Initiatives 2006 - 2020
I have taken a number of initiatives over the years. Below are the non-trivial ones that I could trace as of end-2020. (Typically, the initiatives were shared with faculty at the time.)
HKUST = Hong Kong University of Science & Technology
SHSS or HSS = School of Humanities and Social Sciences (my school)
SOSC = Social Science Division (my division / department)
HUMA = Division of Humanities
I removed people’s names whenever it was relatively easy to do so and if the name didn’t seem in some way important.
2006 / 7 / 14 (14 July 2006): I start a discussion blog about SOSC and HKUST and invite colleagues to comment online. I only receive comments privately and soon morph the blog into the website https://carstenholz.people.ust.hk/HKUST-SOSC.html which is easier to post on and to maintain. I post on this website for about a year until I go on no-pay leave in 2007/08. Most of the more than a dozen articles are still relevant today (2020). This includes “For job applicants” (here, although we no longer have a departmental general office), “Fake Senate” (here), “Where have all the (foreign) professors gone?” (here, and a lot more striking today), “The great interdisciplinary fudge” (here), “Where are my privacy rights” (here, about my medical insurance records being seen/maintained by the HKUST administration, an issue that as of 2020 appears to have been addressed), and more, some of which I point out below.
2006 / 7 / 14 The dean blocks my salary advancement against unanimous (positive) decisions at the division and school level following an evaluation of my performance. This has severe and permanent consequences for me. The dean provides an invalid reason and later proves to be inconsistent. Here (“Floating salary bar review 04/05”) The division head, on orders of the dean, asks me to not request to see my review file, a right granted by Hong Kong law, and something I promptly do (allowing me to see what happened). This dean’s tenure as dean ends that summer and soon after he is rewarded with a financial package and early retirement.
Financially, the dean’s decision does lasting damage due to missing salary points through the end of my employment at HKUST. It also has a devastating impact on my home financing allowance and thereby the then not undertaken house purchase. In retrospect, the dean’s decision, made in outright violation of university rules, probably did on the order of USD 2mio damage. (Also see here.)
2006 / 11 / 2 For faculty members in SOSC, attendance at HKUST’s annual Congregation is mandatory. When former Hong Kong “chief executive” Tung Chee-hwa is to receive an honorary doctorate from my School—as “chief executive” he attempted to introduce Article 23 legislation that limits freedom of speech, if not academic freedom—I write to the Provost stating that if my attendance is indeed mandatory, I will not sit still during the Congregation. If my attendance at this Congregation is not mandatory, then I will consider attendance at the Congregation to be voluntary from now on. The Provost declares attendance at Congregation to be voluntary. Here (I did not attend this Congregation and have never attended another one; students staged a major protest at this Congregation.)
2007 / 3 / 6 I inform the division head that as member of the division review committee I cannot in good conscience evaluate a psychology candidate up for substantiation (supposedly “tenure”). I am removed from the committee. Here (not widely shared with colleagues at the time)
2007 / 4 / 13 – 2007 / 10 / 10 During my tenure as representative of SHSS to the Senate I propose to the Senate that department heads be elected by faculty. The proposal is rerouted to an administrative committee and promptly denied. (Here)
2007 / 6 / 26 As part of the division’s development of a “2020 strategic plan,” I draft a program proposal for the field of economic development (China) (final draft here). (Earlier thoughts of mine on how to develop the division are here.) The dean responds that it's too early to work on details while at the same time asking another faculty member to work out the details for the field that the dean would associate with. A draft “SHSS Strategic Plan to 2020,” dated 6 February 2008, includes as one of four “strategic directions:”
1. China’s Economic Development. The Division’s strong research competence in institutional and applied economics will be further enhanced with a more comprehensive research program focused on economic development in China. This research program may also support an initiative to introduce a more focused MA program in the field.
I have no record of any further developments and neither the “comprehensive research program focused on economic development in China” nor the “initiative to introduce a more focused MA program in the field” ever materialized. (As of late 2020 I haven’t heard of the “SHSS Strategic Plan to 2020” for probably a decade.)
2007 / 5 / 31 I conduct a SOSC faculty vote (by secret voting) on the rumored appointment of X as division head—i.e., I implement normal professional practice when HKUST management fails to do—and inform all SOSC faculty by email of the results of the vote:
we have 20 eligible faculty.
Out of the 20, I may have been unable to reach some of those on leave /
no-pay leave. Two faculty told me explicitly they do not wish to vote. The
four faculty who are/were on the search committee did not vote.
I received 10 votes.
The question was: "Please circle the answer of your choice:
Are you in favor of having [name X omitted] as next division head?
(1) Yes (2) No (3) No answer"
Of the 10 faculty who voted,
1 voted (1) Yes,
8 voted (2) No,
and 1 voted (3) No answer.
A member of the search committee later told me that the committee did not have any idea that the faculty did not favor hiring X as division head.
