Selection process for NTU president was flawed: education minister

Taipei, Education Minister Wu Maw-kuen (???) said Sunday that all evidence points to a "flawed selection process" in the controversial choice of Kuan Chung-ming (???) as president of National Taiwan University (NTU).

Speaking to the press about his ministry's decision last Friday not to confirm Kuan's appointment, Wu said the ministry has never interfered in university autonomy.

"This was a selection, not an election," Wu said, adding that the NTU selection committee was supposed to pick the best candidate to head Taiwan's top university.

"The candidate must go through detailed checks on many aspects of his career," Wu told reporters on his way to an education fair.

However, he said, all available evidence pointed to "many flaws" in the selection process, one of which was the committee's violation of its own rules regarding the critical issue of academic integrity.

He did not elaborate, but on Friday his deputy Lin Teng-chiao (???) said a conflict of interest issue was the main factor behind the education ministry's decision and he questioned whether that had been taken into consideration during the NTU selection process.

Lin offered no specifics but was believed to be referring to the fact that Kuan was an independent member on the board of directors of Taiwan Mobile during the selection period, while Taiwan Mobile Vice Chairman Richard Tsai (???) was on the NTU committee for the selection of its president.

The ministry's decision triggered widespread criticism and denunciation, with the Association of National Universities of Taiwan, for example, saying Saturday that the government should not interfere in the decisions of a university's selection committee.

Two of the candidates who were in the running before Kuan was selected as NTU president said Saturday that they would not stand again for the position.

Wang Fan-sen (???), former deputy head of Academia Sinica, did not give a reason, while former vice president of National Tsing Hua University Wu Cheng-wen (???) said he would not be willing to be involved again if the selection process was marred by controversy and outside intervention.

Asked why so few of the candidates were interested in standing again for the NTU post, Wu said it was an indication of flaws in the university's selection process.

"This shows precisely that the selection process was problematic," he said. "Otherwise, why would they refuse to do it again?"

The Association of National Universities of Taiwan has said if there are problems with the regulations, the ministry should move to have them amended, but within the current framework, a university's decision on the selection of its president should be respected.

Wu said, however, that the education ministry does respect university autonomy.

"We're asking that NTU make its president selection rules more comprehensive and well-rounded, since the current ones are problematic," he said. "In my view, a perfect selection process means fair and just rules must apply to each and every candidate."

On the question of whether the university selection process should be democratic, Wu said that "in the academic world, there is no real democracy."

On Saturday, Wu said it was the ministry's view that Kuan was not eligible to stand again for the position of NTU president since he was suspected of illegal moonlighting.

However, it is the NTU selection committee that must make that decision after a thorough review of the information provided by Kuan, Wu said.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel