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Hundreds of university faculty form alliance for autonomy

2018/07/06 20:06:48

CNA file photo

Taipei, July 6 (CNA) Hundreds of university faculty members from around Taiwan on Friday urged the government to respect university autonomy and academic freedom, rights they claimed the government has infringed by refusing to confirm Kuan Chung-ming (管中閔) as president of National Taiwan University (NTU).

Representatives from 14 leading universities nationwide attended a press conference in Taipei Friday to announce the establishment of the Taiwan Action Alliance for University Autonomy (TAAUA).

"Gravely concerned about the future of our education system and our rights to university autonomy and academic freedom, ...(we) have decided to join forces to defend our rights to university autonomy and academic liberty in Taiwan," they said in a joint statement.

The TAAUA plans to register with the Ministry of the Interior as a nongovernmental organization to fight for rights they described as being the very basis for preserving the rule of law and democracy. "We strive to stand up against government intervention and political repression in our campuses," they said in the statement.

Kuan was chosen by NTU's selection committee on Jan. 5 and should have taken office on Feb 1, but the Ministry of Education (MOE) decided on April 27 not to confirm his appointment and asked the university to select a new president.

The MOE's decision came after a series of allegations were made against Kuan, including plagiarism, possible conflicts of interest in the selection process, and teaching in China, which is in violation of related regulations. However, NTU insists all such allegations have been addressed and have no impact on Kuan's qualification to serve as its president.

The controversy has resulted in the resignation of two ministers of education and the position currently remains empty.

Pan Wen-chung (潘文忠) resigned in April to "ward off politicized attacks and slander" directed at the ministry because of its handling of the NTU case. Wu Maw-kuen (吳茂昆) resigned in late May amid multiple allegations, including one that he worked as an advisor to a Beijing-funded science institute.

No one dares to serve as education minister because he or she will be forced to reject the selection of Kuan, former NTU president Lee Si-chen (李嗣涔) said.

"This is something a person with a clear conscience will not be willing to do because it is inconsistent with the rule of law," said Lee, who is also head of TAAUA.

The alliance contends in its statement that Article 9 of the University Act compels the MOE to confirm a president-elect selected by the university's selection committee.

Chang Kuo-en (張國恩), former president of National Taiwan Normal University, said that he decided to join the campaign because staying silent "in the face of political manipulation of university autonomy" will jeopardize the future of the nation.

The alliance made four demands, including one that the MOE should respect the selection of Kuan as NTU president because the selection process was conducted in accordance with related rules and regulations.

Since the MOE's veto of Kuan's appointment on April 27, a group of NTU students, NTU, and Kuan have filed separate administrative petitions with the MOE's appeals committee for the ministry's decision to be withdrawn. The case is pending.

(By Shih Hsiu-chuan)