Earlier, when the committee requested faculty feedback, I submitted a 2-page evaluation of the headship candidates and explained why candidate X was unacceptable.
So much for the meaning of “consultation” at HKUST.
X did not join SOSC / did not become division head. The Provost in a conversation later called me a “troublemaker”—he specifically referred to I having organized this vote—for introducing normal, professional practices at HKUST.
2007 / 7 / 13 In an email to the Provost about the outcome of the 2007 merit review I argue that the message that arrives is “(i) do nothing but research in order to leave HKUST, or (ii) look for alternative sources of income support.” An exchange ensues. Nothing changes.
2007 / 7 / 13 I request that the members of the “Social Science Academic Review Committee” (appointed by the division head) be subject to confirmation though secret voting by SOSC faculty, and a similar procedure apply to the corresponding committee at the school level. Discussion ensues with division head and colleagues via email. Nothing changes.
University rules require that review committees must be confirmed by the School Board (the faculty of the School). An email from the dean’s office on 2007 / 7 / 7 contained the composition of these committees and ended with “These academic review committee memberships are now submitted to the School Board for confirmation. I am grateful if you will let me have your comments (if any) by 16 July 2007. If I do not hear from you by the said date, it will be taken that you endorse the memberships in point.” I object and never hear back, nor does my objection impact on the appointments.
As of 2020, I don’t think membership of any committee—all committee assignments being done by dean and division heads—requires any faculty consultation or confirmation.
2007 / 12 / 8 I am on no-pay leave to teach at Princeton University and complain to division head and Dean about the consistent lack of information about division matters: “I receive about ten emails a day from HKUST, informing me of a Closure of the Mini Soccer Pitch, Putonghua Proficiency Tests, Enterprise Center Concourse Works, and SOSC seminars, or asking me for my TA needs in spring. I conclude that for HKUST as well as for administrative matters in SOSC I am officially a faculty member. Yet, since end-September I have not received a single email about division meetings or strategic plan. I need to learn about SOSC job ads from friends in the U.S. who contact me.”
2008 summer My application for full professorship is denied. I am being given three reasons for the denial. One is based on false information, and the other two are inconsistent with the facts and established policies. I challenge the decision, unsuccessfully. Here
To challenge senior colleagues and HKUST management appears unacceptable at HKUST: Here are some brief notes describing my experiences of what senior faculty expect of more junior faculty at HKUST.
2008 / 9 / 15 Resignation from my position as representative of SHSS to the Senate (here). I also resign from the division academic review committee since it has twice proven irrelevant in HKUST’s review process (here).
2008 / 10-11 In response to an email from the dean listing the dean’s appointments to various committees, accompanied by the sentence “If I do not hear from you by this deadline, it will be assumed that you confirm the membership now proposed...,” I object to the appointment of a particular individual on 1 October 2008. (For background information, see 2006 / 7 / 14 above.) Lengthy communication, some involving the school faculty, and eventually the School Board, ensues (here). The particular individual is appointed.
In 2010-2013, I am on no-pay leave from HKUST:
In 2010-2012 I teach at the University of Southern California.
In 2012-2013 I visit Stanford University for a mostly self-financed year due to the eventual denial by HKUST administrators of my sabbatical leave application. The denial of my sabbatical leave application is covered in the second half of this write-up here. An email of mine to division head and dean gives some insights into the personal dependency structures enforced by HKUST management (here). The division head’s argument for the denial is “Given his repeated series of no-pay leaves, I could not recommend a sabbatical request now.” I was then granted a third year of no-pay leave.
Sometime in 2010 HKUST management sets up a course censorship committee (called something else) for centralized control over what we are teaching. The committee provides directives on course content and organization. I play along with their seemingly endless string of demands for the longest time through dozens of emails and requests to revise my courses in yet another way. There are lengthy forms to fill and lengthy explanations to give. Eventually I disengage. The courses that I had spent years to develop disappear. (Here is a bit more detail)
2013 / 9 / 5 The dean ignores a School Board decision (which he had initiated) (here). This is the last time I attend a School Board meeting. Since then, to judge by the minutes, the School Board—which must meet twice a year—has never again been asked for (or allowed) a decision; it serves as recipient of ‘work reports.’
2013 / 11 / 19 As chair of the division merit review committee I email the Provost about the severe procedural deficiencies and the farcical nature of the merit review. The Provost responds with a vacuous message. Here. The issues I raise are not addressed.
2013 / 12 / 4 – 2014 / 6 / 17 I lodge a formal grievance against the Economics Department for blocking economics PhD faculty in the SOSC from teaching courses in their field, and then a formal grievance against the President of HKUST for abusing his authority in handling the first grievance. Here The substance of my grievance is never addressed.
2013 / 12 / 11 The HKUST deans(?) share a model ‘merit review letter’ (here). I ridicule HKUST management’s mistaking professors as kindergarten children by offering my (satirical) version of a model merit review letter (here).
