July 2, 2020
OPEN LINE is a means of communication between Dr. Amnuay Tapingkae, Interim President of Payap University, and the Payap community of students, staff and friends of the university. It is a simulated interview between Dr. Amnuay and Dr. Ken Dobson, Adviser to the President.
A: Well, Ken, this will be our final session of OPEN LINE, I think. Yesterday I submitted my resignation as Interim President of Payap University to the chair of the Payap University Board of Trustees, and I handed copies to the executive officers of the Church of Christ in Thailand Foundation. My term will end on July 31.
K: This has been a tumultuous year trying to help the university regain its financial balance and then a second blow when the COVID-19 epidemic closed the campuses through the summer term and delayed the start of this new academic year.
A: The new year started officially yesterday, July 1. We have 583 students entering Thai programs, which is close to our goal of 600. International programs begin on August 17. It is disappointing that we will not be able to bring students from China until at least the second semester which will begin after Christmas.
K: In the previous sessions of OPEN LINE, which you initiated, you have tried to tell us what is really going on. Replies, both in writing and in person, have expressed appreciation and maybe surprise at this. Do you think this sort of transparency will spread through the university?
A: I have not “opened the line” of communication with our students and personnel in order to encourage any new form of transparency on the part of others. It should be the way an institution such as our operates, but transparency in administration is not strongly embedded in our national character. It was my hope that we could dampen the flames of fear that our university was in so much trouble that we would soon close.
K: So you are optimistic about Payap’s future?
A: As I have said in earlier sessions, I believe in Payap University. It was my privilege to be here at the beginning and for 20 years as President through 1994. Those were difficult and challenging times. But they were years of great adventure and accomplishment. We knew that God had an important mission for us and the steps were laid toward a successful future. Nothing has changed my mind about that. But at this time the future is again challenging. Let me say that I think Payap will not be the same five years from now as we assumed it would be five years ago. We will be doing things differently. We will be doing things that no one we have here has ever done before. COVID-19 has forced us to begin that already. We will see our mission in new ways. Some may be convinced five or ten years from now that Payap has failed because it is so different from other institutions of higher education. We are on the threshold of an educational mystery if we have the courage to press forward.
K: I’ve been asked who will be the leader after you leave at the end of the month.
A: I have been asked that, too. The truth is, that is up to the Payap University Board of Trustees. They will need to meet very soon, now that my resignation is final. All I know is that the next Interim or installed President will not be me. I appeared for one encore and that’s enough. A second encore is always anti-climactic.
K: As we wrap up these OPEN LINE sessions now, what would you say you have accomplished in your year as Interim President?
A: Our first challenge was to discover Payap’s real financial situation. We were able to sort that out. Although the picture was serious, it was important to have it clear. Then we needed to have workable suggestions about what to do about it. One line to explore was how we might use our resources to recover. Our biggest available resource is unused land. We now have several prospects for turning some of that real estate into cash, but it’s taking time. So in the meantime we have appealed to our “owner” the Foundation of the Church of Christ in Thailand to supply operating funds. Our income was not enough to even pay salaries. The CCT has pitched in and they have helped month by month. We survived this year despite having to just about close down because of the pandemic. I have overseen personnel downsizing that will probably amount to 20% when the year ends 30 days from now. We now also know the steps we need to undertake to do more downsizing. But we also know that the still more important steps will be in modernizing our instructional methods, in developing a new generation of leaders, and in proving to Chiang Mai and our stakeholders and prospective students that Payap is their best choice for life-long learning at whatever stage of life they may be.
K: I would like to hear your final OPEN LINE thoughts.
A: That would be a prayer that God, the Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, would look kindly on Payap so that this institution might continue in the mission given to it. I pray that God would inspire those who lead to be brave as they go into an unknown future, and remember that the future was a mystery for those who went before them. God’s love is dependable, and that is all we need to know.
Although this is the final session of OPEN LINE it is not the end of the month. Dr. Amnuay is still available to respond to your questions and concerns, and to direct them to units at the university to be addressed.