Dozens of National Chengchi University (NCCU) students yesterday staged a skit on campus while the school’s authorities mull scaling down educational subsidies for postgraduate students by up to 20 percent.
Surrounded by students holding posters that read: “Squandering money on elevators, saving money on educational subsidies” and “Give my subsidies back,” members from the NCCU Students Rights Promotion Association and the Seed Club splashed red-dyed water on a participant lying on the ground in protest of the school’s proposed subsidy cuts.
Lin Yi-chih (林奕志), a representative from the association, said the subsidies were originally earmarked for “award money” aimed at offering financial assistance to postgraduate students, but were later made available only to students who take up assistant positions.
“The subsidies are of grave importance to the livelihoods of each postgraduate student at the university and the school authorities should not arbitrarily make the cuts under the pretext of alleviating its financial problems,” Lin said.
Lin said the school’s practice of reaching decisions without advance notice to or consultations with students had spawned speculation that it was carrying out “black-box operations.”
Meanwhile, other students lambasted the school’s construction of a lavish “waterfront elevator” that allegedly cost as much as NT$30 million (US$1 million), which became operational last year.
They added that they used to get paid for working as assistants or general helpers, but if educational subsidies are cut their “salaries” would fall away. This would force them into doing work without getting paid, for instance when the school needs manpower to compile information for a government evaluation or needs to organize invoices for reimbursements.
They said such a scenario would not be beneficial to students, because they need their “salaries” to help pay for their studies and they need time to study or earn money, not to do volountary work.
In response, NCCU secretary-general Li Tsai-yen (李蔡彥) said that as the government had been reducing the budgets of national universities every year, the school had no choice but to scale down its total budget by 8 percent in 2011, and reduce the financial resources for its administrative and teaching divisions by 20 percent and 10 percent respectively last year.
“The school had not cut one cent from the about NT$150 million earmarked for student-related affairs over the past eight years. We are only considering reviewing the budget for educational subsidies this year because the school can no longer afford to maintain its spending on subsidies,” Li said.
Li added that the school held several symposia with students to deliberate on matters related to its financial status, and made sure that student representatives were present in meetings called to discuss major budget adjustments.
“We will guarantee that student representatives are invited to a scheduled meeting of the school’s educational fund management committee at the beginning of the next semester. While various proposed budget cuts have yet to be finalized, all students and faculty members must cut unnecessary spending,” Li said.