Tue, Aug 02, 2011 - Page 2 News List

Fears raised over school censors

RIGHTS INFRINGED?A student investigative team’s review of 155 schools found almost half have rules limiting freedom of assembly or on screening student publications

By Lin Hsiao-yun, Tsao Ming-cheng and Lee Jung-ping  /  Staff reporters

More than 70 percent of 155 colleges have implemented regulations and mechanisms to screen student publications, a move that the Rights of College Students Investigation team says may infringe on the freedom of speech, composition and publication enshrined in the Constitution.

A report published on Saturday said data gathered in person or through telephone interviews and Internet polling showed colleges had mechanisms for screening student publications, with 45 percent of the colleges in question forbidding students from freely organizing events. This was a serious infringement on basic human rights of students, the team said.

Team member Shih Yan-ting (施彥廷) cited the example of Chang Gung University’s School of Medicine, where the author of a paper was called in by the dean of the university because the paper criticized the school’s policy of cutting Internet access overnight.

Shih said a “white terror” hung over the heads of student clubs.

Screening policies on student publications makes it possible for national universities to cut club funding in the event that “unsavory” publications are released by the student councils.

The team also found that 45 percent of the colleges and universities it examined had clauses limiting students’ freedom of assembly, with violators given demerits on a sliding scale. In some instances, this could lead to expulsion, it said.

I-Shou University, Chang Gung University, National University of Kaohsiung and Tatung Institute of Technology were among the list of universities with such restrictions, the team said.

The Council of Grand Justices’ Constitutional Interpretation No. 684 said school regulations that restrict students’ freedoms should be abolished to free universities from the vestiges of martial law.

The interpretation granted students the right of administrative prosecution against the university, as stated in Article 16 of the Constitution, should the administrative punishment meted out infringe upon students’ right of education or other basic rights.

Self-regulation of universities cannot be allowed to serve as an excuse for the schools to do whatever they want behind closed doors, it said.

The team will stage a protest in front of the Ministry of Education tomorrow, it said.

The director of the ministry’s department of higher education, Ho Cho-fei (何卓飛), said the ministry respected universities’ right to self-regulation, but asked that schools respect the Constitution and the interpretations to avoid illegal and unconstitutional behavior.

In response to allegations that the schools curbing students’ freedom of expression infringed upon the Constitution, National University of Kaohsiung said only activities that could disrupt campus peace and security merited penalties. This did not mean that events could not be held or that permission was required for every event, it said.

If an event endangers peace and security, it will be censored, the school said, adding that freedom of assembly did not mean that the peace and security of others could be affected

Michael Wei (危永中), head of I-Shou’s Office of Public Affairs, said school regulations may have become outdated since they were first drafted, adding that school had received the ministry’s notice to alter its regulations in accordance with the grand justices’ interpretation.

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