuals, has been denied a tenure contract by NTU once again. The undersigned, who are past and present students of Dr George, urge the university to affirm his stellar teaching credentials and disclose the reasons behind the decision to deny him tenure. 

Letter to
President, NTU Professor Bertil Andersson
Deputy President and Provost, NTU Professor Freddy Boey
Chair, WKWSCI, NTU Associate Professor Benjamin Hill Detenber
and 1 other
Dean, College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, NTU Professor Alan Chan Kam-Leung
25 February 2013

Professor Bertil Andersson
President, NTU

Professor Freddy Boey
Deputy President and Provost, NTU

Professor Alan Chan Kam-Leung
Dean, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, NTU

Associate Professor Benjamin Hill Detenber

RE: Denial of tenure contract for Dr Cherian George

Dear Sirs,

It has come to the attention of the undersigned through various sources that Dr Cherian George, associate professor at the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information (WKWSCI), has been denied a tenure contract once again. In addition, we understand that the quality of Dr George’s teaching was a factor in the decision this year. The undersigned, who are past and present students of Dr George, would like to raise our deepest concern over this development.

Dr George is a quintessential WKWSCI institution, and is arguably one of the most revered faculty members among the undergraduate community in the school. Almost every one of us has passed through the portals of ‘Media Professions and Practices’, a year-one core module that Dr George coordinates. It is during the course of this module that most of us are first acquainted with Singapore’s complex state-media relationship.

Dr George’s lectures are known for being intellectually invigorating, and students deeply appreciate his ability to discuss politically sensitive issues in a lucid and balanced manner. Dr George assigns intensive research papers during the course of this module, and constantly motivates students to expand their research, critical thinking and writing skills.

Dr George’s pedagogical prowess is further affirmed by students who have had the opportunity of having him as their final-year project (FYP) supervisor, and by those who have worked with him in the journalism capstone module ‘Going Overseas for Advanced Reporting’ (GO-FAR).

Many of the past FYPs supervised by Dr George have been published in national media and are acclaimed for addressing issues of social amelioration. In supervising FYPs and GO-FAR, Dr George is distinct among the faculty members for the amount of latitude he provides students to explore different themes and push boundaries, without compromising on quality.

Beyond the walls of NTU, Dr George is also a dedicated mentor to many in the WKWSCI community, maintaining relationships long after we have graduated. He has guided many past journalism students in their professional career, and constantly urges current students to take on various internship opportunities to enhance their skill sets.

For these reasons, we are extremely disappointed with the fact that Dr George’s pedagogical skills have been purportedly judged to be below par. We urge the leadership of both WKWSCI and the college of humanities, arts and social sciences (HASS) to join us in publicly affirming Dr George’s stellar teaching credentials. We also urge the university to shed more light on how it ascertains the teaching quality of faculty members seeking a tenure contract.

On the university’s decision to once again deny Dr George a tenure contract, the undersigned would like to point out, as you would already know, that Dr George is considered by many in Singapore as one of the country’s foremost public intellectuals. On this account, it is perplexing to us why he has been judged to be undeserving of a tenure contract.

We would also like to highlight recent comments about Dr George made by Professor Karin Wahl-Jorgensen, director of research development and environment at the Cardiff School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies. In a post on Twitter on 23 February 2013, Professor Wahl-Jorgensen mentioned that she was one of Dr George’s tenure case reviewers, and that “it was clear that he is a superstar”. “Denied tenure because he sometimes expresses political opinions,” she said in a subsequent post. “As one of his reviewers I am totally outraged,” she added.

In light of Professor Wahl-Jorgensen’s comments, we urge the university to shed more light on the reasons behind its decision to deny Dr George a tenure contract. Her allegations are serious as they suggest an overt curtailment of academic freedom and a policy of political discrimination in NTU. They not only dramatically affect the global reputation of NTU and WKWSCI, but the value of our degrees as well.

We hope the school and university leadership will respond to our concerns and queries as soon as possible.

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