The governing Council of the University of Hong Kong has appointed professor Terry Au Kit-fong to a key position of the school, after the last candidate was rejected in a controversial decision last year.
Au was appointed vice-president and pro-vice-chancellor (academic staffing and resources) for a three year term starting Wednesday, after a governing council meeting on Tuesday. She has been acting in the post, which has been vacant for almost five years, since January.
Last September, the council rejected the previous candidate Johannes Chan Man-mun – a liberal law scholar – for a variety of reasons. One of the reasons for the rejection, as then HKU Council member Arthur Li Kwok-cheung said, was that Chan did not have a doctoral degree.
Chan was attacked by pro-Beijing newspapers some 300 times, and for his connection to Occupy Central co-founder Benny Tai Yiu-ting – his subordinate at the Faculty of Law.
Au was part of the selection committee that nominated Chan. A new committee was formed after Chan’s rejection to search for new candidates.
Asked if there was any conflict of interest in the selection, HKU student union president and Council member Althea Suen Hiu-nam said members would have noticed potential conflicts of interest and would make arrangements, but the problem should not exist as members had unanimously agreed to the appointment.
Law scholar and Council member Eric Cheung Tat-ming also said he did not see any conflict of interest, and that the selection committee followed procedures.
He said that Chan’s rejection was due to political interference and did not follow procedures, but Au could be appointed unanimously as pro-Beijing newspapers had not launched systematic attacks on her.
Au obtained a PhD degree from Stanford University in 1987. After teaching at Brown University and the University of California, Los Angeles, she joined HKU in July 2002 as Chair Professor of Psychology and served as head of the department in 2003-2005 and 2007-2008.
HKU President Peter Mathieson welcomed professor Au to her new role, saying that she had embarked on a number of initiatives and contributed to the review and reform of various academic-related HR policies and procedures in her acting role.
“We are very fortunate that she is willing to take up the substantive role and continue her good work to move the University forward. We will benefit from her wisdom, her knowledge and her experience in formulating university strategies and policies,” he said.