National Tsing Hua University’s Institute of Sociology and National Taipei University’s sociology department on Saturday took the unprecedented step of calling a week-long moratorium on all classes in support of students protesting inside and outside the legislature.
“The institute is always there whenever society needs it... Our students have been fighting on the frontline for justice and for society, and they do not show even an ounce of fear in the face of violence from the state apparatus,” institute director Yao Jen-to (姚人多) said in an open letter to students.
“Our only request is that all of you try to stay safe,” Yao said, adding that normal classes would resume once the government made a “satisfactory response” to the students’ demands.
Yao issued the moratorium four days after a group of students occupied the legislative chamber in protest against the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus’ move to send the cross-strait service trade agreement directly to a second reading on Monday last week.
One of the movement’s leaders, Chen Wei-ting (陳為廷), is a student at the institute.
Yao and several professors from the institute, including Hsu Szu-chien (徐斯儉), Wu Jieh-min (吳介民) and Chen Ming-chi (陳明祺), have been rallying outside the building for the past few days.
The occupation is expected to continue, particularly after President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) reiterated his determination yesterday morning to bring into effect an “agreement that will do more good than harm” and said the legislative siege should not be tolerated.
National Taipei University’s sociology department dean Tsai Ming-Chang (蔡明璋) announced a similar moratorium in a text message to his faculty and students on Saturday.
“In light of the ongoing student-led protests against the cross-strait treaty, the department has decided to suspend all classes for the following week and will reschedule the canceled classes,” Tsai said.
“Please return to school if the government responds to the people’s call for a clause-by-clause review of the agreement sooner than expected,” Tsai said, adding that the protests, which some reports have dubbed the “Sunflower Student Movement,” was an important learning opportunity for the students.
National Tsing Hua University president Ho Cheng-Hong (賀陳弘) said that Yao’s unilateral cancellation of classes could infringe on students’ right to education.
“No supervisor of the school’s teaching units is allowed to unilaterally announce a suspension of classes,” Ho said.
Lin Yu-shan (林裕山), secretary of National Taipei University’s president’s office, said the president respected the department’s decision and would ensure that it rescheduled the canceled classes.
Minister of Education Chiang Wei-ling (蔣偉寧) said it was “inappropriate” for universities to reschedule or cancel classes, as they are obligated to safeguard students’ rights to education.
Additional reporting by Tsai Chang-sheng