A Communications Student in Beijing

The following is an anonymous letter posted by a first-year graduate student of what must surely be the Communication University of Beijing.  This is the view from the bottom by one individual, bearing in mind that other students may feel differently.  Still, the letter certainly conveys a chaotic situation in which the university underwent a rapid expansion under the edict of the national plan without having the corresponding teaching resources in place yet.

You should not think that this is unique to Chinese universities.  Large class sizes? High student-teacher ratios? No individual attention? Misrepresentation of course offerings? Poor teachers?  Sexual peccadilloes?  For reference, please see any large American university system (e.g. California, New York) under the conflicting pressures of massive budget cuts and universal education.

(New Century Net)  A Graduate Student's Letter:  The Strange Phenomena at a Communication University

I was a Chinese Literature graduate from a certain famous local university, and this year I am a graduate student at a certain renowned communication university in Beijing.  At this time last year, I and my many fellow students were studying hard and we spent a lot of energy and effort in order to make it into this graduate school of my dreams.  Yet, after about six months here, I am deeply disappointed.  My experience over these six months gave me so much shock, and I don't hold out much hope except to run away from all this.  But I want to write down my experience and observations during these six months and ask everyone to advise myself and my other students who are faced with the same difficulties.

1.  Burdensome dreams and hopes

We entered this school after the broad expansion of university education in the country.  It was said that there were more than 2 million university graduates this year, and this meant that our job prospects were not very good.  This is particularly true for people who are going to be specialized professionals like us.  But this problem did not exist for me.  First of all, my family has put aside a sum of money in case I have to study abroad.  Secondly, I am confident that my academic results will guarantee that I would be recommended for graduate school at my alma mater.  After thinking it over, I decided to pass on all the those opportunities and become an graduate student at School B.

First of all, this university has a great reputation and there are some very famous alumni, especially broadcasters and program hosts.  In secondary school, I was the director of our school's television station and I aspire to become a good television worker.  Therefore, I had applied for this school during my high school year but I did not get accepted because I did not have the specialization.  That was the greatest regret of my life.  I could not get over it, and I swore that I was going to become a graduate students at this school.  Also, my major was Chinese literature, which is far too abstract and has no practical use other than being able to open my mouth and say things.  My job prospects were dim, whereas communication is a rising industry with many more opportunities of development and I also love the profession.  Thirdly, my boyfriend is a graduate student at Qinghua University and I want to be with him.

In order to get into this university, I expended a lot of effort.  When I was still a sophomore, I asked my boyfriend to find a teacher at this university from whom I got some relevant information.  I also bought a set of test questions for graduate students to study on my own.  During the next two years, I often took out those questions tried to assess how far I have gotten.  Thereafter, every time that I visited my boyfriend at Qinghua, I would go over to that university and look around.  I met some teachers and students there, and I kept in contact with them.  In my senior year, I moved to Beijing and with the help of my boyfriend, I rented a place near the university and I attended the specialized courses while studying foreign languages and politics on my own.

After a while, I discovered that there were other students like me in the neighborhood from all over the country.  They came here in order to set up connections with teachers and to gather information.  The second point is quite important, because it was said that the university organizes certain classes for which teachers are likely to be the ones who design the test questions.

For the students, other than foreign language and politics, the most difficult is the general studies because the subject covers so much content: Chinese language, literature and history, and it is impossible to cover everything.  I have attempted to answer the questions from previous years, and it was very difficult to pass.

When I got to the school, I found out that many test takers were discussing just which teacher was going to design the question, and then they would use all sorts of connections to drop by.  Supposedly, quite a few questions get leaked each year.  Here, I was fortunate to know a few of these connected people, and I got a lot of information from them, especially about the general studies.  At first, I was not ready to believe this.  But when I took the exam, I saw that about 80% of the questions were covered by the information.  I received 140+ points in general studies thanks to the information that I got.

I can say that I worked very hard during those six months.  I had a good impression of the school.  The campus was not big, but it was compact and tidy.  I can see many people walking about shooting film with cameras on campus, and famous people come here to deliver lectures.  I would not see that sort of thing at the university that I was in.  That was why everything was so mysterious to me, and it increased my desire to come here.  So I worked hard, and I determined that I must realize my dream no matter the price.