2013 / 12 / 11 I seek clarification from the Provost’s assistant on a vacuous message received indirectly from the Provost about the merit review process, and receive a vacuous response via the division head. Here
2014 / 1 / 20 and 2014 / 5 / 20 A 33-page “follow-up discussion from divisional visit” memorandum by the division head to Provost SHYY Wei describes faculty concerns and general divisional priorities and plans; the faculty concerns and the specific issues of economics faculty are promptly ignored by the Provost. A 21-page report by an external advisory committee (May 2014) makes a dozen recommendations for SOSC; the general recommendations and those regarding the economics discipline are promptly ignored by HKUST management.
2014 / 2 / 14 and 19 I inquire about the School Board having no rights nor duties (a fake School Board), the disappearance of the physical departmental office without faculty consultation or approval (into a school office, which also houses faculty mail boxes, to which faculty only have access during office hours), and the secret and discriminatory compensation of faculty members for teaching in the self-financing program. Here (Nothing changes except that faculty are granted access to the school office at non-office hours.)
2014 / 2 / 20 Open letter to the Provost (here, shared with all university faculty. The letter covers fake tenure, unprofessional leave practices, unprofessional sabbatical leave practices, absence of academic self-administration, salaries that fall far short in international comparisons, and underfunded retirement. I do not receive a response and the issues I raise are not addressed.
2014 / 4 / 6 The head of the Humanities Division drafts school faculty’s “voluntary” self-restrictions on sabbatical leave and the Dean calls a meeting of faculty to agree on rules on how to limit their access to sabbatical leave. Here is my response, which also covers how HKUST managers illegally (and using astoundingly illogical argumentation) rejected an earlier sabbatical leave application of mine. Management’s secret rules for “sabbatical leave”—in contradiction of the University sabbatical leave rules—are eventually imposed top-down and at the time not shared with faculty.
2014 / 2 / 6 – 4 / 24 There is an effort at division and school level to restructure the postgraduate student program. For the economics discipline in the division, I produce a proposal for a postgraduate program in economic development China. It is shared with all economists in the division and discussed by email and in personal meetings, leading to a final proposal. Here
The division head commented at the time “I agree with [one faculty member’s statement] that we probably don't have the in-house capacity to deliver this on our own at this point. The EVPP [Executive Vice-President & Provost] seems open to cluster hiring proposals that span more than one department/division/school. It's probably worth talking about this more internally among the economists.”
I never hear of the proposal again and there is no restructuring involving the economics discipline in the division.
2014 / 6 / 18 Suggestions for improvements of the “merit review” process, identification of inconsistencies, how a review is done at another university, my own salary information, and how I am being financially penalized (here). Supporting files: citations, personal benchmarking, salary history, and CV.
2014 / 10 / 22 Response to division head’s “Merit Salary Review 2014” letter (the annual report card the division head hands to each child). I point out, among others, that the School’s and the Division’s “priorities” listed in the letter are neither the outcome of, nor have been endorsed by a School Board decision or division meeting (i.e., they are the Dean’s and the Division Head’s priorities), and that making “the development of more collaborative faculty research” a priority means that HKUST management chooses the type of research to be favored at HKUST, which also happens to be the type of research conducted by the dean and those he brought with him. Here
2014 / 10 / 23 I lodge a grievance against the Provost and the Dean of SHSS about a system design failure in the merit review that directly impacts on how I am being evaluated (here): A merit review committee cannot reasonably review the service of a colleague when service is solely the outcome of division head and dean orders of who is to do what (all “service” assignments within HKUST are made top-down). Since I served on every committee I was asked to serve on (and did so perfectly well), I have fulfilled the requirement for “excellent performance,” which, however, was not the evaluation that my service received. The President rejects my grievance (here) with the claim that it does not fall “within the scope of the Staff Grievance Procedure.” I disagree. I lodge a grievance with the Council Chair against the President for violating the Staff Grievance Procedures (here), and the Council Chair sides with the President (here). The system failure that I point out is never addressed; it remains a convenient channel for manager’s cronyism.
I conclude that justice cannot be had within HKUST since even the Staff Grievance Procedures are easily side-stepped by the power holders with the simple, evidence-free assertion that my grievance does not fall under the Staff Grievance Procedures (now done twice). The next step would be the judicial system outside HKUST. That hurdle is high since the playing field is so uneven: limited resources at my end, virtually unlimited public funds (university resources) for the President and the Council Chair.
I would have expected that academics can recognize blatantly illogical arguments—if person X forces person Y to do (or not to do) Z, whether or not to do Z is not a choice of person Y—but time and again HKUST managers and my colleagues on review committees prove impervious to logic. Strict obedience to commands (in the face of implicit repercussions otherwise) trumps logic.
