Part One:History

The Founding of the Stronghold of Southern Sociology: The Establishment of the Department of Sociology at National Sun Yat-sen University, Kaohsiung

2006 to 2007, then president of National Sun Yat-sen University—Dr. Chang Tsung-jen—reorganized the departments in the College of Social Sciences in consultation with several scholars, resulting in the establishment of the Department of Sociology.

In August 2007, Professor Wang Hong-zen accepted
an invitation from then president Chang and transferred from National Chi Nan University in Nantou to Kaohsiung. He was put in charge of the establishment of the Department of Sociology. At that time, there were only Professor Wang and Professor Tang Wen-hui  from the Center for General Education who worked together in the hope of making this “sociologically-barren land bloom in flourishing flowers”.

Things went well, and in the spring
of 2008 we hired Dr. Ho Ming-sho; in the following autumn of that year, Dr. Cheng Li-hsuan, who had just graduated from Duke University in America, also joined us. These new members provided our department with enough employees to accept the very first class of twelve MA students.

Where should the lone and independent Department of Sociology go?

In the beginning it wasa “mini” department with only four professors. Therefore, the professors often got together and discussed the
direction of the department’s future development.

Considering the fact that being an “independent institute” was actually rather lonesome, we thought about starting
a Ph.D. program like National Tsing Hua University; or following the Institute of Economics at NSYSU that established an MA program and an on-the-job training program; or building up our foundation by setting up a BA program.

that at the time the doctoral programs of sociology in Taiwan had already become “saturated,” the future employment prospects of any new Ph.D. students also had to be taken into consideration. In addition, we still did not have faculty members to cope with a doctoral curriculum, so we eventually eliminated this option.

We seriously thought about introducing an
on-the-job training program since it was probable promosing way to fulfil our intention of interacting with the local society and a niche that would allow us to use our academic methods to positively impact local social affairs.  Therefore, the on-the-job program was a more viable option than a Ph.D. program for us.

However, then president Chang’s policy was not in favor of starting
the on-the-job program since the school officials wished our own professors to spend more time on research at the university. Therefore, the situation of the school’s external structure made it impossible for us to go in this direction.

Besides, starting an on-the-job program would have
put some degree of pressure on the professors’ teaching since they would not only have needed to lecture but also instruct the other students. Even though the school might employ extra faculty in the future, the professors would still be torn between lecturing and researching.

In the end, we considered establishing
a BA program, which was mutually acknowledged as the best option of all since it had historical and social relevance.

For the past thirty yea
rs there were barely any new departments of sociology established at public universities. The Department of Sociology at National Chengchi University, which was restructured from the old Department of Ethnology, was the latest and the last. In our country, apart from the Institute of Sociology at Academia Sinica, there weren’t any new academic organizations that nurtured new blood in sociology (except the creation of several sociologically related departments like Institute of Gender Studies, of course).

Besides, in terms of regional development, except for the Taipei area, there were only Tunghai University (Taichung) and Nanhua University (Chiayi) that had departments of sociology
south of the Touqian River. These two schools could be considered the centers of sociology outside of Taipei.

If there were more
centers of sociology that could continue expanding southward, it would be a tremendous contribution to the balance of academic resources between northern and southern Taiwan. We also realized that although there had been many social movements in the south, at universities in Tainan, Kaohsiung and Pingtung, there were no integrated departments of social sciences, especially departments of sociology, which could promote consolidation or support local social movements while also nurturing students of social science who would speak up for and contribute to the south.

In terms of social influences, it was obvious that introducing a BA program and nurturing excellent students would be one of the significant measures we had to take in
order for sociology to deeply take root in the south because the BA program would provide many more graduates than MA or Ph.D. programs and in turn would have more influence on society.

The organizational changes in the school were turning point that allowed the Department of Sociology to establish the BA program.

However, things are easier said than done. The faculty quota at public universities
had been frozen at the time, and even the salary for postdoctoral researchers had been reduced to NT. 48,000 per month. Thus, it was almost impossible to establish a department of sociology at a public university.

