Professor Wars

My Sunday reading uncovered this little gem from the Taipei Times. It seems that academic freedom may have a shorter leash in Taipei. I also wonder if Professor Wu wasn’t set up – Professor Geaun managed to produce a recorded copy of their conversation as evidence for his allegations.

Professor handed 10 days in jail after insulting colleague

By Yang Kuo-wen  /  Staff Reporter

Taiwan National University (NTU) Department of Agricultural Economics professor Wu Pei-ing (吳珮瑛), aged 53, was handed a final sentence of 10 days in prison or a fine by the High Court on Thursday for calling a fellow professor “worthless.”

At 8am on March 3 last year, when Wu was speaking with department head Hsu Shih-hsun (徐世勳), fellow professor Jerome Geaun (官俊榮) approached her and said he felt compelled to “severely protest” that she was speaking too loudly. He asked Wu to lower her voice.

Wu at first said “Keep out of matters that don’t concern you,” but Geaun insisted that she keep her voice down, prompting Wu to say: “Go report it to the police, to the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) for noise pollution, OK?”

While Hsu attempted to mediate the dispute, Wu said to Geaun: “Who do you think you are? You’re a worthless nobody,” despite a previous warning from Geaun’s that her comments came very close to a personal insult.

Geaun later sued Wu for libel and defamation of character, using a recording of their conversation as evidence.

During the trial, Wu denied that she had publicly insulted Geaun, saying that she only said: “Who do you think you are?” when he interrupted her conversation with Hsu.

Wu’s lawyer also argued that the office of the department head was not a public place while questioning the veracity of the evidence.

The High Court ruled that Wu was guilty of publicly insulting Geaun for calling him “worthless” because the department head’s office allows free access to faculty and students, and a teaching assistant, surnamed Hsu (許), was present at the time of the dispute, and also testified during the case.

Wu appealed the decision, but the court ruled that because an out of court settlement could not be reached, Wu should serve 10 days in jail or pay a fine of NT$100,000 (US$3,390), with the ruling suspended for up to 2 years.

Wu declined to comment on the High Court’s ruling.

Translated by Jake Chung, Staff Writer

Published by Don Laackman

Leader with non-profit, higher education, and private-sector consulting experience.

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