2015 / 10 / 13 Dean James Lee decides my 2015 salary adjustment to be below the inflation rate, below wage increases in professional and business services in Hong Kong, and far below the price increases in a (for me) representative basket of goods and services. Using historical data, my salary increases have been far below the increases in the government’s funding of HKUST. Here Supporting files: historical salary series (Excel file), annual activities report, CV.
2015 / 10 / 13 Response to division head’s “Merit Salary Review 2015” letter. In response to the division head’s “we encourage you to submit papers completed during your sabbatical leave to international journals that are highly ranked,” I argue that I either already do so (in a particular Chinese economy journal) and therefore deserve an evaluation of my research as “excellent,” or, should the division head have top general economics journals in mind, that the division head is inconsistent because I am not allowed to teach economics undergraduate courses, it is practically impossible to teach economics graduate courses, and the salary I am being paid is that of a sociologist rather than that of an economist (which should be 68-88% higher, as I document). Here, and salary comparison here I do not receive a response.
2015 / 10 / 13 Scathing commentary on how faculty members are being duped in the “merit salary review:” A lifetime of real salary cuts, zero transparency and accountability on salary adjustments, extreme salary favoritism of management’s select few, and vastly inferior treatment of HKUST faculty compared to civil servants (whose pay rises determine the government’s adjustment of HKUST’s salary budget). Here Supporting files: news item re salary favoritism (here) and correspondence with Hong Kong government official explaining the salary advancement rules for civil servants (here)
2015 / 11 / 9 The Division Merit and Salary Review Committee (under my chairmanship) draws up faculty performance evaluation guidelines. Here The guidelines are presented at a division meeting on 29 February 2016. The division meeting decides: “The faculty recommends that the review committee not spend an enormous amount of effort trying to make fine distinctions, but that if performance is broadly considered credible, all faculty receive the recommendation for full GPA [government pay adjustment].”
The guidelines are a 8-page document delving into the details of the procedures and the content of a merit review in SOSC, and laying out unresolved issues. The guidelines describe the total absence of transparency and accountability in the review process as well as what is needed to turn the review process into a fair process. Parts of the guidelines reflect the difficulty of agreeing among committee members on a set of content guidelines in a division that incorporates multiple disciplines and is managed exclusively top-down (by management).
The guidelines include, among others: The “guidelines should not apply to any annual adjustment to faculty salaries equal to or less than the annual percentage change in the salary of civil servants. These guidelines should only apply to an annual adjustment to faculty salaries exceeding the annual percentage change in the salary of civil servants.” (The practice at HKUST being that faculty members receive half the annual adjustment automatically, with the remainder distributed by the dean [or possibly used for other purposes by the administration]. Civil servants, apart from the (full) annual automatic adjustment, additionally enjoy performance-based, seniority-based, and promotion-based salary increases.)
The division head did not put the guidelines to the division meeting for adoption and the guidelines are never heard of again after the spring semester 2016. None of the issues raised in the guidelines is addressed.
When drafting our guidelines, we were presented by management with an exemplary set of guidelines drafted by another department at HKUST (here), which strangely resemble mainland China’s Communist cadre evaluation system.
2015 / 12 / 7 I ask Dean James Lee for a raise with the argument that (1) my real salary today is less than what I earned as Assistant Professor at HKUST 13 years earlier, and once my home financing allowance ends it will be less than what it was when I started at HKUST as fresh PhD in 1995; (2) my HKUST retirement funds upon retirement won’t even buy one-third of the 700 square feet apartment I am renting; (3) HKUST management explicitly evaluates me as economist but does not pay me as economist; (4) a direct faculty performance and salary comparison with his repeat co-author (who he hired) suggests I am significantly underpaid; (5) three further faculty comparisons suggest that I am significantly underpaid. Here (the request is shared with School faculty on 30 October 2016). I do not receive a response.
2016 / 6 / 4 What HKUST management does when a rule-based merit review outcome isn’t to their liking: The Division Merit and Salary Review Committee (under my chairmanship) conducts its annual evaluation of faculty performance in accordance with the division faculty’s earlier decision (2015/11/9). Dean James Lee doesn’t like the evaluation and asks for a new evaluation. I refuse to disobey the division faculty’s decision and I refuse to ignore the university’s review procedures. The division head brings about a new division decision in non-secret voting and when I refuse to reconvene the division review committee—university procedures do not foresee a second review, nor do they authorize anyone to request, let alone require a second review—installs a new committee. The new committee produces the outcome desired by the dean. Here is the complete documentation in chronological order. The new division decision is never implemented—the faculty has been tricked—and only serves to rationalize this one instance of a second division merit review with an outcome to the dean’s liking.
