Taiwan education minister-designate vows to settle NTU president dispute

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Education Minister-designate Yeh Jiunn-rong.

Education Minister-designate Yeh Jiunn-rong. (By Central News Agency)

Education Minister-designate Yeh Jiunn-rong said Thursday he will seek to resolve the dispute over the selection of a new National Taiwan University (NTU) president as quickly as possible on taking office.

Yeh made the remarks after a Cabinet reshuffle was announced earlier that day in which Yeh, the incumbent interior minister, became the new education minister, a position left vacant when Wu Maw-kuen resigned on May 29 after only 41 days in office.
Yeh is set to assume his new post on July 16.

Addressing the controversy surrounding the ministry's refusal to approve the appointment of NTU President-elect Kuan Chung-ming which prompted the resignation of Wu and his predecessor Pan Wen-chung on April 14, Yeh said the failure to resolve the problem has had a huge impact on the education sector and broader society in Taiwan. A resolution needs to be found as soon as possible, the minister-designate said.

"We must be resolute, open-minded and brave in facing the problem squarely and seeking a way out," he stressed, "We have to show the public we are able to deal with problems or difficulties and that controversy is not intractable."

Yeh said he will try to apply the best ideas from the eduction ministry, schools, government agencies and society in settling the controversy.

Chung Chia-pin, a Democratic Progressive Party lawmaker from Pingtung County, said the issue has become highly politicized, but that with his background in education Yeh will handle Kuan's case in accordance with due process.

Chung suggested the government has played it safe by appointing Yeh education minister.

Yeh received his bachelor's and master's degrees in law from NTU and earned master's and doctoral degrees in law from Yale University in the United States. He has also worked as a professor of law at NTU and is known for his scientific approach to law and policy issues.

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

The ministry's decision came after a series of allegations were made against Kuan, including plagiarism, possible conflicts of interest in the selection process, and teaching in China, which is in violation of related regulations. However, NTU says all such allegations have been addressed and have no impact on Kuan's qualification to serve as its president.

Since the Ministry of Education's initial decision to not approve the appointment, NTU has reaffirmed its support for Kuan and with the ministry refusing to back down, a seemingly unbridgeable gap exists between the two sides. (By Lee Shu-hua and Evelyn Kao)