College ethics remain under study

PUBLISHED : Monday, 04 October, 1993, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 04 October, 1993, 12:00am

DURING the recent Congress for Asian and North African Studies, your paper provided a sad conversation topic for the more than 1,000 delegates to Hong Kong from every continent.

As academics, we were shocked by the treatment meted out to Dr Linda Koo of Hong Kong University's Department of Community Medicine.

Our conversations centred on two issues: the ethical culture in that department and the seeming insensitivity of the university administration.

The design of the questionnaire is the core of any survey-type research and must be the intellectual property of the designer. Anyone literate can conduct the survey.

The more serious matter, agreed by many at the congress, is that the university administration seemed to have rewarded plagiarism by promoting the guilty party to Acting Head of Department.

Vice-Chancellor Wang is legally correct in not instituting internal investigations. But justice has to be seen to be done.

The decision to appoint Dr Lam as Acting Head, normally approved by the Council and the Vice-Chancellor, must have been made after the original High Court guilty verdict. This factor has deeply disturbed the international gathering at the congress.

As the presiding officer of the conciliation service of my university, I have to admit that harassment of colleagues is a fact of life, unfortunately, when power is abused.

Fortunately the remedy is easy. Being a professor is not indicative of a good manager, Dr Koo's Professor is a case in point.

Therefore, if headships are elected by, say, all tenured academic staff, then the head will be an administrative post and with all taking turns, the temptation to abuse power will be largely eliminated.

If we are honest, the hoary excuse of professors ''providing academic leadership'' is a myth that should be consigned to the dustbin of history.

Power abuse is not restricted to Hong Kong University. Given the concern for democracy in Hong Kong, I hope Professor Wang Gungwu and other vice-chancellors will rise to the occasion and take advantage of this sad occasion and democratise their universities.

The eyes of the world, especially the Asianists and North Africanists, are watching.

And, from those delegates with whom I had discussed the matter while in Hong Kong, our fraternal support goes to Dr Linda Koo.

ADRIAN CHAN, University of New South Wales, Australia.