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University campuses should be open to public, official says

By ZHENG CAIXIONG in Guangzhou | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2023-08-19 06:46

Sun Yat-sen University is seen in Guangzhou on March 17, 2019. [Photo/Sipa]

To open or not to open — that is not a question for university campuses.

Because they are public resources, university campuses should be open to the public as much as possible, according to a senior education official in Guangdong province.

Zhu Kongjun, Party secretary and director-general of the Guangdong Department of Education, said research and discussions were helping universities improve campus management to make campuses more accessible.

"There are indeed some problems with our campus management, but these should not become a reason for denying the public's right to visit," he said.

Zhu made his remarks when answering questions in a hotline session this week. Many local residents complained that most universities in Guangzhou continued to refuse public access even though the country had relaxed its COVID-19 policies and measures months earlier.

Responding to safety concerns, Jiang Cunyu, director of the security department of the provincial education authority, said, "If there are any problems that occur after the opening, it is not because of the opening itself but because of poor management."

As in other parts of China, universities and colleges in Guangzhou closed their campuses during the COVID pandemic to help curb the spread of the virus. They only allowed faculty members and students to enter.

"It was a special response to help manage the pandemic," Jiang said, adding that his department would guide universities to reopen to the public in an orderly manner in the weeks to come.

According to Jiang, some local universities, including Sun Yat-sen University and South China University of Technology, are now testing new reservation systems to allow visitors who have made appointments online in advance to enter their campuses soon.

Nationwide, prestigious universities such as Peking University, Tsinghua University, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Zhejiang University and Wuhan University, announced the resumption of public visits through online appointment systems before the summer holiday began.

The universities have become popular destinations for summer campus tours for primary and secondary school students.

Zhu Qiuli, an adviser to the Urban Research Association of South China, said universities should not be closed ivory towers as isolated universities lose their inherent meaning. "Openness or limited openness are forms of social progress," he said.

Some have raised concerns that crowds of visitors might disrupt the peace of campus environments and influence students and teachers.

In response, Zhu urged universities to designate specific hours, venues and routes for visitors and to establish systems for external visitors and instructions allowing people to visit. He also said punishments should be imposed for violations of school regulations.

Yu Jianan, a sophomore at South China Agricultural University, said he was OK with opening campuses to the public in an orderly way.

"In my mind, 'university' means opening and freedom," he said. "I personally think closed education is insufficient for the development of the personality."

He added that he might also invite his relatives and friends to visit his campus, or he might visit other universities for meals or to take a walk and attend lectures.

He Shiqi, a Guangzhou resident, said opening university campuses to the public is a friendly measure that allows residents to enjoy the campus scenery and sense the academic atmosphere.

"Guangzhou is a city with a strong degree of openness and inclusiveness," she said.

Wang Han contributed to this story.

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