Newsletter No. 202

2 No. 202 4th May 2002 CUHK Newsletter Optimism Called for to Cope with Challenges in the Workplace R e c e n t c h a n g e s i n o r gan i za t i onal r ea l i ty caused b y t he e c o n om ic downturn have given rise to new challenges for Hong Kong 's wo r k i ng population, who are f aced w i t h j o b i n s e c u r i t y, increased wo r k l oad, g l oomy promotion prospects, and other distressing problems related to work. Prof. Darius Chan and Prof. Winston Au of the Department o f Psychology surveyed over 500 employees in Ma r ch on their perceived job security, job attitudes, psychological health, sense o f b e l o n g i ng t o the organization, and ways of handling stress. The study f o u nd that t o manage w o r k - r e l a t e d s t r e ss effectively, intervention shou ld target bo th the individual as we ll as the organization. This would turn seemingly distressful events into opportunities for growth. I n a pub l ic lecture entitled 'Meeting Challenges at Work' held on 13th Ap r il in L i Koon Chun Hall to celebrate the 2 0 t h a n n i v e r s a ry o f t he Department o f Psycho l ogy, Profs. Chan and Au drew on the findings of the survey to explain h o w f a c t o r s s u ch a s a n individual's level of optimism and sense of control determine the distressful effect o f work- related problems. Prof. Darius Chan MBA Students Produce Outstanding Business Plan F our CUHK M B A students —A t l an t us Wong, Martin Yip, Chris Chau, and Ray Ko — won the Outstanding Business Plan Award in their division in the Asia Moot Corp 2002 New V e n t u r e B u s i n e s s P l a n Competition organized by the University of Hawaii from 14th to 16th March. There were 13 teams competing for the best new venture business plan in the competition. The overall winner was Zhongshan Un i v e r s i ty from Guangzhou. Du r i ng the compe t i t i on, budd i ng entrepreneurs f r om across As ia presented their plans t o a panel o f j udges comprising venture capitalists, s u c c e s s f ul en t r ep r eneu r s, consu l t an t s, and i nves t o rs f r om a l l over the US. The judges then gave the teams feedback on their performance and ways o f i mp r o v i ng the v i a b i l i t y o f t he ir business plans. Ni nth New Asia-Yale University Student Exchange E ight New Asia students paid a visit to Yale University from 2nd to 16th February and a similar delegation from Yale paid a return visit to New Asia College f r om 10th to 24th March. The exchange has been an annual event between the two institutions since 1993. The theme for this year was 'Mass Media'. The college arranged a wide variety of activities for the Yale visitors, which included academic t a l k s, v i s i ts t o l o c a l med ia organizations and schools, and visits to the homes of the New Asia participants in the exchange programme. Local Consumers St i ll Cautious and Passimistic , Economi c Surve y Show s A survey conducted by the Department of Economics finds that the consumer sentiment index fell in March. Coordinated by Prof. Kwan Cheuk-chiu, the survey solicited responses from 502 adult Hong Kong residents on 25th March and found that the indices for consumer sentiment, current economic conditions, and consumer confidence have all fallen. Pes s imi sm i n pe r sonal financial prospects grew, wi th o n l y 1 0 pe r c ent o f a l l households expec t i ng their financial situation to improve. The decline i s attributed t o rising unemployment rates and conce r ns over c on t i nuous downward adjustment in wages. Buying attitudes in relation to e l e c t r i c al app l i an c es and furniture also deteriorated. The short-term outlook for the H o ng K o n g e c o n omy improved slightly though more i n t e r v i e w e es e x p r e s s ed pessimism over the long-term prospects. P r o f . K w a n has been conduc t i ng s imi l ar surveys since June 2000 to monitor the pub l i c 's expectations o f the economy and their attitudes towards consumption. Letter to the Editor On the Internal Research Assessment Exercise While I do not think we can ever quantify scholarship, or should be looking over the shoulders of scholars, I do understand the administrative mindset and political needs behind the exercise from getting rid of non-productive staff internally to demonstrating accountability externally. Regrettably, none of these reasons — administrative or political needs 一 is or should be our major concern as scholars. We, as a profession, thrive on principles and love reasoning, and are not easily moved by expediency, utility, and, still less, power. That the end justifies the means is not a principle I hold dear. As