Session 4, June 18
OPEN LINE is formatted as a weekly conversation between Dr. Amnuay Tapingkae, Interim President of Payap University, and Dr. Kenneth Dobson, Adviser to the President. This is an “open line” between Dr. Amnuay and everyone in the Payap community.
K: Dr. Amnuay, we are all hearing that the “winds of change” are blowing. What news do you have for us this week?
A: You, Ken, as a former seminary teacher, will be interested in our biggest news of the week. A plan is being made to have the McGilvary College of Divinity (MCD) become a separate institution education under the Church of Christ in Thailand.
K: The seminary is Payap’s oldest component. It was established more than 130 years ago.
A: When I was invited to become the first president of Payap College, the Church of Christ in Thailand agreed to have the Thailand Theological Seminary become a faculty of the college. This was not easy because the Thai government was skeptical at that time about religious institutions becoming degree-granting colleges and universities. But it helped the seminary in two ways, by giving government accreditation to the bachelor’s courses which meant that graduates had full-fledged degrees rather than certificates on the same rank as barbers, automobile mechanics, and Thai boxing coaches. It also meant that the seminary’s operating expenses would be supported in part by the college. Payap has been supplying funds to cover the McGilvary College of Divinity’s operating costs since 1979. Of course, during this time Ajan William Yoder and others have also worked very hard to raise funds to keep the seminary going, and especially to build the MCD building and dorm on the Kaewnawarat Campus.
K: So MCD will no longer be a college in Payap University?
A: That’s right, but this will involve several steps according to the plan being developed by the Foundation of the CCT, Payap University, and the McGilvary College of Divinity. The first step has been taken, in which the CCT has agreed in principle to subsidize the annual expenses of the MCD as well as the Christian Communications Institute to the extent of 15 million baht per year. Step two, all faculty and staff of MCD and CCI will be transferred to the personnel section of the CCT. Step three, the CCT will appoint a committee to oversee the operation of the MCD so that the education of church leaders will be consistent with the mission and policies of the CCT. Step four, Payap University will continue to have responsibility for the academic programs of MCD until MCD has been officially established as an independent institution. In the future MCD degrees will be certified solely by the Association of Theological Schools of South East Asia and no longer by the Thai Ministry of Higher Education. Step five, a working group will be appointed to register the MCD as an educational institution under appropriate Thai government auspices.
K: May I ask how you feel about this momentous change, which reduces the university?
A: I feel this is a very bold move by the CCT, taken, by the way, at the request of the MCD faculty council with enthusiastic agreement by CCT administration. I was happy that the seminary 40 years ago became part of Payap because that brought financial stability and academic status to the seminary. I am grateful that Payap University has been able to continue that support through the decades. And now I am glad to be involved in this second transition to insure the future of MCD as Payap University goes through the coming downsizing and changes. I would like to see MCD as an independent institution under the CCT so the training of the next generation of church leaders will be under the auspices of the church.
K: There have been rumors going around about our downsizing and consolidation.
A: I am glad for the opportunity to say clearly that we have been pressured by the CCT to reduce our personnel. We have devised plans to retire about 100 faculty and staff that are within 5 years of retirement age, except those faculty who are required to sustain ongoing academic programs. Of the 100, about 60 have already reached retirement age. However, the greatest challenge is to find money to compensate these employees. This will be difficult without CCT financial help. The CCT administration has been slow to take action on this. I want to express my gratitude to those who have agreed to participate in this early retirement program. The sacrifice of those who resign voluntarily in order to ease the financial burden of the university will be remembered with gratitude.
K: Aside from the required severance pay what are we doing to help these people who are departing early?
A: The Payap University Alumni Association has been willing to help in many areas. For example, some alumni in business are offering to find work for those who are resigning. While I am on the subject of the alumni association I would like to thank them for raising new funds for student scholarships. It is scholarships such as these that go a long way toward reducing the gap between Payap’s tuition and the tuition of competing universities. Our alumni bring not only help but also honor to their alma mater. I just got word that 2 of our law alumni have passed the selection process to become judges and another law graduate is the deputy governor of Chiang Mai.
K: Previously we announced that the new academic year will begin on June 22.
A: Because of the COVID-19 situation our new academic year will begin on July 1. As advised by the Ministry of Higher Education we will be observing safety regulations with regard to class size and schedule of classes. Some classes will be on line, some might be taught by a combination of on-line and classroom instruction, and some may have to be redesigned or cancelled.
K: What can we say about our expected student numbers for the coming year?
A: We would like to have about 600 new students in order to remain financially viable. We really hope that after the COVID-19 situation is eased China will release students. We depend on this source of students. We’d like to have at least 200 international students.
K: Our OPEN LINE articles have garnered responses from some of our present international students who are still concerned that they might have difficulty if we don’t provide courses they need at the quality we should.
A: We will not leave students stranded. This university is not like a mini-mall that might announce, “Tomorrow we are going out of business.” Degree programs cannot be discontinued as long as there are students entitled to finish them. I want to thank our International College staff for raising the alarm about students who might have visas expire because the schedule for the beginning of our new academic year has been moved. I am following the actions myself. We will fix this right away. Our Senior Vice President is presiding at a meeting this afternoon to make sure our international students are taken care of in this regard. In fact, we are going to fix a lot of things to improve our international programs. I guarantee the new year will open more positively than the current year is closing.
K: I see we even have a little construction going on behind the Graduate School and International College building.
A: The Faculty of Law has moved from its former building across the highway into the Pentecost Building. They will be on the second and third floors. We have renovated some of the rooms to accommodate the law program. We have also constructed a lounge and study hall for the Faculty of Law students, attached to the north side of the Konrad Kingshill Assembly Hall. The Faculty of Law is on the move forward. This week the Law school is finalizing plans for the first group of police from District 5 to begin taking law courses. We expect the first students as the new year opens for Thai programs on July 1. Also, the student affairs building (Pantakorn) is being renovated to become a student registration office along with other student services.
K: Can I go fishing at Payap yet?
A: Ha, ha! I remember how your father loved to go fishing. I think you must have noticed how the lake beside the Sirindorn Learning Resource Center has been cleaned out. All the weeds and hyacinths have been removed. They are being composted and will be sold as organic fertilizer.
The next edition of OPEN LINE will be available next Thursday. Your comments and questions for Dr. Amnuay Tapingkae, Interim President of Payap University, are welcome. Please address them to firstname.lastname@example.org or to me as moderator of OPEN LINE, email@example.com