2. The first shadow of doubt after my dream came true

I walked into the test hall with my dreams and self-confidence.  The most important requirements for graduate school were foreign language and politics, since these two difficult subjects are given everywhere in the country.  Most of the people fail on account of these two subjects, whereas very few people fail in their specializations (such as the humanities).  I had studied Chinese at a famous university, so I had more than six years of foreign language and my politics was not bad.  But my understanding about audio-visual arts and communication is much less, because I had only audited some courses at school and I had studied the questions from previous years.

When I got out of the test hall, I was quite happy.  I thought that I did well.  My think I could get about 80 points in foreign language and at least 60 in politics.  I was acquainted with everything in the specialization, especially the general studies.  Based upon what happened in the past, I could almost be certain that I will qualify.  Since the university was expanding its student enrollment, virtually all qualified students will be accepted.  But it is always a nervous time to wait for the results to be announced.

In March, I got some time off from the university under the excuse of job hunting, and I came back to Beijing to find a place near Qinghua in order to stay with my boyfriend.  I waited for the results to be published.  In April, the results were gradually published by the various schools.  Finally, I located my results on the Internet.  Foreign language, 73 points.  Politics 65 points.  Both were worse than I anticipated.  But on the two specializations, I got 145 and 148 points.  This was much more than I expected, since they were almost close to being perfect.  It is in fact unthinkable for a humanities major to score that well.  My total point points was 431 and I was going for the arts department.  In past years, the graduate students in arts typically only score about 300 points.  Therefore, I felt that I had no worries, and I thought that my score must be relatively high among the students who took this test.

That day, I went to the university in order to find out more information from the graduate student office.  On the way, I met Little Yang.  She was a test student that I met last year when I stayed at the university.  She told me that she got 370 points, but she only got 41 points in foreign language when the cutoff for the arts section was 43.  She was worried that she would not qualify and she was trying to look some people up.  I thought that the foreign language cutoff was specified by the Department of Education, and nobody can possibly help.  But Little Yang said that her older sister knows Director Y at the graduate student office, and many people who did not have the foreign language marks got by with his help.  I did not think anyone can do that, but I did not say anything to Little Yang.

Little Yang told me that the students generally got good marks this year, especially in the specializations, with most of them getting more than 130 points and a maximum of 148 points.  The school had wanted to expand school enrollment and wanted to make sure that there were enough qualifying students, which was why the teachers graded laxly.  In years past, it was pretty good to get 320 points.  This year, there were many with more than 350 points.  Little Yang said that there must be at least 200 people who were like me.  When I heard what she said, I did not feel too good.  Based upon my results, I was not concerned that I could not make it.  But I felt that it was not all fair here.

So I got my notice to attend the second round of examinations as I wanted.  On the day of the test, I came to the university early in the morning.  I was surprised to see Little Yang again, and I found out that she was taking the examination too.  I was stunned, because I know that the cutoff for foreign language at the arts division was 43 points.  In other words, Little Yang's foreign language did not meet the nationally defined standard.  But there she was for the second round.  In front of Little Yang, I said nothing.  But I was unhappy, and I didn't have the former sense of joy.

I went to the designated place to attend the test.  I saw that the corridor was full of people, and then I could believe what Little Yang said.  I remember that the recruitment bulletin said that there would be about 80 students in our specialization, but there were probably more than 200 people in total right there.  We are all taking the second round and even if 20% got eliminated, there will still be a class of more than 100 people.  What will happen in the future?  My boyfriend is a graduate student at Qinghua, and he said that each teacher has at most two graduate students.  Based upon that ratio, the 100 plus people here will require about 50 teachers.  According to what I know, the whole division has only a dozen teachers, and at most four to five tutor graduate students.  What will happen if all these students were admitted?

Read on to find out about the sad truth at the communications school.

3.  Behind the beautiful ring of light

When I received the acceptance letter, I was elated.  After all, I would be studying in Beijing at the one and only communication and audio-visual arts university.  Besides, I can be with my boyfriend.  So my moodiness dissipated for a bit.

This year, classes started early because this was going to the 50th anniversary of the university.  I showed up at school on time, and went through all the procedures.  I went to the dormitory room, where there were four girls.  I and Little Z came from outside schools, and other two graduated from this same university doing cinematic students.  W was a producer while X was a director.

