National Taiwan University (NTU) students yesterday staged a demonstration on campus to protest the school’s decision to demolish several student dorms to make room for new academic research centers and more expensive housing for students.
“We were informed only last month that we have to move out of our dorm rooms because the school wants to construct new buildings for several research centers,” said Tseng Hsiang (曾翔), an NTU graduate student who lives in one of the condemned dorm halls. “As NTU students, we welcome the new facilities, but not at this cost to our welfare.”
Although the school also plans to construct new dorms, Tseng said it would cost too much to stay in the new facility. The monthly rent for one student in the current school-run dorms ranges from NT$875 to NT$2,250 including bills, depending on the type of room, while the new dorms, which will be constructed under a build-operate-transfer project run by a private firm, would cost students between NT$4,200 and NT$8,500 plus extra for bills, Tseng said, citing information provided by the Student Affairs Office.
“Graduate students who work as research assistants only make about NT$4,000 to NT$5,000 — how can we afford to stay in these new dorms?” Tseng said.
What has made the students even more upset is that the university did not involve them in the decision-making process.
“We, the students, didn’t know what the situation was — we were only told about the decision after it had been made,” Student Association president Hsu Ching-fang (?? said.
The research centers for mathematics, physics and astronomy are part of the university’s plans to boost its global ranking and make the top 100.
Graduate Institute of Building and Planning student Hsieh Sheng-yu (謝昇佑) said, judging by how the school handled the issue: “I would say that objective is an impossible dream.”
“The more important factor for improving a university’s academic status is the quality of the students, not constructing new buildings or getting new hardware,” Hsieh said. “Apparently, NTU did not consider their own students mature enough to be engaged as part of the decision-making process.”
In protest, students covered a bell tower on campus dedicated to late university president Fu Si-nian (傅斯年) with black sheeting.
“The student dorms were built by Fu because a lot of students from China had no place to stay after fleeing to Taiwan [with the Chinese Nationalist Party],” Hsu told reporters. “The NTU leadership today has insulted the spirit of care and love shown by Fu.”
An NTU official in charge of dormitory management, Hsu Huo-li (?Q), said the university would not alter its decision, but added that it would look after the students’ welfare.
“The university will hire trucks to help the students move and we aren’t forcing the [protesting] students to move into the new dorms — they’ll be allowed to stay in other inexpensive dorms run by the school,” Hsu Huo-li said.
However, Hsieh said that still didn’t solve the problem.
“We get to stay in inexpensive dorms because we protest, but the problem is still there and other students will eventually have to pay to live in the new expensive dorms,” he said.