Mon, Mar 20, 2017 - Page 3 News List

Ministry urged to name universities

‘USELESS’:The minister of education called the letters with China illegal when only one school was found to have signed them, but later backtracked, a union leader said

By Lin Hsiao-yun and William Hetherington  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

The Ministry of Education has come under criticism for not revealing the names of the schools it found to have signed agreements with Chinese institutes to censor course material.

The ministry on Friday said it concluded an investigation into universities that have signed such documents with Chinese institutions, which found that 72 of the nation’s 157 tertiary institutions have signed agreements with their Chinese counterparts since cross-strait academic exchanges began in 2005.

The documents come in a variety of formats, with some adhering to the principles of academic freedom, some promising Chinese universities that courses would not touch on political issues, and others saying that the concept of “one China, one Taiwan” would be cut from course material, the ministry said.

National Taiwan University (NTU) sociology professor Fan Yun (范雲), who launched a petition to honor academic freedom after the documents surfaced, on Saturday said that the agreements signed by the universities to censor content should be elucidated and examined.

“Is NTU one of the 72 schools? Should we just keep guessing?” Fan asked.

She said the ministry’s failure to name the schools would only cause the public to doubt the ministry’s sincerity in addressing the issue.

Fan said she was not seeking punishment for the schools, adding that regardless of who was responsible for the agreements’ contents, the documents must be made public for the protection of academic freedom.

Taiwan Higher Education Union secretary-general Chen Cheng-liang (陳政亮) said that Minister of Education Pan Wen-chung (潘文忠) earlier this month described the signing of the documents as “illegal” when Shih Hsin University was the only school known to have signed such an agreement.

The ministry had to backtrack after more schools were exposed, as it could not levy punishments against the presidents of all of the implicated schools, Chen said.

“They escalated the issue only to softly let it down,” Chen said, adding that Pan’s talk of taking action was “useless.”

Chen said the ministry harmed academic freedom in its “soft approach” to the issue, adding that the ministry, in effect, tacitly approved the universities’ actions.

It seems “any action is acceptable if it increases enrollment,” Chen said.

Chen Pang-an (陳邦安), head of student group Yellqing at Chinese Culture University in Taipei, criticized the ministry’s lack of resolve in levying punishment to the schools, saying that university presidents must be “beside themselves with joy.”

Chen Pang-an also criticized Pan for accusing the media of blowing the issue out of proportion.

“The failure to stand firm at a critical moment proves that Taiwanese officials have no courage,” Chen Pang-an said, adding that the group was disappointed in Pan and the Democratic Progressive Party.

Chen Pang-an said it is imperative that the list of universities and the content of the agreements they signed be made public, adding that the schools must be held responsible for signing the agreements.

“Why should the ministry help the schools? Did the two sides have some kind of arrangement?” Chen Pang-an asked.

Former National Tsing Hua University Students’ Association president Hsu Guangcheng (徐光成) said the details of the agreements must be made public to “allow the public to examine and discuss their contents, to understand the boundaries of student exchanges with China.”

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