NTU controversy his first priority, Yeh says

By Ann Maxon  /  Staff reporter

Fri, Jul 13, 2018 - Page 3

Minister of the Interior Yeh Jiunn-rong (葉俊榮), who is to take office as the minister of education on Monday, yesterday said that resolving the controversy surrounding the National Taiwan University (NTU) presidential election is one of his goals.

Yeh will be the third education minister to take office since the controversy arose following Kuan Chung-ming’s (管中閔) election by committee on Jan. 5.

Education ministers Wu Maw-kuen (吳茂昆) and Pan Wen-chung (潘文忠) have since resigned amid accusations that the ministry refused to approve Kuan’s appointment due to his pro-unification stance.

Yeh considers the selection of an NTU president very important and hopes to find a way to resolve the controversy, he told a news conference at the Ministry of the Interior yesterday afternoon.

“The controversy has been going on for a very long time and affected various aspects of society,” he said. “Some of the problems are structural and remain to be resolved.”

As an NTU alumnus, Yeh feels that the controversy has caused feelings of frustration and great concern among NTU students and faculty, as well as educators in general, he said.

“The issue should not be allowed to drag on. It has too great an effect on society. It must be confronted and that requires conviction, courage and vision,” he added.

While resolving the controversy would be Yeh’s short-term goal, in the long term he hopes to transform education by “rediscovering the meaning of education,” he said.

Education faces a wide variety of challenges, from a dwindling birthrate and a graying population to international competition and industrial transformation, Yeh said.

“We must reinvent education, bestow it with new meaning, evolve with time and develop new ideas,” he said.

He accepted the invitation from Premier William Lai (賴清德) to become education minister on Wednesday evening, after long deliberation and seeing that the nation’s education needs a push to confront the issues he mentioned, he said.

As Yeh tries to solve the NTU controversy, he would inevitably be scrutinized using the same standards that the ministry has applied to Kuan, National Federation of Teachers’ Unions president Chang Hsu-cheng (張旭政) said yesterday.

Whether Yeh could set down clear standards and regulations for university president selections would be a key test of his ability to lead the ministry, Chang added.

Yeh is a law professor at NTU and holds a doctorate from Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut.

He has been accused of illegally teaching in China from Dec. 19, 2011 to Jan. 15, 2012, while he worked at NTU, but has denied breaking any law on the grounds that it was a short-term academic exchange and that he was not paid for the lectures he gave.