Education minister moves to settle NTU president dispute

2018/07/23 20:21:06 fontsize-small fontsize-default fontsize-big
Yeh Jiunn-rong (葉俊榮/CNA file photo)

Yeh Jiunn-rong (葉俊榮/CNA file photo)

Taipei, July 23 (CNA) New Education Minister Yeh Jiunn-rong (葉俊榮) said Monday that he has met with Chen Wei-jao (陳維昭), the convener of the National Taiwan University presidential selection committee, to discuss the dispute over NTU's new choice of president.

In a radio interview, Yeh said he met with Chen for an hour and the two talked about the selection process and proposed ways to settle the issue.

He would not say, however, if one of the options is for the Ministry of Education (MOE) to finally approve the appointment of Kuan Chung-ming (管中閔) as the school's president and withdrawing a decision by Yeh's predecessor to order the school to restart the selection process.

Kuan was chosen by NTU's selection committee on Jan. 5 and scheduled to take office on Feb. 1, but the MOE decided on April 27 not to confirm his appointment, instead asking the university to restart the process to select a new president.

Kuan and four other candidates were approved by the NTU University Affairs Committee in December 2017, and there was no mention of problems by MOE representatives on the selection committee prior to the vote on Jan. 5.

But allegations immediately popped up against Kuan, who served in government when the now-opposition Kuomintang was in power from 2008 to 2016, when he was announced as president-elect.

The allegations included plagiarism, possible conflicts of interest in the selection process, teaching in China, and not following proper procedures before becoming a company's independent director.

Some felt the many accusations were part of a politically motivated campaign to block Kuan's appointment, and the university said the issues raised were all addressed and had no effect on Kuan's qualification to serve as its president.

Since the ministry's initial decision to not approve the appointment, NTU has reaffirmed its support for Kuan. But with the ministry refusing to back down, the ministry and the university have been in a standoff over the issue.

Yeh, who took over as education minister earlier this month, was asked if the country's president or premier had directed him on how and when to address the controversy.

"I was not appointed to either accept or refuse Kuan's appointment, but to solve the problem," Yeh said, adding that finding a way out of the stalemate required wisdom and goodwill.

But when Yeh listed three approaches to solving the controversial issue, approving Kuan's appointment was not one of them.

The first, he said, was restarting the selection process, which was not accepted by NTU, and the second was resorting to judicial proceedings, which could be time consuming.

Therefore, he opted for the third option -- communicating with NTU and the selection committee to try to break through the stalemate, Yeh said, adding that he has talked with several committee members, including Chen, a former NTU president.

Two education ministers, Pan Wen-chung (潘文忠) and Wu Maw-kuen (吳茂昆), have resigned over the controversy, and NTU has not named an alternative candidate for the post of president.

(By Phoenix Hsu, Lu Hsin-hui and Evelyn Kao)

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