Peking U. Offers Defense of Controversial Firing
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Peking University has issued an extended defense, in English, of its controversial decision to dismiss Xia Yeliang from the School of Economics The termination of Xia, a critic of the Chinese Communist Party, has widely been seen in the West as retribution for his political speech and has come at a time of an intensified crackdown on bloggers and activists who are critical of the government.
Peking’s statement says that this month's vote among faculty and school leaders not to renew Xia’s contract was the second such vote on this topic. The first, in 2012, resulted in 11 against renewal and 10 for, with one abstention. However, the university said it wanted to give Xia an opportunity to improve his performance and held a second vote this month, which resulted in 30 against renewal of his contract, 3 for, with one abstention. Xia’s contract will not be renewed when it expires in January.
“The reason that most members of the committee voted against the renewal of Xia Yeliang’s contract lies in the performance of his teaching and research,” the university's statement reads, in part. “With regard to his teaching, the result of annual teaching assessments since 2008 showed that he ranked lowest among the School faculties three times, the third lowest once, the fourth lowest once. His best performance was the sixth from the bottom twice. During the same period, more than 340 pieces of students’ complaints and criticism on his teaching were received, including a letter of request signed by over 20 students to demand replacing Xia Yeliang. Such a demand is extremely rare at Peking University. The students mostly complained about his digressive talks and excessive waste of time on materials irrelevant to the course. Some of the comments are sharp criticism, for example 'Please teach economics in class; don’t bullshit!' 'You put the cart before the horse.' 'Too much superficial digression.' 'His words are full of garbage.' "
The statement also says that Xia only published one paper in the Chinese Social Sciences Citation Index from August 2008 to January 2013. The university said that Xia is untenured and that it has terminated 25 people upon expiration of their contact since 2008, including Xia.
A New York Times article, however, noted that Xia is the first professor to be dismissed from the economics department in more than a decade -- a fact that was confirmed by Peking officials. In an interview, Xia maintained that his dismissal was politically motivated -- he cited warnings from the university's Communist Party secretary regarding his online pro-democracy writings -- and defended his academic performance. He said that the 340 negative evaluations represent a fraction of the thousands of students he has taught and that his name had appeared in a number of publications since 2008.
“All such records are in their hands right now, so they can say whatever they want," Xia told the Times.