Class boycott? Just get on with studying

Given the political agitations that student activists have been involved in recently, many people would not hesitate to call it political interference

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 19 January, 2016, 11:44pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 19 January, 2016, 11:44pm

Let’s play a little game of moral equivalence. Suppose the council or the administration of the University of Hong Kong decides to overhaul or abolish the student union and other student-oriented groups. What would you call that?

Given the political agitations that student activists have been involved in recently, many people would not hesitate to call it political interference.

Now, let’s turn that around.

Some HKU students have occupied the council, possibly illegally; chased and shouted down council members; voted in a fake referendum against the council’s decisions and personnel, and fought and are still fighting against the appointment of Arthur Li Kwok-cheung as the new council chairman. Some are staging a boycott of classes. Is that not interference in something they really have no business in?

Sure, I used to boycott classes too when I was an undergraduate, usually from partying too hard the night before. But I didn’t try to convince others to join me.

Even if you think the students are committed to the cause of democracy and improved governance, they are still making a mistake – what philosophers call a category mistake.

READ MORE: HKU students to boycott classes until university governing council’s structure is reviewed

I am sorry to say but not every type of human organisation is or should be run on democratic principles.

A private company is not a democracy, but essentially an autocracy. A university may teach about democracy, but it is not a democracy.

But what about academic freedom and autonomy, some ask? Exactly whose research or work duties are being interfered with? I can name one – Professor Li.

Students essentially have a limited role to play in how a university is or should be run. That’s because, contrary to the belief of some Hong Kong people that a student’s job is to protest and fight for democracy, they are actually there to study.

I just read it costs more than a quarter of a million dollars to educate an undergraduate student for one year. Assuming he or she receives no scholarship or any form of student aid, they still only pay a fifth of that for their annual tuition.

For those who want to protest or boycott instead of study, I suggest they cough up, pro rata, the taxpayer’s money they waste and give it to those who want to study.