I am shocked to see on TV what happened in HKU Senate room tonight.
Definitely, what the students did should be condemned, but it is also shameful for HKU. How could the students get inside the senate room? Many of the council members are well-established people in HK and they served on HKU council voluntarily (without any renumeration or benefits) for HKU development, but HKU can't even guarantee their safety despite receiving early threats from students. Who would like to serve HKU anymore? From now on, it would be very difficult to find people to serve HKU. I feel extremely sad about what happened to HKU tonight and tonight will be the darkest moment of HKU.
Peter Mathisan should be responsible for all these and should step down as HKU VC.】
Emails from Professor Francis Chin
My email to some HKU council members
I worked for HKU for 30 years and have just retired. I noticed that the HKU Council is under great political pressure to appoint Professor J Chan as HKU VP-ASR. I have great concern about HKU's autonomy. I hope that the Council can stand firm to fight against all these influences.
We should respect all Council members and trust them. As said by Leung CH, the Council Chair, we should trust that the Council is acting according to the best interest of HKU. There is no evidence (only speculation) that the Council is pressured not to appoint Prof J Chan as HKU VP, but we can witness very strong pressures from various parties to appoint him as HKU VP. As far as I know, Prof J Chan has leaked out a lot of information and his speculations to the media and now puts HKU in a very difficult position: whether to appoint him or not will definitely be seen to be yield to political pressure. If he really cares about HKU, he would withdraw his application and put the case at rest.
Based on all these, no matter how strong is his background, he should not be appointed as HKU VP because he does not have the "heart" to care for HKU. He would not be able to set the tone at the top to drive a culture change that respects the spirit of policy/procedures. Probably the Council also sees this point but didn't vote against his appointment in last Council meeting in order to give him another chance by waiting for the decision of the to-be-appointed Deputy VP. Now in view of all these influences, I suppose the Council has no choice but to vote down his appointment in the next meeting.
Professor Francis Chin
Honorary Professor of Computer Science
University of Hong Kong
Pokfulam, Hong Kong
My email to HKU convocation
I am strongly against the discussion of the request of this group of convocation members at this stage because the following procedure should be followed
1) This is a big change to HKU governance structure which exists for many years, the request does not give out the reasons for such change. This group of convocation members should elaborate the reasons, evidences and justifications for such change before any discussion by the convocation or Standing Committee of the Convocation.
2) After (1), SC needs to study the reasons, confirm the evidences and analyze the effects of the changes.
3) The rationale and understanding of the existing structure should be investigated.
4) Discussion can only proceed after knowing the pros and cons of the changes.
It is very irresponsible of the group of convocation members to request HKU Convocation to act on this important matter without providing sufficient information of their request.
Honestly, I don't want to see HK and HKU to waste our efforts on political matters instead of making HK and HKU stronger and better.
I can only second guess that the reasons for these changes is about the council's appointment the VP-ASR and also the appointment of council members by CY Leung. Note that
1) the VP-ASR is a new post at HKU (existing HR matters are handled by Provost), delaying of this appointment would have much less (or no) damages to HKU than what's described by the media. Making a wrong appointment would be more damaging.
2) CY Leung only appointed one council member, Arthur Li, to the council (the other council members were appointed before his time).
3) Chief Executive being the Chancellor and chief of the University has more role to play than appointing council members, so far, there is no evidence (only speculation) that CY interfered HKU business (even if he did, this has nothing to do with academic freedom)
4) HKU, being a publicly funded university, the government's involvement is necessary. I can't imagine if HKU is managed by her staff and students without outside monitoring, e.g., retiring age might be extended to 70 ... etc. I didn't do much research on this, but according the University of California, the composition of the Board of Regents consists of 18 members (out of 26) appointed by the Governor. Note that there are many differences between HK and California US and I don't mean to make a simple comparison.
Professor Francis Chin