Gray area between students and teachers

By Raymomd Zhou ( China Daily ) Updated: 2014-11-08 09:24:03

Gray area between students and teachers

Cai Meng / China Daily

On Oct 14, Xiamen University announced the result of an investigation into a sexual harassment case: Professor Wu Chunming had "unethical sex" with one of his female students on numerous occasions and had sexually harassed another of his graduate students. The punishment: Wu was stripped of his Communist Party membership and his teaching position.

The university authority had been accused of procrastination and creating a cover-up when the story first surfaced. Wu was a star on the faculty and the only one in his school to confer doctoral degrees in archaeology. Only two of his female PhD candidates came out publicly with accusations, while reportedly 122 of his peers and students issued a public letter in his defense.

To those who see Wu as the poster boy of what's rotten on China's college campuses, the penalty was too little and too late. Wu was able to retain his research position, which was unfair, they said. But I hold the possibly minority opinion that the school was right to take a cautious approach and not jump to conclusions before thoroughly investigating. Sure, expelling Wu at the earliest convenience would be deemed more "politically correct", but that, in my mind, is another form of covering its own behind and not a sign of responsibility.

I don't think most of China's commentators or I are in a position to offer unbiased takes on this case for the simple reason that we do not possess firsthand information and have to rely on social media, which can be manipulated one way or the other. For the sake of discussion, I'll focus on teacher-student relations where all parties are above the age of 21 (Wu's accusers and suspected victims were all PhD candidates and higher than this cutoff age) and leave out the thorny area of high school scenarios.

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