Cherian George (Singapore Academic)

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Cherian George
Cherian George.jpg
EducationBachelor of Arts, Master of Arts, PhD in Communication
Alma materCambridge University, Columbia University, Stanford University
Spouse(s)Zuraidah Ibrahim

Cherian George is a Singaporean academic and the author of award-winning books such as Freedom from the Press (2012).[1] He has over a decade of professional experience in journalism and publishing before entering academia in the early 2000s. Well known in both local and international academic circles, Cherian George made headlines in 2013 when his then-employer, Nanyang Technological University (NTU) denied his application to be a tenured professor at the Wee Kim Wee School of Communications and Information (WKWSCI).[2] At the time of writing, Cherian George is based in Hong Kong where he is a professor of Media Studies at Hong Kong Baptist University.[3]

Background[edit | edit source]

Education[edit | edit source]

Cherian George completed his pre-university studies at Hwa Chong Junior College before enrolling into Cambridge University where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Social and Political Sciences.[4] He then obtained a Master's degree from Columbia University’s School of Journalism and subsequently, a Doctorate in Communication from Stanford University in 2003.[3] According to Cherian George's dissertation adviser at Stanford University, Theodore Glasser, the former produced "top-notch" work during his PhD candidature.[5]

Personal life[edit | edit source]

Cherian George is married to Zuraidah Ibrahim,[6][7] the deputy executive editor of South China Morning Post who formerly worked at the Singapore broadsheet, The Straits Times as a deputy editor.[8] Zuraidah Ibrahim is the sister of the former Singaporean politician, Dr Yaacob Ibrahim.[9]

Early career in journalism[edit | edit source]

According to a 2012 report by Yahoo! News Singapore, Cherian George worked at The Straits Times for a decade.[10] He was the newspaper's arts and photo editor for three years.[11]

Career in academia[edit | edit source]

Cherian George speaking at a 2018 conference. Photo from source.

An established academic presence in Singapore, Cherian George has frequently commented on censorship and governance in the island-state.[12] Speaking at a 2012 panel in conjunction with the Singapore Writer's Festival, he said:

"The system is designed to ensure that the mainstream press is always slightly behind the curve. It’s never an avant-garde institution. The whole reason for press controls is to ensure that the mainstream press are not an unadulterated reflection of popular opinion, and certainly not a vehicle for the most progressive forces in society... (instead) to ensure that the mainstream press is largely a centrist conservative institution."[10]

In 2018, Cherian George spoke at a public hearing on deliberate online falsehoods where he provided policy suggestions to combat hate propaganda in Singapore.[13][14] Cherian George has also worked at research centres such as the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS).[15] Over the years, he has established working relationships with other Singaporean academics like the sociologist, Teo Yeo Yenn and the economist, Donald Low; with whom he co-authored the book, PAP v PAP (2020).

Cherian George at the 2018 online falsehoods public hearing. Photo from source.

Nanyang Technological University (2004 - 2014)[edit | edit source]

Cherian George was a faculty member at NTU’s Wee Kim Wee School of Communications and Information (WKWSCI) for about a decade. In 2009, he was promoted to the position of Associate Professor and the head of journalism. A year later, he won a teaching excellence award from NTU.[2] Cherian George was also the founding member and first Director of Asia Journalism Fellowship (AJF),[16] a programme that was hosted by WKWSCI from 2009 to 2016.[17][18]

Denial of tenure[edit | edit source]

In academia, the tenure system offers faculty members a lifetime guarantee of job security.[19] This ensures that scholars can freely research potentially controversial topics without the fear of losing their job. Cherian George was denied tenure twice by NTU in 2009 and 2013.[20] Following the second rejection, four of the faculty’s most senior members; which included two ex-deans, wrote a letter to Bertil Andersson, the then-President of NTU endorsing Cherian George.[21] They reportedly wrote:

“Those of us who are not yet tenured need to know: what more than Cherian do we have to do?”[2]

Other academics who were familiar with Cherian Georges work, as well as his students in NTU, also voiced their confusion about the school's decision.[5][22] In response to the general disquiet, NTU released a statement about their tenure process. The statement reads as such:

"NTU has a rigorous tenure process. All NTU faculty seeking tenure go through the same process. More than 1,000 faculty have gone through this process at NTU in the last six years and so far, more than 55% have been granted tenure. The tenure review process is purely a peer-driven academic exercise comprising internal and external reviewers. The two equally important criteria are distinction in research and scholarship, and high quality teaching. Service and other contributions to the university, profession, or community are also taken into consideration."[19]

Cherian George formally ended his contract with NTU in February 2014.[23] Later that year, Bertil Andersson re-iterated in an interview that the decision made by NTU's tenure committee was purely academic and non-political.[24]

Hong Kong Baptist University (2014 - current)[edit | edit source]

Cherian George joined Hong Kong Baptist University as an associate professor in August 2014. Speaking to South China Morning Post about the career move, he said:

“I'm impressed by how Hong Kong academics, students and the public have succeeded in vigorously defending academic freedom. [Hong Kong] universities have excellent media scholars who are deeply engaged in society's issues, and the idea of working alongside them is very attractive.”[23]

Publications[edit | edit source]

Cherian George pictured at the Singapore, Incomplete book launch in 2017. Photo credit to Terry Tan/ Medium.

