Hong Kong Baptist University lecturers allegedly threatened into not applying for reappointment

At least five members of staff at School of Continuing Education told to ‘give up’ positions, representatives claim

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 10 August, 2016, 11:14pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 11 August, 2016, 12:13pm

At least five lecturers at Baptist University’s School of Continuing Education have been threatened by senior staff as a means to ­persuade them not to apply for ­reappointment, staff representatives have claimed.

Educators said the move could be part of efforts to cut expenditure ahead of an anticipated ­decrease in student intake.

Assistant professor To Yiu-ming, the spokesman for the ­university’s faculty and staff union, said that between late June and mid-July the union and assistant professor Roger Wong Hoi-fung, a staff-elected member of the university’s governing council, received five or six complaints from lecturers alleging they had been instructed by the then acting dean of the school, Dr Sam Lau Shun-shun, to write saying they would not seek reappointment.

If they did not do so, they would be graded as poor in their performance appraisal or even fired, To said.

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“Apart from being a threat ... [this] represents a blatant violation of and total disrespect to the established process of personnel review in this university,” To said.

Wong gave an example of a complainant being recommended for renewal by former dean Simon Wong Chi-hon, but who was later allegedly intimidated by Lau into “giving up” the reappointment.

Wong said the lecturers were threatened by Lau directly or indirectly either via WhatsApp messages, emails or face to face. But he declined to provide evidence.

To and Wong said the lecturers targeted tended to be “outspoken”.

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Fung Wai-wah, president of the Professional Teachers’ Union and a governing council member at City University, said with falling student intakes on the horizon, such self-financing tertiary ­institutions were thinking of ways to cut expenditure.

But Fung criticised the school for what he called “bullying” ­instead of going through proper channels to achieve retrenchment.

Wong and the union have called on the university to set up a committee of inquiry to investigate the role of Lau in the matter.

A Baptist University spokesman said it was handling the complaints in accordance with the established mechanisms and had set up a panel of inquiry which would submit a report with recommendations to Roland Chin Tai-hong, the university’s president and vice-chancellor.

Lau and the School of Continuing Education could not be reached for comment at the time of writing.