At night, I chatted with my roommates and I found out that the school accepted more than 1,100 graduate students this year, including many who did not qualify at first.  Because our university was included in Project 211, and it was also turned into a communications university, it was necessary to expand the scale of the university.  When I heard that, I did not feel too good because I knew many people who scored only 300 points would be my fellow students, and there was no reward in doing so well!  The value of being graduate student has just lost some sheen for me, and my original happiness seemed silly.  But I did not disclose my feelings to my roommates.

After school began, the priority was to prepare for the 50th anniversary celebrations.  There were many school activities, there were all kinds of academic conferences, and there were exhibitions of the accomplishments of the various departments.  The most exciting part was the huge evening show held with CCTV at which many famous alumni and stars attended.  This made me very delighted, and I thought what a great university this was!

Although this was a school celebration, each class only received a few tickets.  We were new students, so the school gave us some extra tickets but not all of us could do.  Our class leader was a guy and he was nice to me by giving me a ticket on the side.  So that was how I got to attend the celebration held at the school stadium.

The evening show shone a beautiful ring of light on our university and gave me a shot in the heart.  All the alumni whom we only see on television came to the school and stood on the stage.  When each one appeared, people shouted and yelled for them.  But there was some discordant moments, as when a famous television host explained how she treasured her school insignia, someone said that she was feeble-minded and stupid.  Even I felt that she really did not know how to speak and she was putting on an act.  The other hosts were like that too, as none of them said anything memorable.  It seemed that other than their faces, there was nothing to be proud of.

As well, throughout the evening, this whole show seemed to be a solo performance by the broadcasting department.  What about the other departments?  Could it be that no other departments had any talented people after all these years?  For example, from the viewpoint of specialization, our department can organize shows but other departments like cinema and television series do not seem have any well-known alumni.  A few days ago, I saw a poster for a television show put out by our alumni, but they were from the arts department.  What about the directing department?  Where did their alumni go?  How many of them are making movies or television series now?

4.  Strange phenomenon #1: No tutor choice.

After celebrating the school anniversary, we settled down.  At that point, we were most concerned about choosing a tutor (or mentor).  When I read the recruitment bulletin of the Beijing cinema school and drama school, it stated the names and specialties of all their tutors.  But our school bulletin did not contain any information about the tutors.  Since I came from an outside school, I had no idea about the situation of the tutors.

One day, the school arranged for us to meet with the tutors.  I found that there were more 80 students in our department, but only half a dozen tutors sat on the dais.  Through the introductions, we found that that two of them were music-majors who focused on organizing evening shows, one was interested in song lyrics and was supposedly a famous poet, and one of them was the department head who seemed to organize evening shows as well as handle some special subjects.  The others specialized in operas, and they also teach in the music department.

As I listened, my heart went cold.  I was interested in television programs and special features.  I wanted to be a program editor and a reporter for a television station.  When I applied to the school, I thought that broadcast television and literature would encompass what I needed.  I never thought it would turn out like this.  Among the tutors, I don't know who to choose for my tutor.  First of all, there was no way that I would choose the poet as my tutor.  I was not interested in lyric poetry.  Besides, anyone who writes poetry these days will likely become beggars!  I cannot go with the two music specialists, because I was a Chinese literature major with no interest in music, besides being tone-deaf.  That leaves the department head, since at least she has done special features and program writing.  I spoke to some other people and they all thought like I did, since most of them studied Chinese literature, history and philosophy and felt the same way as I do.  I understand that the department head has enough students to tutor already, so will she want me?

We went back to our dorm rooms and all the students were talking and feeling very disappointed and worried.  Only W and Y were different, because they graduated from the same university and felt different from us.  W said confidently that the tutors at the university can be divided into three groups.  The first group is the officials, such as the president or the department heads.  These people may not have a lot of academic accomplishments, but they have powerful connections due to their positions.  If one can have them as tutors, then one has a good chance to get a good job.  The second type is those with academic knowledge.  If one works with them, one can hope to learn something even though one cannot hope to get any help in finding a job.  The third type are those who are not officials and who don't know anything either.  These are the worst, because one won't learn anything and one won't get any help in finding a job.  I found this analysis to be reasonable.  It was vulgar, but it made sense.  So I matched up the tutors against this grouping.  The department head was obviously in the first group; the two music teachers were in the second group; the poet can only be considered to be in the third group.  After thinking it over again, I decided that I would elect the department head as my tutor.

