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Rally urges government to observe principle of university autonomy

2018/02/21 19:23:32

Su Hung-dah (蘇宏達, second left)

Taipei, Feb. 21 (CNA) As controversy over the selection of Kuan Chung-ming (管中閔) as president of National Taiwan University (NTU) continued to simmer, about 200 people staged a rally Wednesday demanding that the government observe the principle of university autonomy.

"We are strongly opposed to political interference that has obstructed a NTU president selected through legal processes from taking office," said Chou Chung-hsi (周崇熙), a professor at NTU's School of Veterinary Medicine.

Chou led the participants, who he said were students, faculty or alumni of NTU, in chanting slogans lashing out at the government's intrusion into university autonomy.

"Keep your political hands off our campus!" "We want a president!" They shouted at the rally outside the Taipei Guest House.

Su Hung-dah (蘇宏達), a professor of political science at NTU, said he joined the rally not because he is personally in favor of Kuan but because Kuan has been legally elected. "The election was legitimate and the result ought to be respected by the government," he said.

Kuan was elected Jan. 5 to succeed Yang Pan-chyr (楊泮池) who chose not to serve another term when his first tenure expired in June last year, but Kuan has since been accused of plagiarism and conflict of interest that has cast doubt on the legitimacy of his selection.

The Ministry of Education has demanded that the allegations be cleared up before it appoints Kuan as NTU president, propelling members of the university's selection committee to call a meeting Jan. 31 in which they decided to uphold the election.

What was presented in the Jan. 31 meeting as reasons behind the selection committee's assertions about the legitimacy of the election was not convincing to the ministry.

In response to the rally, Chen Kun-yuan (陳焜元), head of the ministry's Department of Personnel, told reporters later Wednesday that the NTU's selection committee "has yet to answer the doubts" surrounding the allegation of conflict of interest.

Chen was referring to the charge that Kuan did not reveal to the selection committee that he was then an independent member of the board of directors of Taiwan Mobile, a company that has as its vice chairman Richard Tsai (蔡明興), who is also on the selection committee.

According to the minutes of the Jan. 31 meeting, members of the selection committee argued that it was public knowledge that Kuan at the time held the position in the company.

The selection committee also argued that they were unable to determine whether the election result would have been different had they known that Kuan served in the role.

"From the meeting records, we could not see whether the information being withheld had influenced its members in ways that might change the election result," Chen said. "This is the question that either NTU or the selection committee should answer."

Meanwhile, other NTU students, faculty, and alumni have criticized the selection committee for playing down the allegations against Kuan.

The petition initiated by some representatives of the NTU Affairs Council, the most crucial meeting of the university under its regulation, has recently crossed the signature threshold to demand that a special meeting be held by the council to look into the vote dispute, pending a response from the Office of the Secretariat of the university.

Asked whether the ministry is hoping that the dispute can be resolved by the NTU Affairs Council, Chen said the ministry will pay attention to how the council handles the issue.

(By Shih Hsiu-chuan)