Declaration of HKUSU in response to the resignation of Professor Peter Mathieson as President and Vice-Chancellor

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Professor Peter Mathieson announced his resignation through email to all members of the University two days ago, stating that he will end his term of office early in January 2018 and take up the position of Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Edinburgh. Regarding his decision to resign, Professor Mathieson never discussed or reported such matter during any HKU Council meetings. He also failed to complete his term of office till March 2019. The Union regrets and is shocked by his act of irresponsibility.

Professor Mathieson took the office in 2014 when the Umbrella Revolution took place. The President once visited students at the occupying areas and dared condemn the atrocity of the regime with reasons and rationality amid the anti-riot officers and tear gases. However, the sequence of scandals within the University and his handling only put us in much disappointment. As an educator, not only did he refuse to protect students and take their side, he even cooperated with Arthur Li, the Council Chairman, and suppressed the students’ protest with their authority during the January 25th Sassoon Incident: He took the side of the evil. Till this point of his session, he fails to fulfill his promise when he first took his office, to safeguard institutional autonomy and protect academic freedom.

As an important member of the senior management team, his performance is equally unsatisfactory. The ‘HKU Vision 2016-2025’ was only published two years after the original deadline. This report which means to address the coming ten-year development of the University yet lacks any constructive recommendations and remains shallow. When launching the HeForShe campaign for gender equality and achieving other goals including internationalisation, his measures steer away from the original principles: he demanded that the search committee must include female candidates for positions on the senior management team, violating the basic principle of meritocracy; Mainland Chinese students constitute 80% of the so-called international population, making the title of ‘the Most Internationalised University in Asia’ nothing but a phony. Besides, the President failed to handle matters harming the interest of teachers and students, including the fraudulent academic research by teaching staff, the approval of subsidy by Pro-Vice-Chancellor at his own will, and the delay of repayment from the University of Hong Kong-Shenzhen Hospital. While the reputation of our University only gets worse and worse, the President can hardly shed his responsibility and the blame on him.

With his determined resignation, we shall no longer look up to him for anything. Still, we hope that he would never again take side of the evils while following up his work in reforming the university governance with urgency, so as to ensure the smooth transition to the next President. We hereby wish that the next President would keep close contact with members of the University, safeguard our institutional autonomy, protect our academic freedom and put the interest of the teachers and students at the first place.

Recruiting the new President is of utmost importance to the development of the University. The Union shall always keep a check on the process. We hereby demand the HKU Council:
To ensure that the principles in recruiting the new President and Vice-Chancellor meet the expectation of the staff, students, alumni and other stakeholders
To follow the search and selection mechanism used in recruiting the 15th President and Vice-Chancellor in 2012, and further include representatives from Undergraduates and Postgraduates in the selection committee
To ensure the opportunities of members of the University in consulting and acquainting with the new President and Vice-Chancellor before appointment

The Hong Kong University Students’ Union
6th February 2017