I telephoned the department head, and she said that it would be difficult for her.  She said that she has too many students already.  Before me, about forty others had requested her in addition to the more than 40 she already has.  So she did not want to take on more students.  I felt disappointed, and I felt there was not much hope.  But she said that I could sign up and see what happens later.  The choice of a tutor is a mutual decisions and I could always select another tutor.

Then I called the tutor who organized the evening show.  He did not say anything different from the department head.  In years past, he was used to having more than 20 graduate students.  But he has more than 40 already without even considering our new class yet.  He cannot even recall the names of some of the graduate students.  He complained that he was not being a tutor to the graduate students; he was just the class master of a very big class.  In the end, I sign myself up and he also said that we will have to wait and see.

I spoke with my fellow students and found out that everyone was in the same situation.  W who graduated from this university said that it was understandable because they took in so many graduate students this year.  Her elder cousin graduated the year before last, and there were only about 50 students.  Last year, there were 800 students.  This year, there were 1,100 students.  Supposedly, they will continue to expand.  According to the Department of Education, this university needs to reach 15,000 students.  As a research university, the number of graduate students ought to be at least 7,000 and the number of doctoral students ought to be 2,000.  Next year, there will have to be at least 2,000 more students.  This speed of development is frightening!

I went on the Internet and investigated.  There were fewer than 800 people on the university faculty, or which only 400 had the rank of assistant professor or higher.  The actual number of faculty members who can supervise masters students is fewer than 300.  If the university takes in 1,000 students a year, then each teacher will have to supervise 3-4 students or 11 in total across three years.  If the university takes in 2,000 students a year, then each teacher will have to supervise more than 20 students.

I had no choice by now, and I signed with two tutors.  After a while, a decision was made.  Because my test results were too good, I got my wish.  When the tutor met with the students, I found out that there were more than 40 students with him this year.  At least, he did not also bring along the graduate students in the music department.  When the tutor met us, he was not happy.  He did not want to take on so many students, but he had no choice.  When I introduced myself, he seemed to remember me and said that I had very good test results.

I was concerned about what would happen among so many students.  The tutor will probably won't get to know us until after a while.  Indeed, a few days afterwards, I saw the tutor and said hello, but he looked lost and I realized that he did not recognize me.  But I don't blame him, because how can he recognize so many students?  If I were him, I would be like that for sure.

5.  Strange phenomenon #2: A computer professor tutors cinema.

In our dorm room, apart from W, all the students have found their tutors.  One evening, we were talking about our tutors.  W said nothing.  We asked why, and she said that they didn't even know who their tutors were.  On the day of the meeting, the tutors for directors, art, technique and script-writing were present, but there was no tutor for production.  So they still didn't know who the tutors are.  One of them asked the vice-president of the graduate school, but he had no idea.  W graduated from this university and studied production.  She was actually studying something else and then switched over to production.  But she said that this specialization is really with business administration, but the graduate students were placed inside the department of cinematic arts.  So the tutors are probably going to come from both departments.

I thought that this was most peculiar.  These students had been accepted into the program already, but how could the tutors still not be known?  When I read the recruitment bulletin, I noted that that this subject was placed under cinema.  I remembered that there was a long description, and included a long list of tutors, many of whom came from famous universities, have made movies, have practical experience and some are even overseas returnees.  It was quite appealing.  I thought about applying for this area, but I did not because I really did not understand what production meant, and I didn't have the time to prepare for it anyway.  So how could the tutors still be undecided?

W said that the situation was quite complicated.  In the management school, there was a production research/instruction lab with some very good teachers.  The assistant professor named C was the director of the lab and graduated from Beijing University.  He was good!  But C then said that this subject ought to placed in the cinema arts department and he considered himself to be the teacher.  He said in class that he wanted to only teach graduates from Beijing University and Qinghua University and he was not interested in students from his own university.  So all except one student in W's class did not dare to apply for this department.  Unfortunately, C annoyed the university leadership, got dismissed from his director position and was never made teacher for the subject.  For this reason, she and another fellow student were able to enter the production major.  The problem was that at the management school, no other faculty member knew anything about production.  Yet the subject used to be in the management school, so it seemed unreasonable that they could not offer anyone.  So this was how things got stuck!

