The Affair At Beijing Foreign Studies University
This is the story of two Internet forum posts. The first post is a complaint from a "Beijing Foreign Studies University female student" who claimed to have been sexually exploited by her thesis advisor. The second post is from another "Beijing Foreign Studies University student" who went through the details of the first post and showed that there were multiple inconsistencies with respect to the actual academic system (such as the advisor-student relationship, the grading system, the thesis committee, etc). If the first person could not get those details right about the system at Beijing Foreign Studies University, then all the allegations against the thesis advisor must be deemed suspect. This is practically a knock-out blow. With that in mind, you can re-read the first post and it does read like a piece of amateurish, cliché-ridden soft pornography.
If you want an anonymous Internet, then this is what you will occasionally get. You will have to inform the principal that his (and his family's) sufferings were worthwhile for the greater good of freedom of speech.
I am writing this because just I read the news on the Internet that a female Ph.D. at the Beijing Foreign Studies University was dismissed without cause. She had studied for three years, but she was dismissed in the end without cause. The advisor for this doctoral student was my masters degree advisor He XX. I am therefore deeply sympathetic about the fate of this doctoral student. This has also evoked the memories buried deep in my memory. In the following, I will tell you about my personal experiences.
In what the university described as an 'ironclad' case, we did not see that Wei Ying ever got a chance to "explain and defend" before she was dismissed. All along, the university unilaterally took action to "investigate-obtain evidence-punish."
I am a Jiangsu girl. In 1997, I entered the English Department of the Beijing Foreign Studies University as one of the top 50 students in the province and I had a wonderful dream. I was going from a small agricultural/fishing town into the glorious halls of the Beijing Foreign Studies University. This was the place I dreamed of being able to attend. When I arrived at the school, I thought that the campus might be a bit too small. But when I saw the many foreign experts on campus, I thought that I had found the ideal place to learn English.
I am 1.70 meters tall. Nourished by the fertile land and water of my home town, I was a beauty at age eighteen. When I arrived on campus, many student groups asked me to join. The university communications teachers also wanted me to become the weekly host on the news shows. But I turned all of them down. I thought that I went through the trouble to get to Beijing to learn and then I will get my masters and doctorate to win glory for my parents and hometown! So I did nothing else at school other than study. Each time, my exam results were among the top five of the department. At that time, I met He XX. He was the editor of the new English teaching ideas that were sweeping China. He was a Chinese expert in Anglo-American literature and he was a vice-chancellor. So he often spoke to us in the department and he was also very handsome! At the time, I hoped that I could enter the masters program in English at the Beijing Foreign Studies University and become He XX's student. But this idea would be the start of my nightmares!
When we finished our third year, my classmates went their own ways but I was not concerned. I was the top student in the department, and I was going to get into graduate school for sure! In October 2000, I went on my own to see teacher He (let us call him teacher He for now) in his office to try to convince him to accept me as his graduate student. When he saw me, he had a strange look in his eyes. But I was too concerned about getting into graduate school and I was not alert. He examined my excellent record and said, "I'll have you for sure!" At the time, I was very happy and I went back to tell my class teacher that. My class teacher was a woman who has been very nice to me. When she heard that I would become a graduate student to He XX, her eyes flashed a hint of pity.
So I got my wish to become the masters student of He XX. There was not much going on at first. My dormitory roommates sometimes said not very good things about him, but I did not regard that as truthful. After all, he was a professor and he could not possibly do that kind of thing, right? But one day, there was an academic conference at the university and the department wanted the graduate students to set the meeting up. In the conference room, HeXX flirted with a female worker with a foreign language instruction/research book publisher in front of the students and teachers. The nauseating language that he used with her in front of everybody changed my opinion of He XX.
After the second year in graduate school, we had to select a thesis topic. My nightmare began! In the summer of 2003, I finished the first draft of my thesis and I gave it to teacher He for evaluation. Soon afterwards, teacher He told me that my thesis was severely off subject and basically impossible to pass. I was very worried and I asked him what I should do. He said that he was too busy during the day, but I could go over to his place at night for private tutoring. At the time, I sensed that something was wrong but I had no choice except to go to his luxury apartment. This was the first time that I had been in such an up-scale district, which has only villas! (Later, I learned that those houses must cost at least 2 to 3 million yuan each). I went into teacher He's house and I asked him where his wife was. He said that she was in the teacher's dormitory at the western campus of the university.
