National Taiwan University going backward on democracy: students

NTU President Kuan Chung-ming blamed for delay of students' union election

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NTU students and professors protest to call attention to the students' union election issue.

NTU students and professors protest to call attention to the students' union election issue. (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Noted for its tradition of intellectual freedom and academic excellence, National Taiwan University (NTU) has been accused of hindering its students' union election.

NTU President Kuan Chung-ming (管仲閔) has been blamed for the delay of the election and for pushing campus democracy back to where it was more than 30 years ago, when martial law was still in place, according to Liberty Times.

During the Kuomintang's (KMT) one-party martial law rule between 1949 and 1987, tight restrictions on freedom of assembly, speech, and the press were imposed. Kuan is a former KMT politician who was elected as president of the school amid controversy.

The head of the NTU students' union, Tu Chun-ching (涂峻清), said that this year, the union has decided to go back to paper-based voting instead of online voting, which was implemented three years ago, as the system kept crashing due to overload. In addition, the online system is vulnerable to hacking, monitoring, and manipulation, sparking concerns that misuse or leaks of personal information could happen, he added.

The students' union has therefore decided to conduct its election with paper ballots this year. However, it is facing difficulties since the school is allegedly giving various excuses not to provide students with lists, including privacy concerns.

Tu insisted that all the union requires are students' names, student ID numbers, college, and graduating class. He said they do not understand how this information could constitute an infringement of privacy.

Tu said the union had made a request to the school administration in September but that it did not receive a response until late November, which was a problem since the student union election had originally been slated for December.

"We are now forced to postpone the election. What a great irony that it happens under the leadership of Kuan, who vied for the post by declaring the rights to academic freedom and university autonomy," Liberty Times cited him as saying.

Two years ago, Kuan was challenged by the Ministry of Education for being elected as the school's president without due process.

NTU Professor Fan Yun (范雲) joined a protest held by the students' union on Monday (Dec. 16) and defended paper-based voting, saying that she had been elected as union head 30 years ago by paper ballot with a student list provided by the school. She said she failed to understand why this is not acceptable today.

Fan expressed her strong support for campus democracy to better present students' views through elected representatives. "The hindrance to the students' union election is pushing the campus democracy backward and is against the trend," she commented.