2016 / 10 / 30 Dean James Lee’s decision on my 2016 salary adjustment completely ignores the decision of the division meeting of 9 November 2015 as well as the new decision by SOSC faculty of 4 June 2016 (as do all subsequent salary adjustments). The dean gives me a 0.9% real salary cut and signals “the better you perform, the more we cut your real salary.” My documentation and darkly satirical commentary is here. Supporting files: historical salary series, my request to the dean for a raise, annual activities report, CV, division merit review guidelines (as above).
2017 / 4 / 19 I apply for the (SHSS) deanship. Here. A person from the headhunting agency talks to me and that’s the end of it. I am not interviewed by the search committee, let alone given the chance to present to the school faculty what I have to offer. Supporting file: CV
2018 / 1 / 26 Dean James Lee decides to in my 2017 salary adjustment revise my real salary down by 0.4%. Here is my salary documentation and scathing commentary on the systematic destruction of academia by Dean James Lee and Provost SHYY Wei (with my commentary going beyond the endless real salary cuts).
2018 / 2 / 12 I wonder why HKUST completely ignores the elaborate research review (with outside consultants!) it conducts for the government’s mandatory Research Assessment Exercise when it comes to assessing faculty performance internally. (I don’t receive an answer.) In my experience, performing well in the Research Assessment Exercise leads to a salary cut, so I wonder if I conversely will get a salary increase if I fare poorly in the Research Assessment Exercise (and more, including how HKUST benefits in multiple dimensions from I self-financing a research year and managers then cut my salary in return). Here I do not receive a response.
2018 / 3 / 14 The HKUST Business School systematically blocks students from taking my course, which has implications for me (with specific enrollment numbers in my courses having certain implications), implications for the division and school (given Provost SHYY Wei’s farcical budget inventions that include student numbers, which he authorizes the Business School to take away from us), and proves the Economics Department and President Tony Chan liars. Here is the documentation and my scathing commentary. The supposed agreement between the Economics Department and SOSC—which President Tony Chan earlier claimed resolved my grievance (2013 / 12 / 4 – 2014 / 6 / 17 above)—includes co-listing of courses. The moment I, rather than another faculty member who has a joint appointment in the Economics Department and SOSC, teach the course SOSC 4260, the co-listing is removed (here). The issue is never addressed.
2018 / 3(?) A colleague demonstrates HKUST management’s “budget” argument to be absurd. The colleague assigns responsibility for the newly announced (fabricated) budget deficit to those who handled the (confidential) budget (never shared with faculty), and shows the logical inconsistency of what HKUST management requests of faculty to supposedly address the (fabricated) budget deficit. I am not authorized to share my colleague’s write-up, one of many write-ups by a number of colleagues on a number of issues over time. (As usual, speaking up has no effect other than to invite repercussions.)
2018 / 9 / 3 Fake School Board meetings and fake budget deficit. I invite colleagues not to go to the fake School Board meeting—an institution endowed with zero rights and duties, where the dean freely ignores School Board decisions—and provide a scathing commentary on HKUST management’s budget deficit lie: it’s an arbitrarily fabricated number; the salary budget cannot (given the government’s budget practices) be in deficit; HKUST management’s new requirements (justified by the fabricated “budget deficit”) penalize faculty members for decisions outside their control (made by HKUST management); HKUST management shirks responsibility for its decisions by arbitrarily (and falsely) assigning authorship to institutions that didn’t make these decisions; and the “budget deficit” argument is illogical (HKUST management does not seem to understand how financial accounting works). I conclude that the “budget deficit” is “a simple way for Shyy Wei to terrorize faculty” and I “question the mental sanity and the qualification to work in academia of Provost Shyy Wei and Dean James Lee.” Here I do not receive a response. (On the irrelevance of School Board decisions see here.)
2018 / 9 / 3 Questioning the delineated uses of the faculty development fund: A factual exchange with the division head (and, in the first instance, division faculty) about research funding. Here. Noteworthy: (1) Within HKUST, faculty development funds are allocated to faculty members not based on some underlying (say, research) argument but arbitrarily, following practices established (probably arbitrarily) a long time ago (nobody remembers any rationale). This can have funny consequences: In 2019/20 and 2020/21, faculty members continue to be allocated a HKD 7,500 “Research Travel/Duty Trip Fund” (usable only for travel, though not enough for an overseas conference trip to begin with) while the university has an absolute ban on travel in place. I.e., HKUST administrators allocate funds to me and at the same time force me to forfeit them. (2) HKUST management is all about making money through research grants, even if that hurts research; i.e., research performance becomes irrelevant given the overwhelming pressure to make money for HKUST managers. Nothing changes.
2018 / 9 / 10 Provost SHYY Wei’s salary budget: Yet more scathing commentary on how the Provost’s salary budget farce fails basic logic. Here (I do not receive a response.) The fact that colleagues at a university are willing to accept and work with obvious fabrications gives inklings of how totalitarian regimes succeed.
