Fulbright University Vietnam & Free Speech: “Do As We Say, Not As We Do”

hy·poc·ri·sy
həˈpäkrəsē/
noun
noun: hypocrisy; plural noun: hypocrisies

the practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one’s own behavior does not conform; pretense.

 

free speech notThis is a concept to which US Americans, including and perhaps especially those who represent the US government and affiliated institutions, pay lip service.  Presumably, this also includes a new US-style university in Viet Nam,  a private initiative, led by private citizens from Vietnam and the US.

Imagine my surprise when I posted an innocuous comment on the Fulbright University Vietnam (FUV) Facebook page stating something along the lines that “It’s full steam ahead for FUV now that Bob Kerrey is no longer chairman of its board of trustees” and included a link to my 26 May 2017 article The Fat Lady Finally Sings: Bob Kerrey Quietly Resigns from Fulbright University Vietnam Leadership Position   When I tried to post a link to a Vietnamese translation my original comment had disappeared and I was already blocked from the FUV Facebook page.  Compare and contrast the screenshots below.

fuv fb page comment deleted
The original post has already been deleted, which is why there is “no permission” to add a comment.
blocked FB account
This is what a blocked account looks like.  There is no opportunity to comment or reply nor is there a way to message the host.  You can look but not touch, i.e., interact.
one account ok
One can comment and/or reply to a comment using this account.

fuv logo

The original article had nearly 1,000 Facebook shares, before the site migrated to a new server.  It was quickly translated into Vietnamese and widely discussed on Vietnamese language blogs and Facebook pages.  Maybe the latter was the icing on the censorship cake? 

My comment reflected something I wrote in that article about having no need to play the quiet game because I’m not a diplomat.  (Bob Kerrey was appointed with much fanfare and some fanfare should accompany his surrender.)  Its prompt deletion also confirmed something else that I wrote, namely, that the silent treatment was an attempt to Clean up the mess and move on, as if nothing happened.  If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?  If an online comment is deleted, was there ever an original comment?

The irony of a university that claims to be inspired by the American tradition of liberal arts education  (think critical thinking and other skills and knowledge) yet wastes no time in digitally erasing views with which it disagrees was not lost on me.  It’s yet another example of do as we say, not as we do. We (US) claim to believe in freedom of speech and are constantly lecturing other countries, including Viet Nam, about their transgressions but we (US) practice it selectively.  Shameless and shameful. 

This arrogance reminds of something Ron Suskind wrote about a 2004 interview with a George W. Bush aide who was later revealed to be Karl Rove: “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.” In other words, the US government can do and say whatever the hell it wants because, well, the US is an empire. 

Speaking of arrogance, J. William Fulbright wrote about this mindset in a classic book entitled The Arrogance of Power written during the American War in Viet Nam.  Yes, that Fulbright after whom FUV is named.  Irony piled upon irony.  Shameless and shameful ad nauseam.

MAA

P.S.:  Bob Kerrey is still a member of the FUV board of trustees, according to the FUV website, a textbook definition of a flawed compromise.

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“To many Vietnamese, US still a top overseas study destination in spite of Donald Trump”

vn students article

Check out the facts and figures on why so many students are heading state-side.

This is my latest English language article, written at the request of VNExpress International. I think it provides a pretty comprehensive update about the current situation for those with a personal and/or professional interest in the status of US-bound Vietnamese students.  (It’s an edited and expanded version of an article I wrote last July for University World News.)

Note the caveat in my concluding paragraph.  Why?  Because only God is perfect.  🙂

While the wave of interest in study in the U.S. will eventually break because of demographic and development-related factors, such as an aging population and an improvement in the quality of the domestic higher education system, demand is likely to continue to gain momentum, barring unforeseen political and economic circumstances. Since no one has a crystal ball, however, medium-term outcomes are anyone’s guess.

Here’s a link to the Vietnamese translation:  MỸ VẪN LÀ MỘT TRONG SỐ NHỮNG ĐIỂM ĐẾN DU HỌC HÀNG ĐẦU CỦA SINH VIÊN VIỆT NAM BẤT LUẬN ĐANG TRONG NHIỆM KÌ CỦA DONALD TRUMP

MAA

Irony

Charlottesville & EducationUSA

Defined as:

a state of affairs or an event that seems deliberately contrary to what one expects and is often amusing as a result.

That and surreal are the words that best describe a situation I encountered while reading an online US newspaper article about the white supremacist “rally” in Charlottesville, VA.  (This was before the violence, including deaths and injuries, that occurred the following day.)

Scrolling down, I suddenly noticed a two-minute EducationUSA video with a link to learn more.  Below are two screenshots. 

edusa1edusa2

The irony became much thicker after Donald Trump failed to condemn the actions of the white supremacists in this Tweet:

trump and charlottesville

MAA

Vietnam: Southeast Asia’s Most Dynamic Outbound Market

World Education Services has long advocated Vietnam as a viable recruitment market for institutions in North America. Understanding these students’ culture and family backgrounds, as well as the contextual factors that can ‘push’ them from Vietnam and ‘pull’ them toward institutions in other countries, can go a long way toward helping institutions develop an actionable plan for reaching out to and them.

