From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
Taiwanese Christian University Responds to Student Protest
Mon, 29 Nov 2004 15:47:07 +0800
Taiwan Church News 2752, 22 to 281 November 2004
Reported by Li Hsin-ren. Trans. & rewritten by David Alexander
Last week Taiwan's mass circulation Apple Daily News reported that 480
students of Chang Jung Christian University, an agency of the Presbyterian
Church in Taiwan, had sent a protest to the Central Government's Ministry of
Education. The students had absented themselves from a mandatory beginning of
term assembly without obtaining proper excuse. Some complained that the
assembly constituted forced attendance at a religious activity. University
President Dr. Chen Ching-shen asserts that attendance at the beginning of
assembly is mandatory and that it is not religious. Protesting students are
without excuse because the school openly provides a channel for students not
wishing to attend to obtain advance permission. He did, however, say that
procedures would be reviewed.
Dr. Chen said, "The school's beginning of term assembly was on the school's
administrative calendar and had been communicated to every department. The
information of it was passed down through regular channels, along with clear
expectations that all students were to attend. It was posted on every
department's BBS so that every student had access to the information. Yet
among the 480 students who did not attend, some, upon receiving e-mail notice
of an unexcused absence, responded and claimed not to have been told of the
event. Others went to the mass media."
The school says that the beginning of term assembly is not a religious
activity. Dr. Chen emphasizes, "The opening assembly is run through the
of student affairs and is not religious." When he took the office of
university president a year ago, Dr. Chen vowed not to force students to
participate in religious activities. The school's office of Chaplains runs
many religious programmes, but they are open for students freely to attend or
According to the newspaper report some complaining students admitted,
"although this year's student and faculty beginning of term assembly had no
religious content, a school chaplain did lead in a prayer, and some people
felt uncomfortable." Dr. Chen says that the meeting was preceded by a prayer
led by a clergyman who first explained that none were required to "join him"
as he prayed.
As for the content of this year's assembly, Dr. Chen says that it mainly was
about traffic safety rules, free speech on campus, and other such topics. It
did not involve religion. In some past years there were times when the
assembly was addressed by clergy who had returned from overseas study. Some
times they even finished their speeches with altar calls. But the school no
longer sees that as appropriate.
Many students protested their unexcused absence notices. Dr. Chen promised
that the school will review procedures and, if necessary, change them. He
reported the incident and news report to the school's board of directors, to
whom he also suggested that an electronic bulletin board be installed on
campus giving constant updates of school news so that none can claim to have
According to school regulations, two unexcused absences result in reduced
marks. Dr. Chen suggests that students take advantage of the channels for
obtaining excused absences in advance of events. The school welcomes those
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