2018 / 10 / 11 Dean Kellee Tsai decides to in my 2018 salary adjustment raise my real salary by 0.65%, an adjustment still below the salary increases of civil servants and private sector employees in Hong Kong (with at least civil servants additionally enjoying annual salary rank advancements, seniority pay advancements, and possibly a promotion). I compare my real salary over time (no better off than 23 year ago when I started at HKUST as Assistant Professor) and show the discrimination I am experiencing in a cross-faculty comparison. I attach a document showing HKUST management’s rank discrimination against me. I share credible information (for which I don’t have 100% evidence): “Our school, unlike the other three schools, some years ago decided that the SHSS will not switch to the provost’s ‘cap and top-up’ procedure — salaries are capped but the school can then freely top up — because a couple of people in SHSS have such high salaries that they would be hurt by a cap.” (It looks like those couple people happen to be “the school.”)” I was never informed, let alone part of such a decision. Here Supporting documents: my salary development (xlsx), faculty performance comparison
2018 / 12 / 3 “The >Gleichschaltung< of the Hong Kong University of Science & Technology” (here). Article of 22 pages length. Abstract: “Gleichschaltung” is a term used in 1930s Germany to denote the process of establishing totalitarian control over all aspects of society. The term has since been used in other contexts and is applied here to the case of a university in Hong Kong, where the presence of the Chinese “Communist” “Party” and its effect on academia are increasingly felt. The paper clarifies the meaning of “Gleichschaltung” and its relevance to academia, examines instances of Gleichschaltung at the Hong Kong University of Science & Technology, and elaborates on the ease with which Gleichschaltung can be (and has been) implemented at the Hong Kong University of Science & Technology.
2018 / 12 / 10 Response to division head’s “Merit Salary Review 2018” letter. Here Among others: What is presented as School priorities has never been decided by the School faculty (i.e., we are simply being given orders by HKUST management which pretends its decisions are faculty’s decisions) and no rationale is being given (let alone that this is in any way oriented towards research and teaching performance). Priorities are set such that the highest-paid faculty / managers look good. I show that HKUST management can’t add up one plus one—I am being presented with a three-year evaluation of my performance that cannot possibly be consistent with my previous two years’ evaluations—and thus constitutes a (management) fabrication devoid of the logic that supposedly underlies the evaluation: Management’s claimed (published) review “rules” are pure pretense. Supporting document: The division head’s merit review letter (here).
2019 / 3 / 25 A 10-page report by an external advisory committee makes eight recommendations for SHSS, which, except for the cross-disciplinary themes that have been management’s preoccupation for a long time, are promptly ignored by HKUST management.
2019 / 6 / 6 Provost Lionel Ni appoints a committee to conduct an internal review of SHSS to “assist the new leadership of the School and the senior management in evaluating SHSS’s effectiveness, identifying new possibilities, and developing its strategic plans” (here). The committee presents three substantive slides with 16 bulleted theme points (that do not convey findings or recommendations) at the School Board meeting on 5 September 2019 (which I do not attend, see entry of 2013 / 9 / 5). The minutes provide no further elaboration; they report eight disconnected faculty comments. The Provost’s announcement mentions that ”it is expected that the Committee will consult broadly within SHSS” and that “the findings of the internal review will be shared with colleagues of SHSS in a written report [...]”; I was not consulted and have not received a written report.
A dean’s email to SHSS faculty of 9 September 2021 includes the passage “we already had three external reviews last year.” I assume one of these is the item 2019 / 3 / 25 and have no knowledge of the other two.
2019 / 11 / 26 Faculty consultation on management’s definition of research active/inactive. My scathing commentary is here. I conclude “The requirements are alien to academia, they are against freedom of research, and ultimately constitute censorship of research methods / approaches. They reduce the scope for research and eliminate diversity.” My comment has no impact on management’s adoption of their (“proposed”) criteria for defining research active vs. research inactive. A year later, Provost Lionel Ni discards the distinction of research active vs. research inactive in favor of even more destructive measures (see 2020/12/23 below).
2019 / 12 / 19 Dean Kellee Tsai decides to in my 2019 salary adjustment raise my real salary by 2.1%, an adjustment still below the salary increases of civil servants and private sector employees in Hong Kong (with at least civil servants additionally enjoying annual salary rank advancements, seniority pay advancements, and possibly a promotion). I document another facet of the fake merit review exercise: a quota system for salary increases? Here I include a link to a webpage (here) with documentation on, in my case, (1) the severe underfunding of the HKUST retirement scheme (the general case I made later, here), (2) my salary request of 2018 (my current salary is not a living wage, and I am being heavily discriminated against in faculty comparisons), and (3) my particular housing situation (added later). The following year, in 2020, salaries are frozen, i.e., the general pay adjustment exercise does not happen, though the dean may still make discretionary adjustments.
