Professors back petition against school apology

By Hung Mei-hsiu and Jennifer Huang  /  Staff reporters

Fri, Dec 07, 2012 - Page 1

A petition launched by National Tsing Hua University professors on Wednesday condemning the school for apologizing for a student’s criticism of Minister of Education Chiang Wei-ling (蔣偉寧) has gathered support from more than 80 professors as of yesterday.

Tsing Hua student Chen Wei-ting (陳為廷), a co-convener of the Youth Alliance Against Media Monsters, was invited by Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers to attend a meeting of the legislature’s Education and Culture Committee on Monday to discuss an e-mail circulated by the ministry on Nov. 29, asking universities to “show concern” to students who took part in protests calling on the government to review a consortium’s application to purchase Next Media Group’s (壹傳媒集團)four media outlets in Taiwan.

During the meeting, Chen called the minister a hypocrite and a liar who does not know remorse.

The university issued a press release on Tuesday, apologizing to the minister and the public over Chen’s remarks, triggering protests from many students and netizens.

Initiated by Shen Hsiu-hua (沈秀華), a sociology professor, the petition states that the academics could not accept the school’s apology and do not understand why it had to apologize.

The statement said the school should have protested against the ministry’s e-mail to show its support for the student, rather than condemning the student.

Peng Ming-hui (彭明輝), a retired Tsing Hua professor, urged the public to listen to Chen’s statement at the meeting in full.

“It’s truly worrisome that the public only pays attention to trivial things and does not care about the bigger issues,” Peng said.

Peng said Chiang has never responded to the students’ appeals at various protests. Instead, riot police were called to the protest sites and an e-mail directed schools to “show concern” for students who took part in protests.

A petition campaign titled “Instead of Reprimanding Students, Let’s Protect Democracy” (修理學生,不如守護民主) was also launched yesterday by a number of civic groups, including Taiwan Democracy Watch and Taiwan Association for Human Rights

The petition demands that the ministry and all schools end all forms of paternalistic monitoring of students, urges the legislature to amend laws to remove all military officers from the ministry and all school levels, and calls on universities to stop kowtowing to powerful political decisionmakers and use feudal rhetoric such as “students should have manners” to discourage students from engaging in public affairs.

Tsing Hua chief secretary Chien Chen-fu (簡禎富) yesterday acknowledged that the school misjudged the situation in issuing the apology. Chien quoted university president Chen Li-chun (陳力俊) as saying that he would speak to the professors and the students before making public comments on the issue.

Additional reporting by Rachel Lin