Thu, Jul 14, 2016 - Page 4 News List

Students demand representation

By Abraham Gerber  /  Staff reporter

Representatives from teacher and student groups yesterday hold banners in front of the Legislative Yuan in Taipei calling for reform of private schools.

Photo: Chiu Yen-ling, Taipei Times

Students should be entitled to representation on university boards, a group of protesters said yesterday outside the Legislative Yuan, as they demanded revisions to draft amendments to the Private School Act (私立學校法).

About a dozen representatives from groups comprising the Student Alliance for Private School Reform gathered outside the legislature’s entrance, shouting slogans that called for transparency and shared university governance.

Amendments to the law, which last month passed an initial committee review, would require schools that receive more than NT$60 million (US$1.86 million) in government subsidies to hire at least one “public interest” board member.

Activists had called for the mandatory allocation of seats to labor and student representatives as well.

Proposals have come as falling student numbers have put pressure on many private schools to close or merge, with boards likely to play a key role in the allocation of school assets if bankruptcy occurs.

“All members of the school community should have authority to participate in school board meetings,” alliance member Hsieh Yi-hung (謝毅弘) said. “Students are schools’ core and majority — why can we not participate in board meetings?”

Activists also demanded new rules requiring the publication of information such as board meeting budgets and meeting records, while also calling for new restrictions on board member terms and the proportion of family members on boards.

“In private schools, proposals have to win board approval to count, but only a few more than 10 out of the hundreds which we proposed made the cut,” said Wang Yi-wen (王宜文), a member of Tunghai University’s student council, adding that students were also denied a voice in the controversy of the board’s firing of former university president Tang Ming-jer (湯銘哲).

“The school board pulls the strings of the school administration, making decisions without having to take responsibility,” said Fu Ren Catholic University student council member Huang Tai-li (黃台禮), who also criticized her school’s board for opaque budgeting, while denying students substantial participation in decisions related to tuition fee hikes.

Taiwan Higher Education Union board director Chen Shang-chih (陳尚志) criticized the threshold subsidy requirements for appointing public interest board members under the current legislation.

“The legislation should have moved toward nationalizing schools, but has instead moved in the direction of treating them as private companies,” he said. “The idea in the bill is that the government has to ‘buy in’ to schools before it can participate in board meetings — turning public interest members into representatives of one set of investors.”

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