This is a good analysis by WENR with a couple of exceptions:

The United States is, depending on who is reporting, either the number one, two or three destination for outbound students from Vietnam.

There is no doubt about the ranking, if you look at the latest figures from the US and Japanese governments.  Japan is the world’s leading host of Vietnamese students, broadly defined, as the article notes, followed by the US. Every time I check the SEVIS figures, based on the latest quarterly update, I also check the latest stats from the Australian government, since the two countries are usually pretty close in Vietnamese enrollment.

A more immediately relevant event is the recent move by Vietnam’s Ministry of Education and Training to deregulate Vietnamese education agents.

This “deregulation” occurred in the summer of 2016.  A new plan has since been approved that is similar to, but different from, the old one.  The two main provisions of Decree No. 46/2017/ND-CP, recently issued by the Vietnamese government, are that they are no longer required to deposit 500 million VND (approximately $22,000 at the current exchange rate) and, once again, advisers will be required to take a course and be certified by the education authorities. 

MAA

 

Consumer Barometer with Google in Viet Nam

This is a useful resource that reveals the following information, most of it fairly up-to-date, about Vietnamese online habits. The relevant data graphics are displayed after four (4) key questions.

Keep in mind that Viet Nam currently ranks 7th in the world for Facebook users with about 64 million accounts, a 40% increase (!) this year alone. This in a population of about 96 million. (That’s 3% of the global total.) It’s clear that those are not unique accounts and that many people have more than one, which also applies to mobile phones. Ho Chi Minh City ranks among the top 10 cities globally for having the most Facebookers with 14 million users.

How do Vietnamese connect to the Internet?

overview1

Do they use the Internet for personal purposes?

internet use for personal purposes

How often do Vietnamese go online (for personal Internet usage)?

frequency of internet usage

What online activities do they do on their smartphones at least weekly?

weekly smartphone online activities

How digitally savvy are Vietnamese netizens?

digitally savvy

MAA

 

 

 

Vietnam climbs to seventh worldwide for number of Facebook users: report

top 10 countries FB

This is the latest top 10 ranking for Viet Nam and it’s extraordinary like the country itself, in many respects.  It was not that many years ago when Vietnamese Facebook accounts numbered in the hundreds of thousands.  What is especially striking is the 40% increase in only six months. 

In a population of about 96 million, rounded up, suffice it to say that Facebook is about to plateau, if it hasn’t already.  Yes, Facebook is the #1 website in Viet Nam, according to SimilarWeb and Facebook Messenger is the #1 chat app in a very crowded and competitive marketplace of chat apps.

Viet Nam is one of the reasons why Facebook earned $8.03 billion in revenue and $1.04 actual EPS in the first quarter of this year with nearly 2 billion users.

In its latest quarterly report, Facebook beat analyst expectations on profitability and on revenue for the ninth straight quarter.  Viet Nam is one of the reasons why total revenues were $9.32 billion, a 45% increase over last year’s second quarter.  The greatest contributing factor was mobile advertising.  (For better and for worse, just over 2 billion people, an estimated 27% of the entire human race, are on Facebook.)

If you want to advertise any product or service in Viet Nam, especially for young people but , increasingly, for their parents, too, you have to use Facebook.  This is one reason why Mark Zuckerberg’s net worth, which currently stands at $72.7 billion, making him the planet’s 5th-wealthiest person, will continue to increase.

MAA

Trump is not deterring Vietnamese from studying in US

Here are the introduction and conclusion to my latest (7.7.17) University World News article about the possible impact of political changes in the US, in particular, on young Vietnamese studying overseas.  It includes links to recent articles.  If these excerpts whet your appetite for more, follow this link to read the article in its entirety. 

MAA

INTRODUCTION

photo_4856Vietnam remains a hot country for United States colleges, universities, boarding and day schools interested in international student recruitment. Just as its economy has managed to weather the global storm of the past few years, Vietnamese young people continue to study abroad in large numbers, undeterred by Brexit, the 2016 US presidential election and other cataclysmic, potentially game-changing socio-political events.

In fact, the US is the world’s second-leading host of Vietnamese students – after Japan – with over 30,000 at all levels, mainly in higher education, according to the latest (June 2017) SEVIS by the Numbers quarterly update. However, Japan and the US are an apples and oranges comparison since the latter offers mostly short-term, vocational programmes.

Vietnam displaced Canada as the fifth-leading sending country to the US in March 2017, a position it continues to hold in the latest update.

CONCLUDING THOUGHTS

Vietnam is defying the odds, as it has in so many respects in the recent past and throughout its long, tumultuous and inspirational history.

The articles above show why US institutions should make Vietnam a priority country for international student recruitment and why they should develop or fine-tune an ethical recruitment strategy in what has become a fiercely competitive market, not only among US institutions but with those coming from countries that have recently discovered Vietnam as a potentially promising recruitment market.

While the recruiting wave will eventually break because of demographic and development-related factors, such as aging of the population and an improvement in the quality of the domestic higher education system for example, demand for overseas study will continue to gain momentum for now, barring unforeseen political and economic factors.