After a few days, W came back and told us that the tutors have been assigned.  There were four of them.  One of them is the vice-president of the management school and he specialized in computer science; one is the vice-chancellor of the university, who came out of the management school and was in management and administration; the other two were from the cinematic arts department, one of them majored in directing and the other in photography.  Supposedly, the photography tutor has not yet qualified as a faculty member so he only held a temporary title of assistant director at the cinematic arts department.

I thought this was most peculiar, because none of these tutors were involved in production!  It is one thing to be in directing and photography, because these were at least related subjects.  But what is the relationship between computer science or management/administration with production?  I asked W whether the vice-president knew anything about production and whether he would teach them the related course.  W said that the person was a computer scientist who also tutors computer science masters and doctoral students, and he won't have the time to figure out production.  I said if he doesn't know production, how will he direct the students?  W said that this person was in a leadership position, and production is not a terribly complicated subject.  She also said that this situation is not uncommon here at this university.  When I heard her response, I felt that I was probably being laughably na´ve.

Even so, W still encountered some twists and turns during her tutor selection.  Originally, she wanted to have the teacher who taught directing as tutor, because he has at least made movies and television series and she could learn something from him.  She went to speak to that teacher and found out that he already had two students who wanted to study directing and he turned her down.  She wanted the vice-chancellor next, but another student had signed up already and since he had much better test results than her (at 430 points), she lost out again.  Finally, she called the computer science professor who was happy to have her.  

Afterwards, W told me that the other students of this tutor were all production students.  When I heard that, I felt sad.  I could never have imagined this if I were not here.  I really wanted to know what a cinematic arts masters student was going to learn from a computer science professor!  Compared to W, I felt lucky because my tutor was at least not a computer scientist!

6.  Strange phenomenon #3:  The cinematic arts doctoral teacher who does not know cinema

I met Little B in class.  His masters tutor is V.  One day, I dropped in on a class where Little B was listening to V.

At our school, V is a legendary character.  He was a young professor in the Chinese literature department of a certain local university, and was recruited as a special talent.  Supposedly, he is well-learned, and has written a few books on literature and philosophy, and he began to write about the cinema as soon as he got here.  He became a masters tutor, he got a doctorate in cinematic arts, and then he became a doctoral tutor in the cinematic arts.  Little B was his masters student, and he intends to get his doctorate.

I went to listen to this lecture on account of his reputation.  Many people say that he delivers a good lecture, and he has an impressive style.  So I asked Little B to take me along that day.  V looked to be about 40 years old, and had an unruly look.  His clothes looked ruffled and dirty.  During the class, he smoked.  He has yellow-stained teeth.  He digressed and drifted, but he seemed quite proud of it and kept saying that he was a meat-vendor.  He was talking about the theory of art, and all I heard was mentions of Lao Tzu, Zhuang Tzu, Heiddiger, Sartre and so on.  I looked around, and all the students seemed to be listening in seriousness, including some who exhibited looks of admiration.

I had majored in Chinese literature, and I was interested in philosophy, so nothing he said was new to me.  I was hoping that he would talk about the cinema, but as soon as he spoke about movies, he would branch off to something else.  When the class was over, I had learned nothing whatsoever about the cinema.  During the break, I went up to him and wanted to talk to him about movies.  I asked him about how he felt about Wong Kar-wai and Li Ang, but I found out that he has never seen any movies by Wong Kar-wai.

I was disappointed.  After the class, I told Little B what I thought.  He said that V has good knowledge about literature and philosophy, but he does not know anything about the cinema.  When he studied the cinema, he was just transferring the knowledge about literature and philosophy over there to wrap a package around cinema.  So his books were exactly just that.  I asked Little B why he wanted to get a doctorate in that case.  What does he hope to learn?  Little B says that he was aware that he will not learn anything.  All he wanted was the doctorate title, and it will be easy to muddle through precisely because V does not know anything.  Besides he won't have a problem because his specialization was television and therefore cinema will come easy.  I was perplexed: how can someone who knows nothing about cinema become a tutor of doctoral students in cinema?  Little B laughed at my ignorance because this phenomenon was common enough at this university.  He said that some doctoral tutors probably don't know what a long cinematic shot is.  For example, a doctoral tutor once spoke about a long shot used in a certain television series.  After class, a masters student told Little B that the example of the long shot was in fact a series of different shots.  When I heard that, I had nothing to say but I just thought this was terrible.

