March 20, 2007

China university sacks dean after blog rant - breaking the hidden rules

A prestigious Chinese university has fired one of its deans days after he complained about being sidelined for bold remarks on academic freedom and berated the country's higher education woes on the Internet.

Zhang Ming, dean of political sciences at Renmin University of China, posted articles detailing a row with his superior and attacking the "bureaucratization of Chinese colleges" on his well-read blog last week. Zhang was formally stripped of his post on Friday, the Southern Metropolis Daily reported on Monday.

"They told me that I should be punished for... breaking the hidden rules," the 50-year-old was quoted as saying.

Zhang remained a professor at the university and was likely to be able to continue teaching, the report said. Zhang said in a March 12 blog post that he had irritated his superior last year by telling the media that the university had withheld some dissertation subsidies from graduate students.

The superior was also angry at Zhang for speaking up for a colleague he believed was wronged by a reviewing panel whose members were selected for their official ranks instead of academic achievement, Zhang added.

The university confirmed his dismissal as dean on its Web site, but denied the allegations Zhang made on his blog. The Communist Party has kept a close watch on the Chinese intelligentsia since coming to power in 1949, by setting up party committees in all academic and educational institutions. Controls have eased since market reforms began in the 1980s, but unorthodox studies or teachings are still frowned upon.

"Universities have become an officialdom ... The over-intervention and manipulation of academia by power definitely fetters its growth," Zhang was quoted as saying.

"How is China's academia doing now? Does anybody overseas read papers written by Chinese scholars? Plagiarism and theft are rampant ... Obedient kids are being taught to be minions."

Renmin University's School of International Studies, which administers Zhang's department, dismissed his blog posts as "lies" which had "brought great pressure to the school," "victimized its faculty" and "damaged its reputation."

"Any organization has this or that problem with varying degrees. Professor Zhang made a precedent in China by whipping up the internal problem in the media," read two rare open letters on the school's Web site.

From: Scientific

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