The Taiwan Higher Education Union and professors from National Kaohsiung University of Science and Technology (NKUST) yesterday urged the Ministry of Education to ensure that at least half of university council members are faculty members in non-administrative positions.
The University Act (大學法) requires that each university establish a council comprised of lecturer representatives, heads of academic affairs and administrative units, non-teaching staff and student representatives, and other members to deliberate and make decisions regarding significant university matters, the union said.
The act states that lecturer representatives must comprise at least half of the council and student representatives should make up at least one-tenth of it, the union said.
However, at NKUST, lecturer representatives only comprise about 30 percent of council members, while heads of academic affairs and administrative units make up about 52 percent, NKUST Department of Mechanical Engineering professor Hsu Quang-cherng (許光城) told a news conference in Taipei.
Hsu, who is president of the lecturers’ association at NKUST, said that this meant that most of the resolutions passed at university council meetings had already been decided at administrative meetings, with few changes able to be made.
The proportion of heads of academic affairs and administrative departments in the university council at NKUST has increased from 44.06 percent in the 2018-2019 academic year, to 47.89 percent in 2019-2020 and 52.14 percent in 2020-2021, according to data presented by Hsu.
Meanwhile, the proportion of non-managerial lecturers in the council has fallen from 39.16 percent to 34.51 percent to 30.71 percent in those respective academic years, the data showed.
This issue affects the quality of higher education, NKUST lecturers’ association vice president Lin Chi-tsan (林啟燦) said, urging university faculty nationwide to speak out on the issue, and the ministry to take it seriously.
Many issues or improvements to be made at the university cannot be given “fair, just and reasonable discussion” when lecturer representatives do not make up more than half of university council members, as is required by the University Act, NKUST lecturers’ association vice president Kang Yaw-hong (康耀鴻) said.
The issue raised by the professors at NKUST is happening at other schools too, union organization department director Lin Po-yi (林柏儀) added.
However, he said that the situation at NKUST was “particularly serious.”
“The Ministry of Education must immediately correct the situation at NKUST as a start to reforming related issues across the nation,” he said, adding that many university council meetings have become echo chambers.
If the ministry and various universities do not adopt specific measures to improve the situation, the union and its 19 chapters nationwide are to launch further protests to “restore the normal environment of university campus democracy,” the union said.
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