One job on cam­pus, an­other off?

The China Post - - COMMENTARY -

A pro­fes­sor I have never met and a TV show I’ve never watched grabbed head­lines this week, and my at­ten­tion, too. Pro­fes­sor Peng Wen-cheng of the Jour­nal­ism Depart­ment at Tai­wan Na­tional Uni­ver­sity has fallen into a caul­dron of boil­ing wa­ter be­cause of a po­lit­i­cal talk show he an­chors. Kuom­intang ( KMT) Leg­is­la­tor Alex Tsai, him­self an oc­ca­sional hockey puck of con­tro­versy, is charg­ing that pro­fes­sor Peng is de­vot­ing too much time to me­dia work out­side his aca­demic du­ties. If the man gets away with this, he re­port­edly re­marked this week, we might as well let col­lege pro­fes­sors moon­light in host­ess clubs.

Funny, you know, that he said that. I heard the pay for dish­wash­ers in some of those places, next to what my re­li­gious or­der picks up for my ser­vices in the class­room,


isn’t so bad. At my age though, I’m afraid I need my beauty sleep. Thanks any­way, sir.

The Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion (MOE) has rules on the books of course about this very prob­lem. Not rules for pro­fes­sors work­ing in “places of public en­ter­tain­ment,” ha ha. No, I mean rules about pro­fes­sors hold­ing two full-time po­si­tions, one in academia, and the other in the out­side world.

In 30 years of teach­ing, I’ve never seen a politi­cian attack a pro­fes­sor with­out a po­lit­i­cal mo­tive; I am as­sum­ing the hon­or­able Mr. Tsai not only dis­agrees with the hon­or­able Mr. Peng’s sense of ethics, but his po­lit­i­cal views as well. Hu­mor aside, this is a case wor­thy of con­tem­pla­tion.

It could well be that the pro­fes­sor’s com­mit­ment to a weekly TV show does drain him of en­ergy he owes to his stu­dents for class prepa­ra­tion and per­for­mance in class. It could be the pro­fes­sor’s fo­cus on cam­pus suf­fers as a re­sult of his de­vo­tion to his “job” off cam­pus. It is hard to deny that 8 hours for a show ev­ery week while still a full­time uni­ver­sity pro­fes­sor is ask­ing a lot of him­self.

We should view this case, how­ever, on its in­di­vid­ual mer­its. Let pro­fes­sor Peng have his day in court. Eval­u­ate his sit­u­a­tion thor­oughly and fairly, and then al­low the com­pe­tent au­thor­i­ties to reach a de­ci­sion on what should hap­pen.

Peng’s prepa­ra­tion for TV an­chor­ing may also be a form of prepa­ra­tion for his cour­ses in jour­nal­ism. His time talk­ing with and lis­ten­ing to the movers and shak­ers of po­lit­i­cal life in Tai­wan, the read­ing he does be­fore and af­ter his public re­marks, his com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills on the air may all make him a live­lier, more stim­u­lat­ing pro­fes­sor in class than his stay- on- cam­pus col­leagues.

So, his uni­ver­sity must re­view the sit­u­a­tion with care. Pro­fes­sor Peng’s stu­dents should play an ac­tive role with feed­back to ap­pro­pri­ate of­fi­cials. Some of our stu- dents are at least equal to our best and most ob­jec­tive of eval­u­a­tors.

Not long ago it was com­pletely nor­mal for chairs of even dou­ble sec­tion night di­vi­sion de­part­ments at my pri­vate uni­ver­sity ( 440 stu­dents in our evening English Depart­ment, to be clear) to not only main­tain of­fice hours and ad­min­is­ter for up to two hours a night, four nights a week, but to also han­dle full time course and com­mit­tee du­ties in their day de­part­ments. No hour cut for class loads was al­lowed for night chairs. This “sec­ond job” eas­ily de­manded more than 8 hours a week, and it was on top of a class sched­ule of 10-12 hours. The catch was that the work hap­pened on cam­pus, and thus ap­peared in­vis­i­ble. Pro­fes­sor Peng does not have that “ad­van­tage.”

Where were the leg­is­la­tors off cam­pus or of­fi­cials on cam­pus who ques­tioned the ca­pac­ity of th­ese chairs to fairly meet their stu­dents’ needs? They were nowhere in sight. They were as hard to find as lit­tle men made of green cheese who live on the far side of the moon.

When at times my other job as an evening chair came close to de­plet­ing my stores, stu­dent con­tact and the care of won­der­ful sec­re­taries, clerks, and col­leagues al­ways buoyed me. It might have been un­rec­og­nized self-masochism, but those seven years were some of the hap­pi­est days of my pro­fes­sional life.

So, both sides of the ar­gu­ment de­serve a hear­ing. Some among us are sim­ply able to work more hours than oth­ers.

Schools al­ways have a right to limit the hours em­ploy­ees de­vote to out­side ac­tiv­i­ties. Are they equally zeal­ous, I won­der, in lim­it­ing on cam­pus ex­pec­ta­tions to cre­ate a hu­mane and healthy en­vi­ron­ment for their em­ploy­ees? Fa­ther Daniel J. Bauer SVD is a priest and as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor in the English Depart­ment at Fu Jen Catholic Uni­ver­sity.

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