Accusing the Ministry of Education of cronyism, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus yesterday called on the ministry to uphold university autonomy and ratify the election of National Taiwan University (NTU) president-elect Kuan Chung-ming (管中閔).
Kuan was elected the university’s president on Jan. 5 and was to assume office on Feb. 1, but the ministry deferred ratification, citing three points of contention: Kuan allegedly withheld from the committee that he was then an independent member of Taiwan Mobile’s board of directors; alleged problems with the fairness of the election committee’s procedures; and questions about the legality of Kuan’s teaching position at Xiamen University.
KMT Legislator Lee Yen-hsiu (李彥秀) said it was ironic that the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which often claims that university autonomy prevents Chinese poaching of senior Taiwanese academics, is trying to block a legally elected university president from taking office.
Administrative efficiency under the DPP administration is best seen in the persecution of others, Lee said, adding that the ministry is willfully ignoring its job to oversee professional education and the development of higher education in the nation in favor of being a government hit man.
Multiple university affairs conferences have clearly backed Kuan’s election, Lee said, adding that the ministry should ratify his election and uphold university autonomy.
KMT caucus deputy secretary-general Ko Chih-en (柯志恩) said that a planned ministry task force had no legal basis under the University Act (大學法).
If established, the legally baseless task force would be in a position to counsel the ministry on decisions regarding the issue, Ko said, adding that such actions would be tantamount to the government trampling on the university’s autonomy.
Ministry Department of Personnel Director Chen Kun-yuan (陳焜元) said that a cross-agency task force on Kuan’s election was necessary, as the matter has exceeded the ministry’s jurisdiction.
In addition to information indicating that Kuan continues to teach at Xiamen University, Kuan has visited China in an official capacity while working for the government, Chen said.
The department has asked the Mainland Affairs Council and the Ministry of the Interior to assist in an assessment of the issue, Chen added.
The Ministry of Education is obligated to oversee — within reason and the law — university president elections, despite university autonomy, as stipulated by the act, Chen said.
There can be no gray area in terms of legality of the NTU president, which is a position that oversees great public interest and presides over billions of New Taiwan dollars in subsidies and grants per year, Chen said.
Should it be determined that Kuan contravened the Act Governing Relations Between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area (台灣地區與大陸地區人民關係條例) or the Classified National Security Information Protection Act (國家機密保護法), his election would be returned to the NTU election committee, Chen said.
In such a scenario, Kuan’s eligibility to lead the university must be reconsidered, as it remains unclear whether society would accept an NTU president with a history of severe legal breaches, Chen said.
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