Sun, Jun 12, 2005 - Page 2 News List

NTU president pick criticized

FAVORITISM?The ministry of education's selection was blasted for not reflecting the results of a university primary, and for the new president's interest in the occult

By Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTER

Following the months-long debate over the legitimacy of National Taiwan University's (NTU) presidential election process, the announcement of Lee Si-chen (李嗣涔) as the university's new president by the Ministry of Education (MOE) on Friday has sparked still more controversy. This time around, tongues are wagging about the ministry's alleged favoritism -- and Lee's personal interest in psychic phenomenons.

After the struggle to find a new president for NTU, the selection of Lee to succeed current NTU president Chen Wei-jao (陳維昭) drew criticism that the ministry ignored the result of a primary at the university which favored another candidate.

"NTU's election committee selected engineering college dean Yang Yeong-bin (楊永斌) in the university's first primary. Although the MOE enjoys the right to make the final decision, I think it is important to respect the primary result," said Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Kuan Pi-ling (管碧玲) on Friday.

In addition to calling on NTU's presidential election committee and students to speak up and fight for the university's autonomy, Kuan also urged Minister of Education Tu Cheng-sheng (杜正勝) to consider yielding more decision-making power to universities.

"It is unfortunate that the preference of the nation's most prestigious university was overlooked by the Ministry of Education. To show more respect to NTU, I urge Premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) not to approve the MOE's choice," Kuan said.

During NTU's first primary, held to narrow the field from the six presidential hopefuls in March, only Yang earned more than 50 percent of the votes and qualified as a finalist. The university then held another primary in April in which it chose Lee as a second finalist to present to the MOE -- even though he had not attracted more than 50 percent of the vote in the first primary.

In addition to the criticism that the MOE ignored the primary result at the university and chose Lee to take the post, the opposition also questioned the new president's personal interest in psychic phenomenons.

"I don't think a person who promotes psychic phenomenons and superstitious behavior should lead NTU," said NTU election committee member Yang Hsin-nan (楊信男), a professor at the Physics Department. "His election as president will seriously damage our school's reputation and encourage superstitious behavior."

Chao Ting-wei (趙挺偉), another NTU physics professor, echoed Yang's opinion.

"I don't think it is a good idea to select someone whose studies have sparked controversy to be the new president at NTU," he said.

As an engineering professor, Lee has been famous for his study of psychic phenomenons for more than 10 years. Believing that there are things that humans cannot comprehend, Lee drew himself into center of debate in 2001 when he defended a Chinese "magic doctor" Zhang Ying (張穎), who demonstrated her supposed ability to "conjure up pills out of thin air" (隔空抓藥) and treat patients with her supernatural powers during her trip to Taiwan. Rumor had it that Lee was the one who invited Zhang to Taiwan.

Lee also offered classes at NTU and outside of the university that trained students in clairvoyance. In 2002, Lee published a paper asserting that 21 out of the 138 students his team has trained since 1966 exhibited the clairvoyant ability often called the "Deva Eye" in Buddhism.

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