Student-rights advocates yesterday rallied outside the Ministry of Education to call for a repeal of school rules that restrict students’ ability to organize and participate in demonstrations, as more than half of the nations’ universities have such rules.
“Abolish unconstitutional school rules! Penalize unconstitutional schools,” dozens of students chanted as they rallied outside the ministry’s building in Taipei, asking to meet with Minister of Education Chiang Wei-ling (蔣偉寧).
“Martial Law in Taiwan was lifted 25 years ago, but many of our college campuses are still under the reign of Martial Law,” said Chiang Yu-hsin (江昱欣), a student at National Taiwan University and a member of the nationwide Student Rights Team.
“According to our survey, 85 out of the country’s 149 universities still have school rules banning students from organizing or taking part in demonstrations — this is clearly unconstitutional, as it strips students of the right to assemble and freedom of expression as protected by the Constitution,” he said.
Chiang said that the majority of college students are above the age where one legally becomes an adult, and as such should be treated as adults and be free to enjoy every civil right as granted by the nation’s laws.
The group said that in addition to banning student demonstrations, as many as 97 percent of universities reserve the right to approve or dismiss student organizations, nearly 80 percent of the universities impose a curfew on student dorms, while 26 percent of universities hold a roll call at female student dorms at night and 120 universities censor student publications.
“While the government no longer censors publications after the Publication Act (出版法) was abolished, the rule still exists on many college campuses,” said Chang Fu-shun (張復舜), a medical student at Chang Gung University. “Two years ago, the student association at my school was told to remove certain articles from our student paper. The school threatened to penalize editors with a demerit if the articles were not removed.”
Asia University student Fan Hsuan-ang (范軒昂) said that it is time for universities to wave goodbye to these Martial Law era rules.
“The existence of these unconstitutional school rules show that school administrators still have an authoritarian mentality,” Fan said. “These rules are no longer appropriate in a democratized Taiwan and the education authority of a democracy should not allow them to exist on campuses.”
The minister met with the students at the rally, at their request. He expressed his support of the students’ calls and promised to push for a reform of school rules.
“I agree that school rules should be reformed to be more liberal and I take your petition seriously,” Chiang Wei-ling told the students. “I support the idea that school rules concerning freedom of expression should be in accordance with the Constitution.”
He added that the ministry had in fact sent out official letters to universities on Tuesday, asking them to thoroughly review their rules to see if they are constitutional.
“We will ask schools to revise rules once we hear back from them,” Chiang Wei-ling said.
“I mean it, you can hold me to my promise,” he added.