Soochow University professors appearing on political talk shows were unlikely to be punished or see the extracurricular activity affect their employment or promotion.
The announcement came after Lin Chien-lung (林健隆), a professor in the private university’s English Department, staged a one-hour sit-in at the school gate to protest the proposal brought up by the university’s board of trustees on Wednesday.
The controversial proposal, which professors say infringes on their freedom of speech, is still under discussion and will be sent to Soochow’s faculty evaluation committee by September at the earliest, after it was not approved at Wednesday’s university affairs meeting.
The evaluation committee is comprised of 15 members, including a dean of academic affairs, deans of the university’s five colleges and nine faculty representatives from all departments.
The university stressed that the proposal does not target any specific professor, but rather aims to set a general rule for all Soochow teachers who appear in television or radio programs to ensure the quality of teaching.
Professors have not been the only ones unhappy about the proposal’s limitations. Soochow University has received more than 100 calls complaining about it over the past few days, the spokesman said.
The university has set up a special telephone line to record the calls, he said, urging callers to communicate with the university in a rational manner.
The proposal sparked debates over the quality of teaching and freedom of speech after the university announced it would consider imposing constraints because some professors’ strong political stances had made fund-raising more difficult for the school.
A university official cited the school’s videotape records and said that one teacher appeared on political talk shows 103 times in 144 days between last November and this April.
The records also showed that two other teachers appeared 40 times and 15 times, respectively.
The university declined to reveal names, but it is widely believed that topping the list was Hsu Yung-ming (徐永明), an assistant professor of political science who has been the most visible in complaining about the proposed measure.
Following him were Lo Chih-cheng (羅致政), also an associate professor of political science, and Lin.
Under the proposal, university teachers would be required to obtain approval from the university before taking part in more TV or radio programs if they have already appeared in such shows four times in a month.
In addition, teachers would only be allowed to join shows that are only related to their area of teaching or research expertise.
Lin, however, lambasted the university proposal saying Soochow University has not had a president restrict faculty members’ remarks made outside the school even in the Martial Law era.
“Soochow University has always supported campus freedom and encouraged professors to be active in school affairs. Why did it begin to suppress freedom of speech at this point?” he said.
Lin suggested that school officials were trying to impress university president Liu Chao-shiuan (劉召玄), who has been appointed as premier by president-elect Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九).
Lin told reporters during a sit-in in the afternoon that Liu, who will assume his post on May 20, should reject such a proposal.
Lin dismissed the university’s concern that some of the remarks made by the professors have affected the school’s reputation. Lin, however, raised the question of whether Liu’s alleged evening out with a female political talk show host on Yangmingshan could have more impact on the school’s image.
Liu, however, denied that he had an affair with the host and said that he and the woman were just discussing national matters in his car.
Describing the faculty evaluation meeting as a school apparatus for punishing teachers, Lin said that he was not worried because he has already obtained tenure and does not need any further promotion.
He, however, pointed out that the other two teachers cited do not have tenure and that the school was using this incident to threaten them by introducing such a proposal.
He also argued that Liu is a professor in chemistry and he has often made comments not associated with his area of expertise.
“Should Liu also be recorded?” he said.
Lin vowed that if the proposal was approved, he would quit his job in protest.
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