2020 / 1 / 31 I inquire about sabbatical leave from the division head and the Human Resources Office and hear back from the division head (only, here), who attaches a document that provides evidence that HKUST management has abolished sabbatical leave (here, “Operational Guidelines”). The Council has not abolished it. The term “sabbatical leave” is now used to describe condensing one’s teaching such as to create teaching-free semesters (pp. 6 and 10 of the pdf, not the page numbering at the bottom of the pages).
2020 / 4 / 16 Following an online faculty forum on 16 April 2020 at which my typed-in (“chat”) questions are ignored, I email the Provost with my questions about the HKUST Guangzhou campus. Here. I do not receive a response.
2020 / 6 / 25 “HKUST Guangzhou Campus: A Critique” (here). Article of 15 pages length. Abstract: At an online faculty forum on 16 April 2020 the management of Hong Kong University of Science & Technology (HKUST) provided an “update on the academic development” of a new HKUST Guangzhou campus. Similar information is publicly available at https://gz.ust.hk/. Questions arise about the motivation for the new campus, the benefits for HKUST, the academic safeguards, and exit strategies. This article shares the author’s observations as a HKUST faculty member. It touches upon the bigger issues of changing university management practices, self-censorship and academic freedom, and academia under a totalitarian regime.
2020 / 7 / 31 In an email about grant applications, an Associate Dean refers to the school’s research active/inactive policy, which, however, has never been shared with School faculty. I request a copy of the policy. (Associate Dean’s email with passage highlighted, and my request, here.) The dean’s office eventually produces a formal document that is shared with school faculty (cover email with dubious truthfulness of third paragraph here, policy document here). On 22 September 2020, I seek further clarification and receive it, here. A few months later, Provost Lionel Ni discards the distinction of research active vs. research inactive in favor of even more destructive measures (see 2020/12/23 below).
2020 / 9 / 3 The division head publishes an ‘Opinion’ in the South China Morning Post titled “Hong Kong’s academic freedom is perfectly safe.” I write a lengthy response (here), which, in quite different form, is published in the Hong Kong Free Press (here).
2020 / 12 / 23 Reflections on the Provost’s statements at the Social Science Division meeting on 7 December 2020 (here). The Provost gave an approximately 15 minute speech covering current, not division-specific topics. My reflections provide a critique of issues raised in his speech and thereby a critique of current issues at HKUST: I discredit the Provost’s rationale for the HKUST Guangzhou campus, lay all blame for any perceived lack of faculty productivity at the Provost’s feet, question his whipping faculty into making money for him, ridicule the focus on “star” professors, show how his student numbers game destroys the school, note his intention to continue the practice of fake sabbatical leave, point out the severe underfunding of faculty pensions (with the Provost’s planned extension of retirement age from age 65 to 68 apparently not designed with this problem in mind), and wonder why he is selling us out to the world’s fourth-worst oppressor when he does not have to.
A joint email from President and Provost on 10 March 2021 announces “a structured approach to recognize high-performing faculty for possible extension of appointment beyond the University's normal retirement age of 65” and links to a document (dated 9 March 2021) without letterhead or signature that provides further details: performance reviews by School- and University-level Review Committees and by the President, with submission for approval to the Standing Committee of the Council; an initial extension of 3 years followed by maximally three one-year extensions, and “relevant [faculty] will be arranged to attend annual health check-up prior to and during the period of extension.” These arrangements openly contradict former HKUST President Tony Chan’s 2011 public statement that HKUST embraces the American model of higher education (here), in which case there would be no mandatory retirement age and no reviews. My personal experience with HKUST’s “reviews” is a 67% failure quota (here). The only innovation of these arrangements appears to be the facilitation of contract extension for “recognize[d] high-performing faculty;” HKUST’s underfunded faculty pensions (here for the general case, and here for my case) are never mentioned.
2021 / 3 Division head and Dean violate HKUST sabbatical leave regulations.
I apply for sabbatical leave in 2021/22 (here). (i) In my reading, the Human Resources Office confirms that the division head and dean violate university rules on sabbatical leave, and (ii) the dean turns down my application with one false and one irrelevant statement.
Ad (i): The division head’s staff ask me how I will “make up” my “normal teaching duties” while on “sabbatical” leave. Note the contradiction in terms, at HKUST sabbatical leave means “normal teaching duties.”
I request the Human Resources Office confirm that the university regulations on sabbatical leave posted on its website—regulations which include no requirement to “make up” the teaching of the sabbatical leave year—are the only relevant rules for sabbatical leave, and the Human Resources Office confirms that “The posted Regulations are accurate and include all relevant information” (here [staff’s email, my response, Human Resources’ response]).
The Human Resources Office thus regards as irrelevant (or illegitimate?) the dean/provost’s unpublished “Operational Guidelines” (here). Since dean and provost need to approve sabbatical leave, the dean/provost’s private “Operational Guidelines” take precedence over and invalidate university regulations.
