A petition by 25 National Taiwan University (NTU) students seeking NT$500,000 in sponsorship to finance a climb of Nanhu Mountain (南湖大山) in Taichung has sparked a public furor with its wording, with critics calling them arrogant and elitist, while a school official defended them.
The students, who are all in the school’s Leadership Development Program, published their sponsorship proposal online, detailing a 10-day plan to scale the mountain to improve their leadership and teamwork abilities.
Their NT$500,000 budget includes NT$250,000 for mountaineering equipment.
Included in the rationale for the sponsorship proposal was the sentence: “Many of us will undoubtedly play influential roles in Taiwanese society.”
Leadership Development Program deputy director Chu Shi-wei (朱士維) yesterday said there was nothing wrong with the students being confident, adding that the group was not seeking crowdfunding, but business sponsorship.
Since the program was founded in 2008, it has worked to cultivate leadership among its participants and motivate them to take charge in various fields, Chu said.
Students in the program’s honor course, entitled “Team Learning and Outdoor Leadership,” have long had to climb a major peak in Taiwan as part of their requirements, but this year they were told they would also have to raise the funds for their climb through sponsorship, Chu said.
The students had to write sponsorship proposals and collect funding within a three-month period, and they are barred from paying their own way, Chu said.
The idea of requiring the students to find corporate sponsorship was to provide them with an opportunity to directly engage with businesses and explain their proposal, Chu said.
Barring them from financing the project themselves was intended to force them to venture outside of their comfort zone and develop their communication skills, Chu said.
However, posting the proposal online drew critics who questioned why “potential leaders” had to tap social resources for their own personal needs.
“Why would anyone sponsor NTU students to climb a mountain?” one read.
An NTU animal science student surnamed Hsieh (謝) said the proposal was published online to make it easier to view, not to seek funds from the public, but that the team had invited criticism because it underestimated the accessibility of the Internet.
The criticism has proven an opportunity to clarify their ideas, Hsieh said.
“It is not necessary for us to solicit sponsorship, yet the program gives us perspective to reflect why we are worthy of investment,” she said.
An NTU bioenvironmental engineering student surnamed Chi (紀) said the school’s students already receive significant funding from the government, and the team members tried to play up their ambitions simply because they did not want to fall short of the public’s expectations.
They were not trying to be arrogant, Chi said.
Chu said that while the students’ choice of words was not perfect, the program and its members were learning, adding that the students would revise the proposal through collective decisionmaking.
While the fundraising requirement for the mountain climb will be kept this year, it is not certain if it will be part of the program’s curriculum next year, Chu said.
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