Thursday, November 11, 2010

Advisory on Academic Exchanges with National Cheng Kung University

Dear University Administration,

I assume you currently maintain academic exchanges with National Cheng Kung University in Tainan, Taiwan. In view of documented human rights abuses over more than ten years at that university (see the Wikipedia English-language entry for National Cheng Kung University at, unresolved to the present day, your university may wish to reconsider academic exchanges with this university, or even if continued exchanges with this university might violate ethical principles or laws, statutes, or bylaws of your university administration or the regional accreditation institute.

Certainly continued exchanges with a university that defies basic principles of human rights is not in the best interests of a university. Additionally if human rights violations are tolerated here then on what consistent basis can a university terminate exchanges with another university that also violates human rights?

In 1999, a defamatory letter was secretly circulated at several "oversight" committees to insure an illegal dismissal started in the Department of Foreign Languages. Presumably NCKU "oversight" committees were determined to exculpate their colleagues rather than protect the rights of the appellant.

After that dismissal was canceled in December 1999, the university claimed foreign teachers were not protected by the Teachers Law (patently false, as Wikipedia links show), so the case was now punitively treated as a pending hiring action instead of a canceled dismissal action, jeopardizing the teacher's employment on a new basis. This violates the principle of appeal, namely that one benefits from a favorable ruling, or why appeal?

The university subsequently held "appeal" and "review" hearings at which the secret letter was circulated, and attended hearings at the Ministry of Education. When it lost the case, it then claimed foreigners had no right to appeal!

At least in US law the legal principle of estoppel prevents such duplicity, where a legal claim contradicts a previously established legal agreement (namely, my right to appeal, or why would the university hold appeal hearings and attend them in Taipei?).

Whether estoppel is observed under Taiwan law is beside the point. The university's action violated  the basic principles of honesty and good faith. Grade school kids ("sore losers") are expected to act like this, but not university officials! If the university violates these basic principles of fair play how can it expect its students to abide by them? Or how, on that basis, can it expect to maintain academic exchanges with universities in democracies abroad?

When the university could not win at the Ministry level it then filed a lawsuit! When it lost the lawsuit it then appealed and delayed enforcing the Ministry ruling in the meantime, using the pending court appeal as a new tactic to deny retroactive contracts and reinstatement.

In fact two NCKU officials tried to intimidate me saying the university would delay the case indefinitely in the courts unless I resigned! This is AFTER I won a legal Ministry ruling based on hearings university officials attended and never contested! Apart from obvious ethical principles, this violates another legal principle of US law, that a party cannot make a claim it failed to make at the appropriate time.

After eight warning letters from the Ministry of Education (see my Human Rights blog at, the university finally complied with the Ministry ruling dated 8 January 2001 in May 2003, nearly two and a half years later! Scholars at Risk, an international human rights group now based in New York, also sent two letters.

Presumably the university thinks it's a law unto itself. This is okay if you follow higher laws (Jesus, Buddah, Confucius, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr.) but not if you ignore them. And I see no rational excuse for ignoring the constitutional laws of one's own country, assuming they don't violate higher principles (equality under the law, basic freedoms of speech, religion, assembly, etc.). Moreover, these are laws university officials never contested until they lost the case.


Richard de Canio
Formerly Associate Professor
Department of Foreign Languages and Literature
National Cheng Kung University
Tainan, Taiwan

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