How this is consistent with HKUST’s proclaimed “core value” of “integrity” is beyond me. (Though it might be consistent with another HKUST core value, the “can-do spirit” which would mean “management can do whatever they like, in gross disregard of university regulations.” Not that it matters: HKUST has no supervision mechanisms, let alone enforcement mechanisms for management’s proclaimed “core values.”)
Ad (ii) Separately, following my application, the division head informs me that the dean rejects my sabbatical leave application, giving two arguments; I respond that one argument is false and the other irrelevant (here [my initial email, the division head’s negative email, my response]).
Subsequently, staff informs me on 12 April 2021: “Your application form is returned to you in your mailbox as Provost Office advised that no further process is required for application not recommended by both Head and Dean.
As you are aware of, kindly please be reminded again that:
· “Sabbatical leave is not an appointee’s contractual right and is subject to approval by the University on application.”
· “Faculty members should be reminded not to view sabbatical leave as an entitlement.””
What gets lost is that, given the dean/provost’s “Operational Guidelines,” I de facto never applied for sabbatical leave but for a specific temporal allocation of my teaching obligations combined with permission to at other times fully engage in academia, outside the dean/provost’s detention center.
2021 / 4 / 2 My colleague C.K. Lee is attacked in Wenhuibao (Wen Wei Po), a newspaper controlled by the “Liaison Office of the Chinese government” in Hong Kong and considered by the Hong Kong public the second-least credible media outlet in 2019 (the least credible being Dagongbao [Ta Kung Pao], another newspaper controlled by the “Liaison Office of the Chinese government”). My take on the matter, shared with colleagues, is here. Supporting documents: HKUST president’s email, attachment to my email.
The HKUST library maintains an archive of news clippings from newspapers and magazines about HKUST; the newspapers covered include Wen Wei Po and Ta Kung Pao. “Due to resources constraints and restrictions on copyright, effective 1st June 2006, only selected newspapers/articles are included here.” I was unable to find any article on C.K. Lee in these HKUST archives. (The top dozen HKUST administrators appear to be informed by HKUST’s public relations office of university-relevant media articles twice a week. Faculty members / researchers are not privy to such information.)
This colleague has been attacked in the same press before, and an anonymous attempt has been made to have disciplinary actions initiated against her within HKUST (here).
2022 / 4 / 11 I re-submit my self-nomination.
2021 / 5 / 7 My 2020 salary update. Following the (somewhat belated) receipt of my 2019 report card, I note everyone’s 2.3% real salary cut due to the 2020 nominal salary freeze while the HKUST president’s nominal “remuneration package” went up by 9.8% (here). In a ‘personal statement’ enclosed with my this year’s (April 2021) “Annual Activities Report” I note that my salary as full professor after 26 years at HKUST is, at best, in the bottom 21% of HKUST staff salaries; my real salary has been basically flat for the last 17 years; and the trend of comparable salaries across the Hong Kong economy has been diverging sharply from mine (here).
Supporting document: HKUST 5-Year Plan 2020
2021 / 8 / 30 Assembly of more than 4 people, even with social distancing, outdoors, is strictly prohibited by the Hong Kong government. HKUST assembles 400 students in a severely closed-in space (lecture theatre) with absolutely no social distancing. For HKUST administrators, that’s not a problem (here). Aside: Nor do HKUST administrators have any problem nearly doubling the teaching load of faculty members by requiring face-to-face plus simultaneous Zoom online teaching. (Making each class suitable to such an arrangement took me a lot of time.)
2021 / 9 / 1 I propose to the School Board that the School of Humanities and Social Sciences be disbanded because practicing social science (and probably similarly in the case of the humanities) is no longer possible at HKUST. (Here) Result: minimal engagement in a discussion of academic freedom. No further outcome.
2021 / 10 / 18 I apply for sabbatical leave in 2022/23 and HKUST administrators require me to violate HKUST’s sabbatical leave rules, as I explain here. My (unanswered) sabbatical leave application becomes redundant when I am being granted no-pay leave for 2022/23 in late January 2022.
2022 / 2 / 15 I stop reviewing grant proposals for the Research Grants Council due to a (in my view) severely flawed review process and the academically highly destructive use to which RGC decisions are being put within HKUST. Here. For the RGC’s response see here. For my recent experiences applying for a grant administered by the Research Grants Council, see here.
2022 / 4 / 24 HKUST’s management requires faculty members to submit an “Annual Activities Report.” I am allowed to include a maximally 2-page personal statement (here), in which, this year, I set forth, among others, the burden of teaching and research in times of a Covid as well as a “national security” pandemic, the strange allocation of teaching duties in my division, and my exceptional financial situation at HKUST due to the lack of housing.
2023 / 4/ 30 My ‘personal statement’ enclosed with my this year’s (April 2023) “Annual Activities Report” here, ruminating about the implications of no-pay leave, the lack of a housing allowance, the obstacles to research that HKUST managers impose, and what kind of behaviour leads to success at HKUST.