Female students of SDU targeted over ‘buddy system’ controversy

By Wang Qi Source:Global Times Published: 2019/7/19 0:05:54

International students gather for a graduation ceremony at Shandong University, July 2018. Photo: VCG

Several female students at Shandong University (SDU) said they have been cyber-bullied and harassed after the university's "buddy system" sparked widespread controversy. 

Students said they were attacked online and called "whore" while the university was called a "brothel." Internet memes featuring "your wife graduated from SDU" went viral on Chinese social media. 

A few female students said they were harassed on campus.

"Some male students were taking pictures and videos of our female students and asked them dirty questions," said one SDU female student to the Global Times on Thursday while speaking on condition of anonymity.

The source also said that some students were caught loitering around the women's dormitory secretly taking photos. 

Online uproar began after a project known as "buddy system" was launched at the university based in Jinan, East China's Shandong Province. 

In 2018, the university allocated 141 volunteers or "buddies" for 47 international students who were predominantly male. A rumor later surfaced that the majority of volunteers were female.  

Only July 12, university officials denied rumors the school had allocated three female "buddies" per one international student in a statement posted on Sina Weibo. The school also apologized and vowed the project would undergo a thorough assessment. 

Aiming at promoting the studies of domestic and international students, the program was carried out voluntarily and has also been available at many Chinese universities for years, SDU officials said. 

Although most of the students are on summer break, SDU has strengthened security measures adding more security guards to protect those who are at the university, reported Nanjing-based news platform JSTV.com.  

SDU began installing access devices at school entrances, which can only open by swiping a student or ID card, the anonymous source said. 

She also mentioned that SDU records the names of students who are on campus for the summer break, and added the school strengthened patrols to keep an eye on possible suspects. 

"We refuse to be labeled and stigmatized. I hope more people can be rational and learn what the facts are," she said, while expressing her anger and helplessness towards the insults and harassment.

The attacks, though most of them being nonsense and ridiculous, do reflect the stigma and prejudice over gender and race rooted in the minds of some Chinese, said a Beijing-based sociologist, who also requested anonymity. 

The sociologist noted that though the controversial issues in this case, such as foreigner privilege, have been questioned by many in the past, there has been a shortage of rational discussion on the real issues which explains why the university's project triggered such online outrage. 

Facing the online attacks, internet users also called for a more rational attitude. 

"You can blame the buddy project and even SDU, but female students are innocent," said one Sina Weibo user. 

"Those who insulted and harassed the female students are not real men," read one online comment. 

Posted in: SOCIETY

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