Newsletter Special Issue (2004)

Open Letter to Staff and Students of the University Dear colleagues and students, I wish to share with you my feelings about the course of events that took place at the forum on the restructuring of academic departments and programmes held last night (19th February) at the University Square. (1) All proposals for academic restructuring are the results of extensive consultation and repeated negotiations between the faculties/departments and University management. The departments concerned have briefed their teachers and students about the progress of discussion on many occasions, and made revisions to the proposals in response to the feedback they obtain. Time and again my colleagues and I have communicated separately with students of the affected programmes and representatives of the CUHK Student Union. It was I who initiated the forum last night to understand further the views of the students on the restructuring proposals, and to address any concerns that they might raise. A ll opinions given at the forum will certainly be considered carefully and seriously, and all relevant proposals will be accordingly fine-tuned. I am not for implementing any proposal immediately if the departments concerned are not ready. (2) At the forum, students expressed worries over the impact of budget cut on the University's academic development. Their sentiments I do share and very much appreciate. But then the government's huge fiscal deficit is the stark reality to be reckoned with, as I have repeatedly stated, and no university could or should stay uninvolved. It couldn't be further from the truth that, as vice-chancellor of The Chinese University, I have accepted 'with good grace' a 10 per cent (in actual fact 12.3 per cent) reduction in UGC subvention for 2004-5. But on the premise of helping Hong Kong to eliminate its deficit, I do agree that universities as members of a major sector of the community must shoulder their share of responsibility. The vice-chancellors of ail eight universities have thus reached a consensus on this. (3) I understand and share many of the views and concerns expressed by the students last night. Indeed the very purpose of holding the forum was to get to know what they thought and how they felt. But frankly speaking, the rough language used by some and their rude manners were more than just disappointing. The confusion and commotion at the close of the forum was also the last thing I wanted to see. In the midst of all the jostling and shouting I was not aware that anyone was trying to hand me a petition letter. Neither did I manage to take in what was happening outside the car when I was being driven away. Surely things could have been handled in a better way, and it was only afterwards that I learnt that a student and a colleague had suffered minor bruises. To them I send my sincere regards. I have also asked the Office of Student Affairs and other colleagues to follow up on their condition. Dear colleagues and students, the magnitude and ferocity of the impending budget cut is unprecedented in the 40-year history of The Chinese University. In the face of such a grave challenge, I do hope to and I certainly will work with you all, not only to preserve the University's strength in teaching and research, but also to ensure its sustainable development. Ambrose Y.C. King Vice-Chancellor 20th February 2004