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New education minister wants to settle NTU president dispute

2018/07/16 16:13:10

CNA file photo

Taipei, July 16 (CNA) New Education Minister Yeh Jiunn-rong (葉俊榮) said Monday that the next one to two months will be the golden period for handling a dispute over the selection of a new National Taiwan University (NTU) president and that he wants to communicate with NTU on the matter.

Yeh made the remarks after a ceremony in which he took over the post of education minister, which was left vacant by Wu Maw-kuen (吳茂昆), who resigned May 29.

Yeh said it is not good for the NTU president case to be stalled because leaving the NTU presidential vacancy unfilled for too long will harm the development of the university.

Yeh was one of five ministers to assume their new posts Monday following a partial Cabinet reshuffle.

Addressing the controversy surrounding the ministry's refusal to approve the appointment of NTU President-elect Kuan Chung-ming (管中閔), Yeh said he was appointed as education minister after a month-long vacancy because of his expertise in law and his specialized knowledge of law and administrative procedures. However, the case involves not only legal issues, and the failure to deal with the case properly could have a huge impact on the education, political sectors and broader society in Taiwan.

Yeh said the education ministry should review whether there are problems with the election system and procedures.

From the perspective of legal principles, Yeh said, the ministry has the authority to appoint a university president and it therefore should see whether there are any major flaws in the selection process and if there are indeed flaws, the ministry should exercise its authority.

Based on his knowledge of the case, Yeh said the ministry has sent a letter to NTU, asking it to restart the process to select a new president, citing flaws in the selection of Kuan as NTU president. The ministry's request was issued based on its stance of respect for university autonomy.

The next one to two months will be the golden time for dealing with the case, Yeh said, adding that NTU has retained a lawyer to settle the legal dispute involving the MOE's refusal to approve Kuan's appointment.

Noting that the legal proceedings could be time-consuming, Yeh suggested that the ministry should build mutual trust with NTU and a mode of communication to be established between the two sides to discuss the matter.

Kuan was chosen by NTU's selection committee Jan. 5 and was scheduled to take office Feb 1, but the education ministry decided April 27 not to confirm his appointment, instead asking the university to select a new president.

The ministry'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 says all such allegations have been addressed and have no impact on Kuan's qualification to serve as NTU president.

Since the education ministry's initial decision not to approve the appointment, NTU has reaffirmed its support for Kuan and with the ministry refusing to back down, a seemingly unbridgeable gap exists between the two sides.

The controversy has resulted in the resignation of two ministers of education, including Wu and and his predecessor Pan Wen-chung (潘文忠), and the post been vacant since May 29.

(By Phoenix Hsu and Evelyn Kao)