CUHK Staff and Students Against Proposal of the Council’s Reorganization

PTU News Reporter

On 24 September the Taskforce for Reviewing the Size and Composition of the Council (the Taskforce) of the CUHK conducted a consultation session to collect views of teaching staff, students and alumni on the proposal of the implementation of the Council’s reorganization. On the consultation session, some attendees criticized that the new proposal hardly addressed the findings of the referendum on institutional autonomy concerning the overwhelming support for abolishing the powers of the Chief Executive in appointing members to the Council and increasing the ratio of elected members of academic/teaching and administrative/supporting staff, postgraduate and undergraduate students in the Council. Our Vice-President, Chong Yiu-kwong, who also is CUHK alumnus, criticized in the consultation session that in the new proposal there would only be 2 elected staff members as representatives in the Council and this ratio is even lower than that of other local institutions.

The CE can still appoint Council Members

In the referendum on institutional autonomy held in March, 94% of voters agreed to abolish the powers of the Chief Executive (the CE) in appointing members to the Council. However in the new consultation document the CE can still appoint 3 Council Members, which occupies one-tenth of the Council. And the Taskforce explains in the consultation document that it is “not justifiable” to go without such membership category with the University as an institution relies mainly on public funding. Our union is of the opinion that the reservation of CE-appointed members in the Council means that the risk of political intervention in academic autonomy will still persist. As “Governance in UGC-funded Higher Education Institutions in Hong Kong” released in March by the University Grants Committee puts, the Council Members appointed by the CE hardly meet the specific developmental needs of every institution. Therefore our union believes that all seats of members appointed by the CE should be abolished.

After the new consultation document was released, CUHK Employees General Union also pointed out that the CE appointing the Council Members is not the only way to show the University’s accountability to the public funding, needless to say that the very legitimacy of the CE who is elected by 1,200 people has also been challenged. Therefore CUHK Employees General Union believes that the supervision on the use of public funding will be much more legitimate if there are Council Members who are members of the Legislative Council from geographical constituencies.

Many Alumni and organizations staged a protest outside the venue of the consultation session against the new consultation document in which the powers of the CE in appointing members to the Council were still reserved. They used the balloons which rose in the air with the slogans like “Abolishing the power of the CE in appointing the Council Members” and “Referendum results are clear”.

External Members in Majority

Another issue with which we are concerned is that the ratio of external members to the number of internal members will be increased dramatically. Currently the Council of the CUHK is composed of 27 external members and 26 internal members. In the new proposal there will be 18 external members (i.e. 62% of the Council) and 11 internal members (i.e. 38% of the Council), which has upset the balance of the number of external and internal members. Moreover, only 4 internal members are elected by their respective constituencies of full-time academic staff, full-time non-academic staff, full-time undergraduate students and full-time postgraduate students and all other internal members like the Vice-Chancellor and the Provost, a Pro-Vice Chancellor, two College Head(s)/Master(s), two Deans are not directly elected. Obviously this proposal is hardly satisfied by 95% of voters supporting that the ratio of elected members of academic/teaching and administrative/supporting staff, postgraduate and undergraduate students in the Council should be increased. Fung Wai-wah, our President, pointed out that it is not reasonable that the number of external members is in overwhelming majority and the University should increase the number of internal elected members. Chong Yiu-kwong, our Vice-President, said that more seats of the Council should be reserved for the front-line staff as with reference to the current proposal, only two College Heads, one academic staff and one non-academic staff are front-line staff, and among whom only two of them are directly elected. This ratio is even lower than that of other local institutions.

Lina Yan: No Implementation without Consensus

Ms. Lina Yan, the chairlady of the Taskforce, reiterated in the consultation session that the current proposal in the consultation document was not the final one. She further assured that the Taskforce would not coercively expedite the implementation without a final consensus with other constituent groups of the University. She also said that she had put the findings of the referendum on institutional autonomy into consideration. The powers of the CE in appointing the Council Members were at last reserved when other factors had also been considered. On the scene some attendees were dissatisfied with what she said and criticized that she turned a deaf ear to the peoples’ voices.

The taskforce is now collecting views on the consultation document. Our union appeals all members to express your opinions and voice out that we don’t want the CE to appoint the Council Members again and increase the ratio of elected members of academic/teaching and administrative/supporting staff, postgraduate and undergraduate students in the Council. All members can send your opinions by email to the following email address: [email protected] or by fax at 3943 1810 on or before 7 October.

Link for downloading the consultation document: http://www.cuhk.edu.hk/council-reorganization/Report_of_Taskforce_consultation_20160909_final.pdf