The inability of the nation’s university graduates to sit through commencement speeches shows bad breeding and immaturity, Landis Hotel Taipei president and philanthropist Stanley Yen (嚴長壽) said on Monday.
A number of National Quemoy University graduates on Saturday last week left in the middle of National Tsing Hua University honorary professor Lee Chia-tung’s (李家同) commencement speech, prompting him to criticize the students from the stage.
The students’ early departure was later defended by National Quemoy University president Huang Chi (黃奇), who said that there were more than 1,000 attendees at the venue and the air conditioning units were inadequate.
Yen said he had given many commencement speeches and students at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are attentive and quiet during such events.
In contrast, Taiwanese students often fail to pay attention and chat among themselves, which displays their poor breeding or immaturity, he said.
It is a shame that in Taiwan, many university students fail to avail themselves of the wisdom and experience that speakers are trying to share with them, he said.
Yen said that he wrote his first book to encourage young Taiwanese when the nation’s economy was growing because he felt that they needed an incentive to work harder.
He said he wrote his second book because due to economic changes, hard work alone is no longer sufficient, and he wanted young people to see the nation and themselves from a new perspective.
Other problems are the proliferation of universities in Taiwan and graduates who have diplomas but no practical skills, he said, adding that they should try being the “guardian angels” of themselves and others.
Saturday’s incident prompted a mixture reactions from other academics.
“Lee made a speech at Quemoy University and he got angry because the graduates were milling about in the audience,” Fu Jen Catholic University philosophy professor Chou Wei-hang (周偉航) on Monday said on Facebook.
“Well, here are my humble thoughts: If your speech is bad, people are going to leave. Graduated students are like troops about to be discharged — or actually discharged troops. They could not care less about serving generals, least of all a retired general [an apparent reference to Lee’s status as an professor emeritus]. Since you have no power and no juice, whether people respect you depends on your karma, and it is nobody else’s fault if your karma is no good.”
“Honestly, I think Professor Lee Chia-tung should not let these kind of things get to him. He should keep up with the changing times,” National Taiwan University law professor Lee Mau-sheng (李茂生) said on Facebook.
Lee Mau-sheng said he has seen students dozing off, chatting or goofing around when he is giving speeches, and the teachers who invited him to such events had later apologized.
Lee Mau-sheng said that he did not make a big deal out of such occurrences and wondered if the audience’s reaction meant that his speech was boring.
He said he also gave a speech at a famous all-boys school and had to put up with two hours of raucous behavior from the students, which forced him to halt his speech many times.
Teaching at universities is not substantially different from such experiences, he said.
“In the past, university professors had a lot of clout. Now everybody can humiliate you at will. Oh, the times and the customs... If you are not going to like what is going to be said, why do you bother coming at all?” Lee Mau-sheng said.
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