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HKU council controversy

Students and junior staff at the University of Hong Kong have fallen through the looking glass

Campus appears to have become an upside down world where learning takes a back seat to politicking

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 02 February, 2016, 11:51pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 02 February, 2016, 11:51pm

Some people have a one-track mind. The incoming student union president of the University of Hong Kong says one of her goals is to revamp the institute’s governing council. Althea Suen also says she will follow in the footsteps of her predecessor Billy Fung Jing-en by breaching confidentiality rules whenever she considers it is in the interests of justice and the public to do so. Umm, what is justice and public interest anyway? Perhaps the third-year social work student can enlighten us.

What this means in reality is that we can expect more rallying of students against council members – hijacking meetings, disrupting classes, and falsely detaining and harassing university personnel.

Somehow I don’t think that’s the purpose of a student union. Such groups used to help improve the quality of life on campus, organise parties, demand better amenities and more student subsidies and scholarships, and fight any fee hikes. At least that was the case when I was a student.

Since when has the HKU student union thought it was its job to revamp the decision-making council? I think it should be the other way round. But what do I know. The students are not there to learn, but to teach their elders how to do things.

Likewise, the HKU’s Academic Staff Association, run mostly by the more junior staff suffering from serious envy of their more professional and accomplished colleagues, has been busy following the lead of the student union. It tried to get members to a meeting to support the students’ class boycott. No one showed up. Even student leaders were forced to call off their boycott. As one HKU professor wrote to me, the job of the association should be to focus on matters such as promotion, tenure, contract extension, salaries, medical benefits, health and job safety.

Why does it think it should involve itself in wider politics and bring the city’s conflicts to the once tranquil campus of our oldest and most respected university?

The union and association say they are fighting for institutional autonomy and academic freedom. But these mean nothing if your school becomes too mediocre to matter. This is the real danger your school is facing. What you are doing is not helping to improve HKU’s academic standing and reputation, and will only bring more disruption and acrimony to your school.