a scholar I resent, if not detest, the encroachment of administrative dictates (for whatever reasons, including 'noble causes') on my intellectual space. Like many scholars who came before and will follow after me, I have pledged my honour to defend intellectual space against transgressions from any persons, with whatever measures and for whatever reasons. I want to have the pleasure of roaming and playing as freely and carefreely as I once could in my intellectual space and pass it on to the next generation of scholars. Fundamentally, there is little common ground between administrators and scholars. As I am so fond of saying: 'Administrators love order. Scholars live in chaos. Administrators treasure certainty. Scholars thrive on indeterminacy. Administrators want to bring closure to matters. Scholars tend to keep an open mind. Administrators deal with concrete matters. Scholars process abstract ideas. Administrators are comfortable with universal rules. Scholars are interested in particularistic facts.' However, more often than not, it is the administrators who hold the balance of power over the scholars! When one senior administrator in an American university said to me: 'It is my way or highway,' I resigned. The critical question should be asked: if administrators, including academics-turned-administrators, can be allowed to direct if not control our intellectual space, what is to become of intellectual freedom? Regarding my objection to quantifying knowledge, I apologize for preaching to the converted. 'Bean counting' begins with knowing what the 'bean' looks like and how to find it. To both of these questions I have not yet found an answer that contains such a degree of certainty that I am confident to adopt it as a yardstick to measure my colleagues' productivity as scholars, much less to impute their integrity as professionals. I am not ready to say, this is a good scholar and that is not a good scholar based on 'bean counting', especially when real life consequences 一 integrity, pride, jobs 一 are there. What is my reasoning for this? I have not observed knowledge, the foundation for truth, in its naked light. I suspect I will never be able to. Though I will never stop trying. This is not withstanding the fact that I have great facility with methods and am overwhelmed with data. Indeed, I do not know Mr. or Ms. 'Knowledge' if I should bump into him/her. If we do not know what knowledge is and what counts as knowledge, how can we start the counting game?! More prudently, should we be spending our time trying to count knowledge rather than to find knowledge? Before we answer this question, please remember what Dewey has taught us 一 we teach by our action, not words! Besides, even if we know what Mr./Ms. Knowledge looks like, I think there are many more ways of finding and delivering knowledge other than 'articles' and 'power- point'. In essence, I object to establishing 'one best way, to do knowledge at a university. I reject the McDonalizing of the knowledge seeking or distribution process. On this account, revisiting F.A. Hayek may be appropriate. On a more practical scale and personal note, I am in the process of proposing a new general scientific theory of police, the first of its kind in my discipline ('State Police Power as Social Resource Theory'). It is a stimulating and challenging intellectual journey for me. Through their great works, I learned how our intellectual forefathers have journeyed to seek knowledge: it is often a 'hit and miss' enterprise in an open field without structure, process, or horizon. The only map and compass is our creativity and imagination. However, they are necessary but not sufficient tools. From the humble experience of one 'accidental scholar', I can attest to the fact that finding knowledge and discovering truth is not a nine-to-five job to be reported on at departmental meetings and reduced to 20 pages of A4 paper with 'introduction', 'methodology', 'discussion' and 'conclusion'. It goes without saying that good scholarship cannot be evaluated by the number of citation counts in the Social Science Index or Index to Legal Periodicals. I hope, in fact, I know that my colleagues will agree with me on this final observation: we (scholars) join the intellectual world to find and purify the source of the stream of knowledge, not to pollute and destroy it! To this end, I hope my colleagues will endorse my stance. But you may say, 'Ah, you have forgotten to tell us how to solve or resolve the real life administrative or political problem on hand.' That is why I am a scholar. Kam C. Wong Department of Government and Public Administration E-mail: