Parents of Yale-NUS students ask to meet NUS president over college's closure

The parents of Yale-NUS students are requesting that NUS president Tan Eng Chye meet them at a townhall on Friday. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

SINGAPORE - More than 260 parents of Yale-NUS College students are asking that National University of Singapore (NUS) president Tan Eng Chye hold a townhall meeting with them to discuss the reasons for the college's closure.

Professor Tan has agreed to a series of individual face-to-face meetings with parents of both Yale-NUS students and University Scholars Programme (USP) students in the later part of September.

In his e-mail reply to the parents' letter, Prof Tan said prevailing Covid-19 measures necessitate meeting in smaller groups.

The parents sent the letter on Monday (Sept 6), identifying themselves as concerned parents of current and deferred students, and alumni.

After Prof Tan's reply on Tuesday, they sent another letter on Wednesday rejecting his suggestion for smaller group meetings in favour of an online townhall meeting.

They said: "We find that this is a reasonable and respectful request, seeing as to how you preferred to announce your decision to shutter Yale-NUS' door through a town hall for students."

They then requested that he meet them at a townhall meeting at 7pm on Friday.

This comes about three weeks after NUS announced that Yale-NUS - a liberal arts tie-up between Ivy League university Yale in the United States and NUS that began in 2011 - would stop accepting new students and merge with NUS' USP to form the New College - a placeholder name.

NUS also announced a merger between the Faculty of Engineering and the School of Design and Environment to form the College of Design and Engineering.

The announcements have been met with significant push-back from students across NUS.

On Aug 30, students published a petition titled #NoMoreTopDown, calling for a reversal of the decisions. It has received 14,200 signatures as at Wednesday.

In their first letter, the parents asked that Prof Tan make himself available for a meeting to answer their questions on the reasons for the merger - which they said have remained unanswered since the announcement of the merger on Aug 27.

They added that while an NUS spokesman had told the media that the university was working closely with Yale-NUS and the USP faculty, students, staff and alumni, they had so far not been engaged by the school.

In his reply, Prof Tan said: "I fully understand that as parents, you may have concerns or queries about the merger of Yale-NUS College with the USP. We have been working with Yale-NUS College and the USP leadership to address some of these concerns."

The parents added that they had previously been invited to a townhall meeting on Sept 2 with leadership from Yale-NUS, without any presence from the NUS administration, and that their requests for Prof Tan to be there were declined.

The parents go on to say that Yale-NUS leadership has not been able to provide answers to their questions on the reasons behind the de facto closure as they had no part in the decision.

On Sept 3, The Straits Times and other media reported that NUS had formally initiated discussions with Yale University on ending the collaboration in July.

Yale-NUS leadership was notified only after the decision was made.

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