Then he took me in his arms and said, "I have been watching you for a long time. I can give you a very high mark for your thesis, but you have to do what I tell you." ... What was I going to do? For six years of hard studying, I had to endure it. That night, he tormented me until after 2am. When I returned to the dormitory next morning, everybody knew and said nothing. Later on, I heard from other teachers and students that this was how he usually dealt with his students -- undergraduate, masters and doctoral. He even preyed on female teachers. This reminded me of that day when he flirted with the woman at the conference. Later on, he made me go there a few more times under the guise of revising my thesis. I remembered on the last time, this animal who wore the cloak of a teacher took out a pink nurse's uniform and made me wear it. He said that he bought the uniform when he went to deliver a speech in Japan. That night, I was forced to wear that disgusting uniform and be tormented by him in ways that I had never seen before.
Afterwards, he said that at the my results will be terrific at the oral defense tomorrow. Also, he had almost made sure that I get to become a translator at the Foreign Ministry. In the morning, he tormented me some more before he let me go.
This type of thing has a glorious tradition at the Beijing Foreign Studies University. The previous chancellor Wang XX had a steaming scandal with his own doctoral student in Russia. So I am advising all those female students taking the university entrance test this year that you must be psychological prepared if you think you are pretty and you want to attend the Beijing Foreign Studies University. You don't want to become like me, for I still have psychological impediments today. At the same time, I want to tell that dismissed BSFU Ph.D. that you must fight on in the face of injustice. You are already someone with status, and you should not be pushed by those kinds of animals!
Today I finally had the courage to tell about this matter. I admit that I was wrong back then. For the sake of seven years of hard work, I had to live in regret for the rest of my life! I am posting this at Tianya and I hope that netizens everywhere will support vulnerable people like us.
I hope that netizens will re-post my essay everywhere in order that the government pay attention to this!
The above is based upon real people and facts. I hope that netizens can go to the Beijing Foreign Studies University to investigate for themselves! Those animals wearing the cloaks of teachers should meet justice!
I don't like to post at forums, not even to read them. But I got angry after reading a certain post and I have to say something.
First, some background.
The background is this: Sometime ago, the Beijing Foreign Studies University dismissed a female doctoral student. This sort of thing is not exactly explosive news in the chaotic world of today. But immediately a person named "BFSU 1997 female student" posted at various forums to attack the Beijing Foreign Studies University on behalf of the victim against the chancellor He Qixin (何其莘). The result is easy to imagine in a time when the people of China are angrily calling to protect the interests of the vulnerable social groups. This piece of "inside information" generated numerous supporters and spectators.
Here is my background. I was a Beijing Foreign Studies University student, class of '99, and I entered graduate school in 2003 in the Department of English Literature that is much detested by netizens nowadays. I have taken a class given by Professor He Qixin -- Shakespearean drama and 17th century English literature. Frankly speaking, I have been at Beijing Foreign Studies University for such a long time and I am ambivalent about the experience. Any school has its flaws, and Beijing Foreign Studies University is no exception. I often hate my university because I am concerned about my job prospects and the tense atmosphere, and I have criticized my university like many students have. With respect to teacher He, I had an argument with him once over an exam question about a certain drama, and I wrote him an email afterwards to tell them that his conclusion was wrong.
But when I read that forum post, I was truly incensed even though I don't like Beijing Foreign Studies University and I had an academic dispute with teacher He. Objectively speaking, teacher He is a serious and responsible scholar. With respect to scholastics, education or any other administrative duties required of the chancellor, he is very demanding on his students, in daily classes as well as theses. But at the same time, he was a tolerant and kind teacher and would not be overly concerned about the more formal aspects. If you take his class, you can sleep, eat, skip class ... as long as you feel right by yourself, as long as you think that you can understand the contents and as long as you can write a thoughtful thesis ...
But this is going far afield, because netizens won't care too much about my feelings towards Beijing Foreign Studies University and my life there. People only care about rumors. So let me talk about those rumors.
This "BFSU 1997 female student" offered may examples, such as the undergraduate social organizations, the television station, graduate school admission and graduate studies, in order to show that she is young and beautiful and therefore tormented. These 'facts' may seem vivid and detailed to outsiders. But anybody who has actually attended Beijing Foreign Studies University knows how absurd and ignorant she sounded.
