Tue, Feb 06, 2018 - Page 3 News List

Reforms to school elections sought

By Wu Po-hsuan and William Hetherington  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

The government should revise the selection process for public university presidents, as the current system is ineffective and susceptible to manipulation, several academics said yesterday.

The comments came amid controversy surrounding the election of Kuan Chung-ming (管中閔) as president of National Taiwan University (NTU).

Media reports earlier this month said that Kuan was an independent director of Taiwan Mobile, and that company vice chairman Richard Tsai (蔡明興) was a member of the university’s committee that selected the president.

Kuan has also been tarred by an allegation of plagiarism, but the university on Jan. 26 said that there was no need to formally investigate the issue, as Kuan’s conference paper was a work in progress and the conference at which it was presented was informal.

Public university presidents are chosen by vote by a selection committee, as stipulated in Article 9 of the University Act (大學法). As committee members are chosen by school faculty, critics say ambitious people could sway the results of elections by interfering with the appointment of the committee.

The selection process should be revised to have committee decisions be put to another vote at general school affairs meetings, they said.

The biggest problem in the selection of public university presidents is when a committee elects a candidate without discussing their qualifications, such as their academic ability or leadership skills, National Taiwan Ocean University president Chang Ching-fong (張清風) said.

Such a system leads to candidates “hijacking” the selection committee, Chang said.

Rounding up committee members becomes the focal point, Chang said, adding that the situation gives rise to undesirable trends and controversy.

National Tsing Hua University president Hocheng Hong (賀陳弘) decried the politicization of the issue.

The key point in the selection process is to take popular will into account, he said.

“The role involves more than handling trifling daily matters. [A university president] must lead society in seeking knowledge and developing foresight. This takes academic experience,” he said, adding that a government-style election process is not suitable for choosing a university president.

Using NTU as an example, Hochen said that the school’s departments differ in their views on the presidential election.

They cannot achieve a consensus through the meetings of a single committee, he said.

“Schools in other countries keep the selection process secret whereas in Taiwan there is complete transparency... Both approaches have their advantages; we can aim for a median approach that strikes a balance between the two,” he said.

Chang said one issue that needs to be solved is the appointment of the selection committee.

Selection committees at universities in other countries are socially just and objective, but those in Taiwan are formed internally through the universities’ school affairs meetings, he said.

The selection of committee members is therefore subject to the bias of representatives of the academic staff and the community that attend those meetings, he said.

Association of Private Universities and Colleges of Technology director-general Tang Yan-po (唐彥博) offered a different opinion, saying that while the nation’s development has become diverse in many areas, the selection of university presidents cannot become populist.

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