University 'sorry' for mishandling alleged sexual assault case

Dean of Fu Jen university in Taiwan accused of pressurizing female student to withdraw allegation
University 'sorry' for mishandling alleged sexual assault case

A file image of the Chung Mei auditorium at Fu Jen Catholic University, Taiwan. The university's image has taken a battering in the wake of an alleged sexual assault case. (ucanews.com photo)

ucanews.com reporter, Hong Kong
Taiwan
October 6, 2016
The president of the Fu Jen Catholic University (FJU) in Taiwan has apologized over the school's improper handling of an alleged sexual assault case.

President Vincent Chiang Han-sun, on Sept. 25 sent an open letter to faculty and students, extending his "deepest apology" and admitted that the school had not fulfilled its responsibility "to protect [an alleged] sexual assault victim."

A student of the Psychology Department, Wu (she and her boyfriend and the alleged perpetrator are referred to by surnames only) was allegedly assaulted by another student, Wang following a party in June 2015.

Police are conducting criminal investigations into the allegations while the university's Psychology Department also had a working group looking into the incident.

But in May 2016, Wu's boyfriend Chu posted an article on Facebook that criticized college dean Hsia Lin-ching for allegedly covering up the sexual assault and implying that Wu was drunk and had sex willingly.

This prompted a closed-door meeting of 200 teachers and students, including Wu, on June 7 about how to handle the case and the increasing social uproar surrounding it.

After the meeting, on Sept. 21, Wu took to Facebook to apologize to her teachers and the school for besmirching their reputation. After that, Wang was allowed back to the university without any punishment. 

A secret recording of the closed-door meeting was leaked on social media after Wu's apology. Viewers said the meeting was "like a public trial rather than a consultation" as it appeared Hsia was pressurizing Wu to withdraw the allegation. 

Hsia called her critics, "internet hangmen" but she was suspended on Sept. 22 after the Ministry of Education slapped FJU for violating the Gender Equality Act. The university should have immediately referred the case the school's gender equality committee, instead of forming their own working group, according to the ministry.

"[The assault] was immediately reported to the school affairs system," said university president Chiang. "But before the school's gender equality committee [could] takeover, the Psychology Department's working group wanted to help the victim." 

"The school acknowledged, and the Ministry of Education has confirmed, that this process acts against the Gender Equity Education Act. The school has to bear its blame," he said.

The scandal also drew attention from Anonymous TW, a hacker group in Taiwan, which threatened on Sept. 24 to attack the school website if FJU did not bring the perpetrator to justice and extend an apology to Wu.

Catholic scholar, Alexandra Wang wrote a commentary for online Up Media on Sept. 28 saying that the FJU board of directors are in dereliction of duty and brought "shame [on a] good woman."

If FJU has forgotten who it is, the Holy See should drop the word "Catholic" from its name, she said.

The bishops' conference is one of three stakeholders at FJU along with the Divine Word Society and the Society of Jesus. "The bishops have not come together to discuss the issue as the next board meeting of the school is in October," said Father Otfried Chan, secretary-general of the bishops' conference. 

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"The case is under judicial process," said Father Chan. "What I have heard is also from the media. We need to know the truth for sure. It is sad that the school made a mistake and the following evaluation is important as well." 

Once again, Catholic institutions have underestimated the impact these issues can have, said Paul Chiu, a young layman in Taipei. "To protect the least of our brothers and sisters is much more important than to maintain the public image of a Catholic school or church institutions," he said.

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