作者：張桂芬, CPF 朝邦文教基金會董事暨核心引導師
Self-governing Student Body:
a 3-way Winning Strategy
Author: Jackie Chang, CPF
Board Director and Core Facilitator at CP Yen Foundation
Four years ago, Da-Shin Lee, Professor of the Department of Physics at National Dong Hwa University with research interest in Cosmology, was asked by the University President and Vice President to serve as the Dean of Student Affairs. At that time however, Da-Shin had never before been involved in student affairs; including when he was a college student he also had never even stepped into the Office of Student Affairs! To Da-Shin the administrative tasks of the Office of Student Affairs felt like a “black hole". Nonetheless, because of his love for the university he bravely dived into that “black hole” with passion, curiosity and an open mind. Since then Da-Shin and his team have continued to lead the office through a series of milestone achievements.
January 2016 marked the conclusion of Da-Shin’s four-year term as the Dean of Student Affairs. Looking back, he recalls that changes began following the one-and-half-day workshop facilitated by Jorie Wu and Vincent Chen, respectively CEO and Director of the CP Yen Foundation. The most significant workshop outcome for Da-Shin was the identification of the core tasks for Office of Student Affairs. Da-Shin pointed out that “among these core objectives, the most challenging one was to facilitate the development of the students’ competence in autonomy and active learning.”
This issue of the CP Yen Foundation newsletter shares the story of how this newcomer to the Student Affairs Office integrated “civic engagement” into the complex operations of student affairs.
National Dong Hwa University is located in Huanlien county and has a student body of over 10,000 and manages dormitory lodging for 6,000 students across six buildings. The community of dormitories is managed in units of “halls”, in which students serve on dormitory committees and implement tasks assigned by the Office of Student Affairs. Students also act as the liaison between residents and the university administration with responsibilities that include dormitory management and guideline enforcement. But since these committee members are also student peers, they often encounter challenges when implementing these tasks.
Students needed autonomy in order to fulfil their visions. The practice of continuous discussions and planning at the Office of Student Affairs enabled a critical change to emerge: the formation of an “Administration Team”. This team consists of senior members of dormitory committees in charge of dormitory activities, and would serve as the bridge between the Dormitory Committee and Office of Student Affairs.
For the dormitory management, the tradition of rules set by the school were replaced by guidelines determined by the students. Empowering the students to establish their own guidelines and conditions provided further opportunities for the students to learn about civic engagement because each dormitory hall is a small community. At the beginning and the end of each semester, members of the dormitory committee and administration team organise community meetings to focus on communication of administrative tasks, open discussion and modification of the students’ common guidelines. With the protection of lives and safety of students as the bottom line, students are able to learn valuable lessons in self-government and self-management in these meetings. The open attitude taken by Office of Student Affairs enabled students to try and learn from the process.
Four years ago, a dormitory surveillance system broke down and the Office of Student Affairs decided to close a remote side door for the safety reason. This action led to a barrage of complaints from students who refused to accept the decision to close the side door that caused inconvenience, and as a result the office felt compelled to reopen the side door and increase the security measures in the area.
After about three years, residents of this dormitory hall began to notice non-residents going through this door. Numerous theft incidents occurred as well. During the hall meeting at the beginning of the semester, a proposal by residents to close the side door was passed by vote. However, after the decision was implemented, some of the students raised the issue again in a face-to-face meeting between students and the President of the University. These students emphasized the inconvenience of closing the side door and proposed the door to be reopened. At this time, the Office of Student Affairs suggested the issue to be discussed during the hall meetings and reassured that the University would stand by the decision reached from the meeting. By allowing students to participate in jointly resolving dormitory issues, the students were able to shape their own solutions through self-government and self-management. As the result, complaints about dormitory life have decreased significantly in recent years.
Empowering students with an authority to manage and implement actions enabled students with the freedom to dream and realise their visions. As a result, students became partners with the school administration, and the university becomes a true venue for students to exercise their learning. Da-Shin thinks the most important discovery for him as the Dean of Student Affairs is that the only ones with power have the rights to empower. And when the “power” is shared to the ones who have passion but are powerless, they together can help the organisation grow, creating a 3-way winning strategy for the university, the students, and the Office of Student Affairs. Da-Shin firmly believes that “while changes may not produce immediate results, not changing will only make you lag behind. As long as you are willing to change, there is a chance that you may walk ahead of others.”
*Da-Shin Lee currently is the Professor of the Department of Physics at National Dong Hwa University. He has formerly held the positions of Chairman of the Department of Physics and Dean of Student Affairs (2012-2015) at National Dong Hwa University.