Recently, many Wesleyans have been discussing the news that the University has been invited to explore the possibility of opening a college in China. Our conversations have been very preliminary — should it be a film academy, a liberal arts college, some form of hybrid? Wesleyan has been running programs in China for many years, mostly in the form of lectures for prospective students or for our many alumni who live and work there. Should we explore doing something more substantial?
The University has looked into a variety of locations for Wesleyanish programing. Most of these are of the study-abroad variety with which many are familiar. We have also experimented with programs in Los Angeles for people entering the film industry, and investigated coordinated internship opportunities in public service in Washington. Giving students options for programs beyond our core campus can expand educational opportunities and increase the value of a Wesleyan diploma. In considering these possibilities, we want to be sure that the academic work is in line with the distinctive pragmatic liberal education at the core of Wesleyan’s mission. We also want the programs to be economically sustainable and contribute to positive recognition of the University.
I should say that most of these conversations don’t lead to actual programs. We set the bar very high for new initiatives, and most of the ideas we consider don’t meet our high expectations. Our conversations about a possible campus in China are still in the very early stages. Obviously, there are serious concerns about academic freedom and a host of related issues. At the same time, Wesleyan has had a very positive history of working with students and faculty from China, and so we are considering this possibility very carefully. The only decision that is imminent is whether we should do more research on this possibility.
Since many have questions about these topics, we will hold a faculty and staff discussion on Wednesday, October 30, 4:30–5:30pm, and one with students from 6–7 pm. These conversations will surely help inform our considerations about a variety of possible Wesleyan initiatives that build on the great things that happen on our Middletown campus.