Mon, Feb 12, 2018 - Page 3 News List

INTERVIEW: Universities need flexibility: former minister

Former minister of education Huang Jong-tsun in an interview with ‘Liberty Times’ (sister newspaper of the ‘Taipei Times’) staff reporters Liu Li-jen and Wu Po-hsuan said that a controversy over university presidents’ eligibility requirements revealed flaws in the electoral system, which needs flexibility

Liberty Times (LT): What are your thoughts on the controversies surrounding the nominations of university president candidates at National Yang Ming University, Kaohsiung Medical University, Chinese Culture University and National Taiwan University (NTU)? Is the system flawed?

Huang Jong-tsun (黃榮村): The National Yang Ming University incident is centered around the eligibility of teaching staff for the position. For example, can an associate professor become a university president?

The conflict at Kaohsiung Medical University is a tussle between the board, the school, its founder and the school’s alumni, and is not directly related to the school’s regulations on the election of university president.

Chinese Culture University’s problem was caused by its board members backing out of the process on the grounds that the chairman had not followed the university’s electoral rules.

The issue at NTU is a new sort of controversy, centered around providing information and a potential conflict of interest between the university and corporations due to the candidate’s status as an independent director at Taiwan Mobile, a situation that has not been written down in the rules for electing the university’s president.

In the aforementioned controversies there is, in some cases, an evident lack of mutual trust within the university and forces outside the university are poised to strike.

In others, the schools have made exaggerated interpretations of the procedures and demanded additional concessions, which could not be directly blamed on the rules regulating the election for a university president.

In terms of NTU, it is a new kind of controversy regarding whether a candidate has divulged sufficient information and the problem of a conflict of interest. It has never been seen before, but now that we have encountered it, we should amend the regulations to avoid such incidents.

We should devise a master plan for the development of higher education that would provide a method, or at least a general direction, to clearly separate academia, the corporate sector and politics.

LT: NTU is to convene an extraordinary university council meeting. What are your thoughts on how it should resolve the dispute?

Huang: The university should first disband the NTU president election committee. The committee was established with the authorization of the university affairs council and it is only appropriate that in light of current problems, the issue should return to the highest establishment in the university — the university affairs council. That is the spirit of university autonomy.

When the NTU president election committee should be disbanded is another question. The regulations do not give a time frame for such an event.

The regulations should have a basic principle on how to define and avoid a conflict of interest.

The NTU president election committee should be automatically disbanded the moment the university hands the name of the president-elect to the Ministry of Education. Should any controversy arise from the president-elect, the issue would then be handled by the council, and not the committee.

I suggest that when universities make such amendments to regulations regarding the election of their presidents, they should stipulate clear regulations on what sort of information nominees should provide to prevent the kind of controversial spat at NTU.

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