7.  Strange phenomenon #4: The doctoral students attend classes for undergraduate major students

When I received the class schedule this year, I was disappointed.  Apart the common courses in English and politics, our specialized courses were all general courses.  There are some famous people, and even academic authorities.  But I just felt that they were too theoretical, such as broadcast television arts, television literature or methods of literary criticism.  I came to major in this subject not to learn the theory, but to acquire a way of making a livelihood.  Television is really a means of livelihood, and there is really nothing too interesting from the viewpoint of academic research.  But the teachers say that the graduate students come here to learn and not to create.  Based upon what I know, many students wanted to work in the television industry.  If we want to learn, why would we be in television?  Does society really need so many people to research television?

Today was Professor G's class, which was held in a large conference room.  I got there early, and I found that 300-400 people already there.  It was quite a sight.  I could not find a seat, so I had to sit on the floor.  I felt bad because graduate students should not have to do that in class.  A teacher said that when they took class in their time, there were just a few people.  Sometimes, they even met at the teacher's home and sipped tea while they talked.  This impressed me greatly, as the present environment was uncomfortable and alienating.  The students here today included both the masters and doctoral students.

Professor G is an academic authority, and is esteemed in the television field.  I have heard about him.  Although he was quite effective in his lecture, I did not receive anything because I felt it was too empty.  For example, is television art?  Professor G went on for a while, but I really did not care whether it was art or not!  So what if it is art?  So what if it is not?  The thing is how to make this movie!  I have read his book before, and the book had been published years ago.  I discovered that his lecture was virtually identical to the book, and he even used the same examples.

I was disappointed and I went back to the dorm room.  There, I found that X had stayed in bed after skipping class.  I asked her why.  X said that she has been to Professor G's classes before, and she has heard it all.  So I said that she had previously gone to the class for the undergraduate majors, but this one was for the graduate students.  Surely, the contents would not be the same.  X said no way: Professor G always gives the same lecture, and there would be no difference between the undergraduates and graduates.  Then she smiled and asked, "Did Professor G use The Allure of Tibet as an example?"  I was surprised, "How did you know?"  X smiled and said that everybody at the university knows that Professor G has always used the same stuff for over ten years.  I did not say anything, but I thought, "If the doctoral students attend the same lecture as the undergraduate majors, then it means that the doctors will only know as much as the undergraduates.  What is the point of the doctorate then?"

I attended some other specialized classes and found the same situation.  There were many students, and the lectures were mostly on empty theory.  It made me feel that the doctoral tutors did not really know cinema and television, and the classes were not very useful for the students.  I really don't understand.  Since we are graduate students, we ought to have an environment in which research and investigation are going on.  Instead, our learning conditions were worse than the undergraduate students.  Ordinarily, the undergraduate classes have 40 to 50 students but it seemed that each of our specialized classes had several hundred students.  It was really terrible.

In order to learn more, I listened to more classes.  There were my specialized subjects, as well as doctoral classes.  I discovered that there was very little difference between the two, and sometimes the undergraduate classes were better because they at least had some systematic organization whereas the doctoral classes can be quite disorganized.

8.  Strange phenomenon #5: No basic specialization or research direction.

According to the recruitment bulletin, there were more than a dozen areas of specialization for graduate students.  Based upon the course curricula and job placements, they really do not appear to be much different.  For example, journalism and communications studies are basically the same thing, as their course requirements are similar and graduates will go to television stations or newspapers to become reporters or editors.  As another example, the cinematic arts and broadcast television arts are both about television since we cannot hope to be as good in cinema as the Academy of Cinema.  Our students cannot make movies, not even television series.

Our strength is in television.  But we are only good for news or special features, because we cannot do television series.  From a practical point of view, our undergraduates and graduate students from all the various departments in the university will most ideally and likely go to television stations to become reporters, writers and directors.  Most of those who came to our university wanted to be in television.

