More legal action required to clear academia's name
The China Post news staffOn the recent matter of professors being charged with corruption, Taiwan's top education official and some of its most senior academic leaders have been urging prosecutors to act with leniency. Despite their well-meaning intentions, they are doing Taiwan's academia and its legal system a disservice.
January 8, 2013, 12:01 am TWN
The Changhua District Prosecutors Office recently indicted over a dozen professors for using false receipts to claim reimbursements. Prosecutors say more cases are likely to surface. The Taipei District Prosecutors Office is also holding its own probe. The investigation, which is looking into similar offenses, concerns as many as 100 people, including professors and their research assistants.
Echoing the explanation given by some of the indicted professors, Minister of Education Chiang Wei-ling and National Science Council Minister Cyrus Chu on Saturday called for a more flexible treatment of the professors. They argue that most of the academics made the alleged false claims not for profiteering. Rather the reasons include restraints in the reimbursement system, issues of expediency or because of a lack of awareness for related regulations.
Prosecuting such honest mistakes will lead to disproportionate punishment; such an outcome will demoralize academia and discourage talent from coming to Taiwan, Chiang and Chu said.
The ministers' high profile and over-enthusiastic appeal, however, falls flat as it borders on requesting for “get out of jail free” cards for people simply because they are elites with skill sets not easily attainable.
First, their argument is a massive overkill. Simply, it is in many ways unnecessary. According to the China Times, while prosecutors stressed that even though benign motivations for false claims don't make the claims less false, they will take into consideration the professors' contributions to their fields. Further, prosecutors will take on board the academics' remorse and the seriousness of their alleged offenses. Changhua prosecutors vowed to press for lesser sentences for any of the indicted individuals who both confessed during the investigation and later repay the money.