Asia-Pacific Institute of Creativity (APIC) teachers and the Taiwan Higher Education Union yesterday urged the Ministry of Education to not shut down the school until its students graduate, following the resignation of its chairman and president in April.
Yi-shen Group gained control of the school’s assets totaling NT$1.6 billion (US$53.66 million at the current exchange rate) through a NT$1.5 million donation in August 2016, APIC teacher Huang Hui-chih (黃惠芝) said.
Soon after the takeover, the school’s new board, headed by Yi-shen Group chairman Huang Ping-chang (黃平璋), began terminating most of its programs, forcing students to transfer or drop out and illegally cutting teachers’ pay, she said.
In less than two years, enrollment has dropped from 3,000 students to 800, she added.
Since the school’s chairman and president resigned in April, it has suffered from a personnel shortage, Huang Hui-chih said, adding that the ceramic art program now has only one teacher with expertise in the field.
The school last month announced that it could not pay faculty salaries due to a lack of funds, and many worry that the situation will continue for several months, said APIC associate professor Tang Jen-chung (湯仁忠), who has taught at the school for 28 years.
While the majority of the students are to graduate this month, there would still be about 300 who would not graduate until next year or 2020, but the school has already arranged a meeting between teachers and its lawyer to discuss severance packages, he said.
“It is ridiculous that the school wants teachers to leave when there are still students. What will the students do without teachers? How will they complete their education?” union secretary-general Chen Cheng-liang (陳政亮) said.
“If the school must be closed down, the ministry should at least try to minimize the effects on students and teachers,” Chen said. “While students’ right to receive an education must be protected, teachers should be given some time before they are forced to leave.”
According to a 2015 ministry report to the Legislative Yuan’s Education and Culture Committee, students should be allowed to complete their degrees before a school closes, he said.
The school should keep its teachers for as long as the students need them and not try to replace them with part-time instructors, he added.
The school’s assets should be used to keep it functional, Chen said, adding that a lack of cash does not have to lead to immediate closure.
The teachers and the union urged the ministry to pressure the school into keeping teachers on until the students graduate, saying that it should take over the board if necessary.
“This case will be a test of the government’s ability to protect the rights of teachers and students, while properly managing public educational resources before it officially launches its policy on university and college closures and transformation,” Chen said.
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