My Take

Students at Hong Kong's Baptist University choose wrong battle

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 May, 2015, 5:01am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 May, 2015, 5:01am

Should students be concerned about who gets chosen as the head of their university, the way Hong Kong people should have the right to choose their chief executive?

That seems to be the assumption behind a group of Baptist University students who demand they be consulted and that they have a say in picking their next president. Clearly, they are the same type of people who joined the Occupy protests for universal suffrage. I am not sure the situation is the same or even comparable.

While I don't think much of student activism, being someone of a conservative nature, I do respect their right to fight for universal suffrage. But it seems to me students have no such right when it comes to picking the heads of universities. In Hong Kong and most other places, that's the business of their senates or councils, their decision-making bodies. Student representatives do have an advisory or consulting role. But to behave like they were rightful decision makers who were being denied their right to choose amounts to a usurpation of power. It's ridiculous how some students have stormed meetings and chased officials since last week at Baptist to insist their demands be met.

First, the students had no alternative candidates to offer. It's not like they had their own favourite being sidelined.

Second, as far as I can tell, they don't even object to the candidacy of Roland Chin Tai-hong for the top post. Having been the University of Hong Kong's deputy vice chancellor and provost, Professor Chin is well-qualified for the job at Baptist.

What it boils down to is that the students are unhappy because they feel they have been ignored. It used to be that teachers complained they couldn't get their students to speak up. Now, you can't get them to shut up.

From my own experience as an undergrad, you should ignore your president and the president will ignore you. And that's a good thing. In your career as an undergrad, top administrators usually have minimal impact on your life. It's those professors and scholars who teach and grade you, and the classmates who study with you - they are the ones you should cultivate relationships based on respect, friendship and learning.

The school's presidency is really a bit remote.