During this half year, because I sat in many different classes, I found out that most of the courses were more or less similar.  For example, each specialization will definitely have types of audio-visual or television program production courses.  Even the graduate students in the literature or theater departments would come to attend out television production classes.

A hometown friend of mine entered the theater department as a graduate student last year.  At the time, I asked him why he chose this specialty.  He said that the choice of a specialty is immaterial, but the most important thing is to learn how to make films.  A while ago, he told me that he was preparing for his thesis and he will be writing about television series.  I said that it did not seem to have much to do with theater.  He said that he did not know much about the theater, and it would not be fun anyway because even the tutors don't want to touch it.  So I said, "If it is useless to learn that, then why was this specialization being offered?"  He said that this is a good descriptor which may attract some graduate students to come.

After one semester of classes, I conclude that the most important thing for graduate students is to be able to learn to make films because it will be our only way of making a living.  Although the teachers all said that they wanted to cultivate us to get into research, not many people are really interested in that.  Knowing how to make films will be our only advantage.  Without it, how can we compete with others?  But the problem is if everyone of us start making movies, then what is the point of having so many specializations?

The undergraduates are also making films, so that the graduate students do not have an advantage.  Furthermore, everyone is making films about news and special features, which means that all of us have the same future.  When our studies are completed, the one thousand graduate student and the several thousand undergraduate students will all be fighting for the same jobs.  What will it be like?  I really cannot imagine the outcome, but I am afraid and discouraged.

9.  Strange phenomenon #6: The masters in directing who does not know how to direct, and the masters in script-writing who does not know how to write a script.

There was a certain hometown person from Hubei who studied engineering at a large university and had good grades.  At the time, his own university recommended him to graduate school without requiring him to take the admission examination.  But he turned down the offer, because he wanted to become a director and make movies and television series.  After trying very hard, he finally succeeded in becoming a graduate student in directing.  But after more than one year, he found out that he could not learn to make movies, not even television series.  I asked him what happened.  He told me that his specialization is movie directing, but not a single teacher in his department has really directed movies; if they did, the movies were inconsequential.  Basically, they only give courses in theory, such as the history of literature and cinema, the theories of cinema and movie criticism, and so on.  They did not teach people to become directors, and very few directors ever came out of this school.   Most of his predecessors are now just floundering in Beijing, none of them really working on films and no one has ever made a television series.  So he was disappointed, and thought that he would never become a director.

I also know another student in the theatrical literature department.  He wanted to become a scriptwriter, but he found out later that most of the teachers have never been scriptwriters before.  Although he was attending courses on scriptwriting, he was going to courses about literature, or literary appreciation, or audio-visual art.  He has not gotten into the theory and techniques of scriptwriting at all, so he was worried about what he will be doing after he gets his degree.

I thought that we have all ideals like that.  So far, the graduates from our university should not have problems finding jobs, because many people have connections.  But if one does not have rich folks or powerful officials in the family, then they will be on their own just like me.  Based upon what I know, there are still some of our graduate students who are looking for jobs and floating around Beijing right now.  In our year, there will be so many more graduate students.  So if we don't learn some real skills, our future could be worrisome.

10.  Strange phenomenon #7: The embarrassing status of outside masters students

The social evaluation about the graduates from our university is that they are quick but have no endurance.  Compared to other universities, what we learn here is even more solid because we can at least pick up some techniques.  This may be true for the undergraduates, but it cannot be said about the graduate students, especially those of us who came in from outside schools.

During these six months, I got to know a lot of graduate students who came from the outside.  Most of them had majored in philosophy, Chinese literature and history.  These majors were too theoretical and impractical, so that it would be hard to find a job.  Meanwhile, the communication industry has been growing and the pay is good, so many people wanted to come into this industry by attending graduate school.

We came to this university with the obvious intention of learning some skills in order to enter the communication industry.  But actually, we found out that reality was quite different as the graduate students from the outside were in an embarrassing situation.

Although we have a sound foundation in literature and philosophy, we feel disadvantaged in front of the others who graduated from this university.  At a minimum, they knew how to make films and we didn't.  We were jealous about those people who walk around the campus with cameras.  We would like to be able to do that too, but we have no opportunity.  First of all, the university wanted us to do research while making films was what undergraduates do.  Secondly, all our coursework was theoretical in nature and we had no chance for learning anything of a practical nature.  Sometimes, we want to make films but we are too embarrassed.