The following is a list of prominent titles that Cherian George has authored and co-authored over the years. He has been published by prominent local and international publishing houses such as NUS Press and Cambridge University Press.

Year Book Publisher Refs.
2020 Air-Conditioned Nation Revisited Ethos Books [25]
PAP v PAP - [26]
2019 Media and Power in Southeast Asia Cambridge University Press [27]
2017 Singapore, Incomplete Woodsville News [28]
2016 Hate Spin The MIT Press [11]
2012 Freedom from the Press NUS Press [1]
2006 Contentious Journalism and the Internet NUS Press, University of Washington Press [29]
2000 Singapore: The Air-conditioned Nation Landmark Books [30]

References/ Citations[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 "Freedom from the Press: Journalism and State Power in Singapore". NUS Press Singapore. Accessed on 4 November 2020.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Teng, Amelia. "NTU rejects appeal by professor against decision not to grant tenure". The Straits Times. May 1, 2013. Accessed on 4 November 2020.
  3. 3.0 3.1 "PROF. CHERIAN GEORGE". Hong Kong Baptist University. Accessed on 4 November 2020.
  4. "10 prominent Singaporeans who graduated from Hwa Chong Junior College". The Straits Times. August 25, 2014. Accessed on 4 November 2020.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Moore, Justin. "Singaporean university denies tenure to controversial Stanford alum". The Stanford Daily. April 1, 2013. Accessed on 4 November 2020.
  6. "Short bio". Cherian George. Accessed on 4 November 2020.
  7. Toh, Elgin. "Vibrant political debate good for Singapore, says Cherian George". The Straits Times. December 4, 2017. Accessed on 4 November 2020.
  8. "CORPORATE EXECUTIVES". South China Morning Post. Accessed on 4 November 2020.
  9. "Dr Yaacob Ibrahim's son will serve NS". AsiaOne. September 6, 2011. Accessed on 4 November 2020.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Tan, Jeanette. "Control of mainstream media in S'pore must be reviewed: media experts". Yahoo! News. November 10, 2012. Accessed on 4 November 2020.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Cheong Suk-Wai. "Nipping hate spin in the bud". The Straits Times. February 21, 2017. Accessed on 4 November 2020.
  12. Cherian George. "PAP reform: A checklist for change (Part 1)". Yahoo! News. January 4, 2013. Accessed on 4 November 2020.
  13. Yasmine Yahya. "Academic Cherian George urges caution in drafting new laws to tackle online untruths, calls for repeal of insult law". The Straits Times. March 28, 2018. Accessed on 4 November 2020.
  14. Chia, Lianne. "Laws against racial and religious insult tend to backfire: Cherian George". Channel News Asia. March 27, 2018. Accessed on 4 November 2020.
  15. "Compendium of Research 2009-2010". Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy. September 25, 2011. Accessed on 4 November 2020. Retrieved from Issuu.
  16. Soh, Elizabeth. "NTU professor denied tenure may have to leave job". Yahoo! News. February 28, 2013. Accessed on 4 November 2020.
  17. "About". Asian Journalism Fellowship. Accessed on 4 November 2020.
  18. "The AJF Team". Asian Journalism Fellowship. Accessed on 4 November 2020.
  19. 19.0 19.1 Shah Salimat. "NTU clarifies tenure process after outcry". Yahoo! News. February 25, 2013. Accessed on 4 November 2020.
  20. Cheong, Danson. "Journalism professor Cherian George rebuts NTU's comments". The Straits Times. January 6, 2015. Accessed on 4 November 2020.
  21. Leong, Mimi. "Academic speaks out after ‘forced exit’ from Nanyang". University World News. May 19, 2014. Accessed on 4 November 2020.
  22. Han, Kirsten. "A Tenure Rejection with Many Implications". The Diplomat. March 8, 2013. Accessed on 4 November 2020.
  23. 23.0 23.1 Toh Han Shih. "Outspoken academic Cherian George takes up post at Hong Kong Baptist University". South China Morning Post. May 10, 2014. Accessed on 4 November 2020.
  24. Morgan, John. "Singapore-Style Academic Freedom". Times Higher Education. December 4, 2014. Accessed on 4 November 2020. Retrieved from Inside Higher Ed.
  25. "Air-Conditioned Nation Revisited". Ethos Books. Accessed on 4 November 2020.
  26. "PAP v PAP: The Party’s struggle to adapt to a changing Singapore". Books Kinokuniya Singapore. Accessed on 3 November 2020.
  27. "Media and Power in Southeast Asia". Cambridge University Press. Accessed on 4 November 2020.
  28. "Singapore, Incomplete: Reflections on a First World nation’s arrested political development". Ethos Books. Accessed on 4 November 2020.
  29. "Contentious Journalism and the Internet: Towards Democratic Discourse in Malaysia and Singapore". NUS Press Singapore. Accessed on 4 November 2020.
  30. "Singapore: The Airconditioned Nation". Local Books SG. Accessed on 4 November 2020.