The PSAI was concerned to hear recent reports that the leadership of University College Dublin (UCD) used a staff-wide email to undermine criticisms of the university’s relationship to the Chinese government. The UCD president encouraged the entire university community, presumably including those who have been targeted for repression by the Chinese state, to be proud of the university’s links with the PRC government.
Three of our members, David Farrell, Niamh Hardiman, and Ben Tonra, were signatories on a public letter in which they expressed alarm about the president’s “relativist interpretation of academic freedom which implies that autocratic regimes are merely cultural variants that should be treated as such.” We express our support for our members in responding to these messages from the UCD leadership.
As students and scholars of politics, we can most effectively advance our collective knowledge when we can work free from interference by powerful political actors. We therefore share the concerns of some of the public statements that may have prompted the UCD leadership’s email. Most pertinent of those is the issue of UCD allowing the Irish Institute for Chinese Studies, a Confucius Institute-linked, and therefore ultimately a Chinese Communist Party-linked body, to teach politics for credit to UCD students.