Dozens of university professors yesterday launched a petition to protest against the Ministry of Education’s (MOE) “concern” for student protesters, demanding the ministry apologize for its implicated threats to student activists.
Representatives of the 36 university professors who signed the petition expressed grave concerns at a press conference over “the re-emergence of the White Terror” embodied in an e-mail from the ministry, which asked universities to “show concern” for students taking part in anti-media monopoly protests last week.
“We ask the ministry to stop applying inappropriate pressure in the name of discipline and to stop wrongful authoritarian implications. We also demand the ministry apologize for its oppression of freedom of speech,” National Cheng Kung University political scientist Leung Man-to (梁文韜) said.
The petition was launched based on the purpose of having higher education — to cultivate independently critical citizens — and was supporting the students’ cause, which asked the government to reject the controversial Next Media deal and safeguard freedom of speech in Taiwan, Leung said.
While Minister of Education Chiang Wei-ling (蔣偉寧) has reiterated that the e-mail was written “with good intentions” and that the ministry has never asked anyone to collect the names of student protesters, Leung said Chiang still owed the public an explanation and apology.
Fu Jen Catholic University philosophy professor Shen Ching-kai (沈清楷) said he was proud of what the students had done in two protests last week, adding that it should have been viewed as “a success story of civil society in Taiwan.”
“The students have shown self-discipline, critical thinking, organizational ability and creativity in the staging of their peaceful protests,” Shen said.
If the ministry cared about the students’ health, it should have sent staff to the protests rather than sending an e-mail after they had ended, Shen said.
Shen went on to criticize the ministry’s Student Affairs Committee, the author of the e-mail, saying that the committee is “an authoritarian legacy that should not have existed.”
Anthony Yeh (葉浩), an assistant professor at National Chengchi University, said he was deeply moved by the student-led protests and felt that “these are the students we need to keep society moving forward.”
It was also necessary for academics to step forward and support the protests to demonstrate the importance of participation and citizen engagement that they have been teaching their students, Yeh said.
“We need independent citizens and officials who dare to speak the truth, not blindly obedient people and obsequious officials. That is why we are speaking out today to support the students,” Yeh said.
The professors said they are still collecting signatures on the petition from academics.
National Taiwan University’s student association also condemned the ministry’s “authoritarian oppression of the student movement” and reaffirmed its support of students’ freedom to take part in civil movements.
Student association representative Lin Yen-yu (林彥瑜) cited sources from various universities as saying that military officers had caused panic by questioning professors and students on the matter.