Those of you who have been reading this column or who have been following University affairs would recall that the Convocation held an Extraordinary General Meeting on 1 September 2015 during which a motion was passed requiring the Convocation to set up a working party for the implementation of two other resolutions passed at the same Meeting. On 19 November 2015, the Standing Committee (SC) approved the setting up of the Working Party and decided to call it the Working Party on Motion 2D. Since then, the Working Party has finished its deliberations and submitted a report to the SC for consideration and approval.
On 17 May 2016, the SC approved the Report of the Working Party on Motion 2D (the Report); and on 27 May 2016, the SC submitted the Report to the University President and Vice Chancellor, the Council, the Court and the Senate. The Report is now available on the Convocation website.
In approving the Report, the SC noted the provisions in the law related to University governance in general and is conscious of its functions and powers under the law in particular. Let me be more specific. The powers of Convocation are prescribed by the statutes and reproduced under Article 3 of the Convocation Constitution. Very briefly, it elects its members to the Court and its Chairman who in turn shall preside at Convocation meetings in the absence of the Chancellor. The Convocation is also empowered to “discuss any matter whatsoever relating to the University,” to report its proceedings to and to communicate with the Court or the Council or the Senate. In short and without talking it down, the Convocation is primarily a forum for discussion, as opposed to one with executive functions or decision making powers. Once again, let me quote what Sir Robert Black said as Chancellor in 1958 when Convocation was established. On that occasion, he said that “Convocation would give the graduates of the University, as a body, an opportunity to have a voice in the University affairs and, also, because it should help to bring the University and the community of Hong Kong closer together.”
It follows that Convocation is a statutory consultative body, arguably a rather significant and important one in the University governance structure, and Convocation would be consulted on important matters relating to the University. On 26 April 2016, the Council established a Review Panel on University Governance to conduct an overall review of the governance structure of the University, and specifically to review the effectiveness of the current governance structure of the University, following the implementation of the recommendations in the Niland Reports (2003 and 2009). We have already been notified that the Review Panel would be keen to collect views of members of the Convocation in general and of the views of the SC in particular. In this connection, the SC being the executive body of Convocation, we as your elected representatives are only too conscious of our role and would take those responsibilities seriously. We would try our utmost to collect views from the membership to facilitate the work of the Review Panel; and we have already set up a Working Party to develop plans on how best this can be achieved. While members can forward their views direct to the Review Panel, we would also be happy to facilitate the process.
Before signing off, I would like to remind members that Convocation has already issued the notice of the 2016 Ordinary General Meeting (OGM) during which members would elect representatives to fill eight coming up vacancies on the SC. Members can make their choices in one of the three modes, either by voting electronically on the website, which has been simplified and made easier this year for graduates, or by paper ballots, or by voting in person at the OGM on 23 June 2016. Traditionally, only a small percentage of the membership took part in such elections. A higher percentage in voting turnout would enhance the representativeness of those elected; and we hope the improved electronic voting would encourage more members to vote, particularly those living abroad.