Academy apologises over selection of new drama dean

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 28 May, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 28 May, 2009, 12:00am

The Academy for Performing Arts apologised yesterday over its much-criticised process to select a new head for its drama school, but said it had believed it was possible to leave the faculty and students out of the arrangements as they already knew the two candidates.

The school was responding to complaints from more than 100 students and alumni - including leading stage and screen figures - who accused it of rushing into the choice without a proper interview and consultation. Despite the apology and explanation, the students' association said it was considering further action. The students were infuriated that the academy did not arrange for them and staff to meet the two candidates until it received a petition calling for a meeting, and that it announced the successful candidate, Tang Shu-wing, just six hours after the hastily-arranged meeting.

In a statement yesterday the academy said that, in general, the selection of a dean would include presentations by shortlisted candidates who would then answer questions from faculty and student representatives. Feedback from students and the faculty would then be considered by the selection board. But on this occasion it had initially decided that the participation of students and staff was not needed as the two candidates - head of directing and playwriting Mr Tang and head of acting Peter Jordan - were current staff. The statement said the academy had felt that 'faculty and students would have considerable prior knowledge about the two candidates', so 'the Q&A session would therefore not be needed'.

On Tuesday, a joint petition signed by more than 100 student representatives and alumni including some of the biggest names in local arts and culture circles - such as actor Anthony Wong Chau-sang, stage performer Jim Chim Sui-man, Infernal Affairs co-director Alan Mak Siu-fai and stage actress Alice Lau Nga-lai - accused the academy of improper practice in the choice of drama dean.

A global search was held at the end of March to find the replacement for current drama dean David Jiang, who will retire next month. The academy received 17 applications. Students and staff were told on April 29 to attend a meeting the next morning with the two finalists.

Fong Chun-kit, president of the drama school students' association, was disappointed by the academy's response, saying there were questions that had not been answered.

'The academy still did not explain what the criteria were for the choice of the new dean,' he said.

Mr Fong said students were considering taking further action.

The academy's director, Kevin Thompson, insisted that it valued the views of the faculty, students, alumni and professionals.