Dean of prestigious Taiwan university suspended amid sexual assault cover-up allegations

TAIPEI, Taiwan - Fu Jen Catholic University announced the suspension of a school dean on Friday, who garnered public ire for allegedly covering up a campus sexual assault case.

The press conference and protest came after the assault survivor, a now-graduated student surnamed Wu, took to Facebook Wednesday to publicly apologise to Fu Jen Catholic University's College of Social Sciences Dean Hsia Lin-ching, a professor of psychology, and those involved in the case. The post provoked public outrage, with many questioning why a sexual assault survivor should be made to apologise.

Following the protests and press conference, the Education Ministry released a statement indicating that the ministry had already issued a notice to Fu Jen University, stating that the school's handling of the sexual assault case had violated the Gender Equity Education Act.

The school must provide a proposal to improve their response to the case by Oct. 31, the statement said. Failure to meet the school's gender equality committee's demands will lead to penalties.

Severe penalties include a withdrawal of subsidies to the private school, the statement read.

Fu Jen Vice-President for Academic Affairs Yuan Jenq-Tay said that the school's gender equality committee had held an emergency meeting on Thursday.

Two decisions were reached at the meeting. First, any individuals involved in the case were barred from disturbing or harassing the victim in any way, thus creating secondary or more injuries, he said.

The other conclusion saw the suspension of Hsia from her duties as dean, signifying that Hsia was among those under investigation.

Fu Jen School of Law Deputy Dean Wu Chih-kuang, who serves as a consultant on the gender equality committee, said an investigation was underway over whether the Psychology Department's workforce team caused secondary injuries to the victim. Before Wu Chih-kuang made an official report to the committee, an investigation was underway by a psychology department task force.

On June 17, the school faculty reported to the Education Ministry the task force's failure to handle the sexual assault case on June 17, Wu Chih-kuang said. The Education Ministry deemed the department task force in violation of the Gender Equity Education Act.

However, protesters, led by psychology departments faculty and students, alleged that the school had initially allowed the psychology department's task force team to carry out "educational counseling" of the assault survivor.

Protesters said that because the school is being accused of inappropriate handling of the case, especially for not intervening initially and launching an investigation into the case via the gender equality committee, faculty have made the task force into scapegoats.

The protesters objected to Hsia's suspension and raised a banner that accused the university of pandering to public opinion in its decision to suspend Hsia.