In the spring of 2009, a blessing from above came when the School of Management recruited fifty BA “pre-majors” and they decided to release these students because it was too troublesome to keep them. For example, which professors from which departments were to teach these pre-major freshmen and sophomores? And what if the students chose different majors in their junior year?

The College of Management decided to return the student quota to the school. Opportunity knocks but once, so the four professors from the Department of Sociology quickly consulted with the president and the Department of Sociology agreed to take in these students and establish a BA program.

The school officials were happy with this result because the budget from the Ministry of Education was distributed according to the number of students. With the growing problem of Taiwan’s sub-replacement fertility rate, the student quota from the Ministry had been declining every year. If the university had returned the quota of fifty students, we would surely not be able to regain it in the future.

Because of this opportunity, the department of Politics also wanted to introduce its own BA program. As a result, the two proposals were submitted together to the school officials. In the end, the school officials decided that because there was already the Department of Political Economy in the College of Social Sciences it would be hard to distinguish between the “Department of Politics” and the “Department of Political Economy,” so it decided to prioritize the establishment of the Department of Sociology. When the proposal was submitted to the Ministry of Education for examination, the Ministry’s policy was: as long as the school could solve the problems concerning faculty and students, the Ministry would not interfere. As a result, the proposal easily passed the Ministry’s examination.

The college’s faculty and organizational requirements delayed the Department of Sociology’s enrollment of the first class of BA students.

However, we still encountered more difficulties afterwards. The school officials considered that our faculty numbers were still insufficient and did not give us  permission to enroll new students for the 2010 school year. We admitted that even though we had recruited Professor Chen Mei-hua, Professor Ho Ming-sho had left our department, leaving us with only four professors, which made it very difficult to establish a BA program.

In the spring of 2010, we had to carefully consider again whether or not to enroll new students for the 2011 school year. We had successfully recruited two new faculty members, professor Tsai Hung-jeng and Professor Wan Yu-ze. With six full-time professors and other part-time professors from the College of Social Sciences, starting a BA program wouldn’t have posed a problem.

However, the school officials still had their doubts because there was neither a clear plan for the adjustment within the College of Social Sciences, nor any description in writing that showed which professors could provide support. Therefore, our enrollment proposal had numerous twists and turns during its application process. For a moment it was approved, only to be suddenly retracted once again.

With the full support of Dean Lin Wen-cheng, we demanded a reversal of the previous verdict at the university council and received much support from different colleges’ representatives. In the end, the proposal was approved on one condition: we needed to submit relevant certified documents by the end of June and let the school officials make their final decision in the next administrative meeting.

Luckily, with the support from many colleagues within the college, we successfully persuaded the school officials to approve the Department of Sociology’s enrollment proposal for the 2011 school year.

The harvest of the Taiwanese sociology Field

Establishing a department of sociology in Kaohsiung and the rest of southern Taiwan meant the Taiwanese sociology field gradually expanded its influence southward. Such advancement can be attributed to the endeavors of the predecessors in the field. Thanks to them, the significance of establishing the department of sociology was finally recognized by the school officials and the society.

In 2008, many members of the Departmental Accreditation Committee strongly suggested the school officials increase our faculty quota, which enabled us to continuously recruit new blood over the following several years. Professor Hsiao Hsin-huang and chairman Chen Tung-sheng provided us with strong support and stayed in constant communication with then president Yang Hung-duen. They could be considered the key players who showed the school officials the significance of the Department of Sociology. Dean Lin Wen-cheng and director Cheng Ying-yao (former dean) were the key administrative promoters who had the proposal approved by the school officials. The colleagues from the College of Social Sciences who were willing to transfer to our department were the last missing pieces for the completion of our department’s initiation.

We must not forget the four professors (Tang Wen-hui, Ho Ming-sho, Cheng Li-hsuan  and Chen Mei-hua) who for three years dedicated themselves to assisting this goal and shared a lot of administrative work including writing the proposal for the new program and organizing the future development of our department. The credit goes to all of them.

We know our challenge has just begun. Our future responsibility will be to make southern sociology rooted in this department and for it to grow stronger. To promote sociological studies in the south we can only stay true to the slogan, “For better or worse, accept whatever we have with patience.”


Read more