In my case, my specialization is really somewhat distant from television, so it is difficult to create programs.  But other than creating television programs, what else can we do in the future?  Our society does not need so many people to research television!  Based upon the job opportunities given to the previous students, some of our graduate students were placed at tertiary educational institutions.  But they were hired to teach television program production, audio-visual languages and other practical subjects, since we are not even good with the theoretical materials.

11.  Strange phenomenon #8: The professor and the gardener.

I was surprised to see Little A on campus the other day.  Little A and Little Yang prepared for the same specialization.  During our preparations, we lived in the same rental house.  He got more than 400 points in the preliminary examination, but somehow he was not accepted after the second round.  This year, he intends to try again and he has rented a room nearby.

Concerning about why he was not admitted last year, Little A was angry because he was too careless because he thought that he would be admitted for sure based upon his high marks.  In the end, many people with lower marks and even those without qualifying marks were admitted.  His marks in the preliminary exam was 10 points higher than the cutoff, but he was not admitted.  He said that Little Yang was admitted because she paid someone off in addition to other things.

When I heard that, I did not find it credible.  After all, this is a school, and the examinations are fair.  So Little A failed to get admitted because his secondary round examination must have been poor.  But Little A said that Little Yang definitely found someone and that was the director of the graduate student office.  This was a powerful person who liked money and women.  Many people got admitted after dealing with him.

Little A has a hometown friend who works at the graduate student office.  This friend said that there was always a huge pile of letters of complaint against this director every year.  One alumnus wrote that the reason that he was accepted into the graduate school was because he gave the director a gold chain, which is now sitting around the neck of his wife.  I was dubious when I heard that, and I said, "If everyone knows that he is like this, then why is he still the director?"  Little A said that the director has a powerful backer and the university president protects him.  Supposedly, even the university president got angry over that particular matter, but somehow the director is still in that same post.

As this is an art school, there are always some sex scandals floating around campus.  After the story of Huang Dingyu broke out, there were even more rumors.  The students who also studied here before knew more than outsiders such as us, and they tell us everything.  The other day, we were chatting in our dorm room about the Fudan University professor who was caught patronizing prostitutes, Little Z from the television department said that this was nothing . She said that the department head once got drunk and said that he and a university vice-president went on business to the northeast.  The vice-president got a white Russian prostitute, and told the department head to pay the bill.  The department head felt humiliated because such expenses as gambling debts or prostitute fees should not be paid.  I was quite shocked when I heard that a university senior official could do that.  But Little Z gave a very detailed description, and she was also the student of this department head, so this is not totally unfounded.  Little Z also said that there were four great gardeners in this university, and this vice-president heads the list.  I asked her what a gardener is.  She thought for a second, then laughed and said, "A gardener is a lascivious man who picks the flowers."

I have always respected my teachers, from elementary school through secondary school to university.  What Little Z said was unfathomable to me.  How could this be possible?  At the time, I just kept it inside me and I thought it was a joke.  After a while, this kind of talk was causing me a problem.  One time, my tutor asked me to talk to him and I got worried.  So I got a fellow female student to accompany me, to her confusion.  Since then, I would get worried whenever I am with any male tutors, and I was always wary.  Actually, I realized that not all teachers are gardeners and that most of them are good people, but I cannot shed that state of mind.

12.  Where is the hope?

I have discussed these matters with my boyfriend.  My boyfriend said that such things can happen anywhere, and even Beijing University and Qinghua University are no better.  He told me not to think too much or do anything silly.  After all, we cannot change reality with just a few people.  But if someone finds out, I cannot expect to be allowed to stay at this university.

My boyfriend's words do not convince me.  I actually like what I want to do, and precisely because I like and love it so much, I cannot accept the present situation.  I believe that all of this should be changed.

I have written everything down without intending to hurt my school, and I don't want to hurt my teachers and fellow students.  I just want to point out some problems that occur during the education of our graduate students.  If enough people know about them, this may prod our university leaders to change the situation and to make our school more perfect.  This is the only way that our university can have hope, and our graduate students can have hope.

For a reason, I cannot disclose my true identity.  But I will be looking at our university, and silently hope for reform.  If I cannot see that hope, I will have to leave, or go overseas, or destroy myself in despair!