Discontent with University Inconsistency,
Students and Staff Gathered to Voice Dissatisfaction

PTU News Reporter

In response to the contract terminations of half-time instructors, the APSS Instructors Concern Group organized an assembly on 11th May, joined by over 100 alumni, current students and teaching staff. A laid-off instructor earlier revealed an email issued by the Department of Applied Social Sciences (hereafter as the APSS Department) of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University in 2005, guaranteeing all instructors demanded to shift from full time to half time positions by the APSS Department would not be dismissed on grounds of financial arrangements. The instructors criticized the University for breaking its words.

Contradictory Responses by the University

The instructors revealed that during a meeting with the APSS Department and Human Resources Department in April, the University explained the reason of contract termination was due to foreseen financial deficit in the coming years. Affected instructors seeked assistance at the HKPTU, and the instructors passed the email sent by the then-associate head of the APSS Department to concerned instructors dated in 2005 through HKPTU. The email explained the financial difficulties experienced by the department at time, thus resulting in the need to shift instructors from full time to half-time positions. It is also guaranteed in the email that no instructors shifted to half-time positions would be laid off due to financial arrangements in the future. Instructors affected by contract terminations had sought legal advice, deeming the guarantees made by the University to continue to be in effect.

Upon receiving the contents of the email, the University shifted lines of explanation, claiming the arrangements of assigning part-time instructors to social work practicum to be a better arrangement, further drawing examples of other institutions of assigning part-time instructors supervising social work placement. Affected instructors of the APSS Department criticized the University for inconsistency in their explanation; they deemed the University merely to seek for excuses upon realizing guarantees made in the email dated in 2005, hence drawing upon excuses other than financial arrangements in later explanations. Contradictory to the claims of the University, representatives of the APSS Instructors Concern Group further pointed out the maintenance of non-part-time instructors in supervising social work placement in other local institutions.

Speaking at the assembly, FUNG Wai-wah, president of the HKPTU pointed to the predicament of focusing on research at the expense of teaching, prominent among universities in Hong Kong. With the appointment of several professors earlier to strengthen the research abilities of the department, Fung challenged the University’s decision in appointing new research members with little to no consideration in reserving budget for the appointment of teaching staff. The recruitment of research staff at the expense of half-time instructors and teaching quality, as criticized by Fung, resulted eventually in a negative impact on students’ learning.

Meeting with the Council Chairperson by HKPTU and Pan-democrat Legislative Councillors

On the matter of contract termination of half-time instructors at the APSS Department, FUNG, IP Kin-yuen (Vice President of the HKPTU and legislative councillor), WONG Pik-wan (member of the Executive Committee of the HKPTU and Legislative Councillor) and SHIU Ka-chun (Legislative Councillor of the Social Welfare Functional Constituency), had met with CHAN Tze-ching, Council Chairman of the PolyU on 17th May. FUNG, speaking also as a social worker, deemed both part-time and half-time instructors to possess respective strength. FUNG also expressed concerns on the the University’s heavy emphasis on research, neglecting teaching duties as a result. He viewed it crucial to increase resources allocated to research duties, instead of reallocating teaching duty resources to research duties. FUNG  also expressed the demands of meeting the managerial team of the University on behalf of the Concern Group.

WONG expressed concerns in the University’s employment of teaching staff in forms of half-time and part-time instructors, resulting in teaching at various institutions in order to support their livelihood. WONG criticized the current employment terms to be placing instructors in difficult positions, making it impossible for instructors to focus on their teaching duties and depriving them of occupational protection. Revealed by SHIU, the Education Panel of the Legislative Council will meet in June, discussing the contract terminations occurring in the PolyU. He expressed anticipation for the University to resolve the conflicts in time, and to seek for solutions acceptable by both parties.

 

InIn the PTU News dated 7th May, 2018 (issue number 683), we reported that PolyU “latest annual report reporting billions of dollars of surplus in 2017”, but the correct amount of surplus is “near 400 millions“. We apologize for any inconvenience caused.