The Increasing Proportion of External Members in the Council of the CUHK

PTU News Reporter

The Taskforce for Reviewing the Size and Composition of the Council (the Taskforce) established by the Chinese University of Hong Kong (the CUHK) has started consultation in April on the amendment of the CUHK Ordinance so that the reorganization of the Council can be implemented. The Taskforce conducted consultation based on the report of 2009 approved by the Council and all teaching staff members, students and alumni are invited to express their opinions. However, the reorganization proposal would significantly reduce the proportion of internal members of the Council and increase those appointed by Chief Executive (CE), which means that the risk of government’s intervention in the university’s governance would be increased. Fung Wai-wah, our President, has stated that the re-consultation on the report of 2009 is not a wise decicion, and hope that the CUHK can introduce a new proposal for consultation as soon as possible to meet the demands of those teaching staff, students and alumni.

The Proportion of External Members to be Reduced

In the Council of the CUHK, there are now 27 external members and 26 internal members. In the consultation proposal, the number of the external members will be decreased to 17 (68% of the total number of members of the Council) but that of the internal members will be sharply reduced to 8 (32% of the total number of members of the Council), which means the proportion of the internal members will be substantially cut. Moreover, much staff are also concerned with the proportion of the members of the Council appointed by CE, which is now 11% in Council of the CUHK. It is proposed that the percentage will be increased to 16%.

The consultation proposal aims at cutting the proportion of internal members sharply. Currently the Senate can elect three teaching staff members as members of the Council. College Assemblies of Fellows of four earliest colleges can also elect one teaching staff members to be member of the Council. However, in the current consultation proposal, the above seven seats will be merged into one. And the current seat for Pro-Vice-Chancellors and nine Deans of faculties and graduate school will also be merged into one seat for Pro-Vice-Chancellor and one for Dean respectively.

Fung Wai-wah, our President, points out that the consultation proposal has not addressed our demand that we want less members of the Council appointed by CE. Fung also adds that several years ago consultation has been conducted on this proposal. Both teaching staff and students of the CUHK refused to accept this proposal and some members of the panel on education of LegCo also had reservations to this proposal. Fung thinks that the proposal which is now put forward again will not gain much support from teaching staff, students and alumni.

Proposal far from Expectations of Staff

Chan Yin Ha, Vice President of The Chinese University of Hong Kong Employees General Union (the CUEGU) states that the proposal does not meet the expectations of colleagues of the university staff. She refers to the results of the referendum on institutional autonomy held in March of this year where 94% of staff agreed to abolish the powers of the Chief Executive in appointing members to the Council and 95% of staff agreed to increase the ratio of elected members of academic/teaching and administrative/supporting staff, postgraduate and undergraduate students in the Council. However the consultation proposal is suggesting the contrary. She stresses that for CUEGU the ratio of internal and external members in the Council should be 1:1, and the powers of the CE in appointing members to the Council should be abolished. Moreover, three LegCo members being elected members of the Council should be kept and these LegCo members should be those directly elected members, so that the public can participate in the monitoring of the university.

Let’s think through the role of CE in the Council

Helena Wong Pik-wan, ExCo member of the HKPTU and also member of the Council of the CUHK, has urged the Taskforce to look into whether the CE should still be Chancellor of the CUHK about which Wong has also asked the Taskforce to conduct a public consultation. However, she believes that the Taskforce will not support this suggestion as the Council has not reached its consensus on this. Wong earnestly hopes that the CUHK Ordinance can be amended as soon as possible so that the composition of the Council can be re-organized and more students and teaching staff directly elected by students and teaching staff can be elected members of the Council to enhance the representativeness and legitimacy of the Council. In the consultation report it is also suggested that the number of LegCo members in the Council should be reduced from three to one. Wong is worried that when there is only one seat for LegCo member, the LegCo member of pro-democratic camp will have little opportunity to serve on the Council. Wong therefore encourages the public to think through the role of LegCo member in the Council. She also agrees that the report of 2009 which is now put forward again would probably not meet the expectations of teaching staff members and students of the CUHK.

Please Give your Comment on the Report

In the consultation paper, it is also agreed that our opinions should not be limited by the report in 2009 and those suggestions made six years ago might not meet today needs. They also promise that they will consult different stakeholders before coming up any conclusions. We appeal all our members to read through the consultation document and give your comments as soon as possible, so that the reorganization of the Council can lead to the enhancement of academic freedom and institutional autonomy and address the demands of our staff, students and alumni.