(1) From the most basic thing: the graduate student program at Beijing Foreign Studies University. In order to enter the graduate program, she said that she went to teacher He to ask to be accepted as his graduate student. At this time, most universities in China use this kind of "single advisor" system -- that is, a single advisor takes on a number of graduate student. But the graduate program at Beijing Foreign Studies University is different! Everyone who has been in the Beijing Foreign Studies University graduate program knows that the school has "joint advisors." That is, the many professors will deliver lectures to the students according to the class schedules just like in undergraduate school. A graduate student does not have a fixed advisor. For example, when I studied Anglo-American Literature, my first two years followed the class schedules. Within the classroom of that one teacher, there are masters and doctoral students from various class years in attendance. The so-called advisor is the teacher that one has to select one to two months before writing the graduation thesis in the third year. Therefore, when this female student claimed to have "asked to become his graduate student" in the very beginning, it was completely counter-factual.
(2) The essay had this dramatic description: "My class teacher was a woman who has been very nice to me. When she heard that I would become a graduate student to He XX, her eyes flashed a hint of pity." In like manner, anyone who knows Beijing Foreign Studies University would know that there is no such thing as a class teacher. Each class year follows a different set of courses. Each course teacher has the same rank and is responsible solely for teaching and has no administrative responsibility. Administratively, there is only one "departmental instructor" and the teachers report directly to that one person.
(3) In that essay, the person wanted to prove what an excellent undergraduate student she was and said, "my examination results were among the top five in the department each time." But the point system at Beijing Foreign Studies University is different from many other universities. At Beijing Foreign Studies University, there is a five-point system. Three points is a passing grade. Usually, nobody gets less than three (after all, this is a test of language skill and the ability to listen or write cannot be scientifically quantified like physics, mathematics or biology; therefore, students will usually pass). Most people get scores like 4, 4+, 5-, 5. Getting a 4- or 3+ basically means a poor performance. This is a very crude way of grading, unlike a 100-point scale. This also means that you can't easily figure out a ranking. People may get a crude concept as to who gets more 5's and who gets more 4's. In each exam, there may be more than a dozen 5's, thirty or forty 5-'s, so there is no way to figure out who is in the top 5 of the class as the essay suggested. I should mention that Beijing Foreign Studies Department has never seriously attempted to rank its students. At the end of each year, the staff will internally rate the students and come up with the winners of three academic prizes. The list is announced at the departmental meeting and the students may be able to guess at their positions on that basis.
(4) There were similarly many flaws in the discussion of the graduate thesis that the essay put so much emphasis on. This person quoted this statement from the advisor: "I can give you a very high rating on your thesis ..." But she did not know that in the thesis evaluation system for graduate students at Beijing Foreign Studies Department, the advisor does not participate in the process. The evaluation is done by a thesis committee composed of three professors (two from Beijing Foreign Studies University and one from the outside). During my thesis defense, one committee member said that my thesis was too short and delayed the meeting right on the day before. There was not a thing that my thesis advisor could do. The netizen may think that teacher He Qixin can used his authority to force the thesis committee members to pass his student. But I'll have to ask: should a chancellor use brute force to force three other academic colleagues (including one from the outside) to pass his student's deficient thesis and thereby reveal his ulterior motives? If teacher He was really a 'hypocrite' as accused by some netizens, would he do something so stupid?
Here I must ask the "BFSU female student" to tell us what the subject of her thesis was, or at least the general direction. I should add something that may seem unrelated to this affair: When teacher He Qixin became the chancellor, he had to worry about many things about the university as well as the doctoral students' theses. Therefore, he had very limited time for the masters students. Basically, he did not take on any graduates students. In the year when I graduated, he only advised on one student's graduate thesis.
(5) As for someone who entered Beijing Foreign Studies University in 1997 and then the Beijing Foreign Studies University Anglo-American Literature graduate studies in 2001: the number of people who fit the description is easily enumerable. That this post is a lie is obvious to the recent graduate students at Beijing Foreign Studies University.
(6) Finally, I will rebut some of the more mundane descriptions: At the beginning of each academic year, the social organizations set up booths in the plaza and run a recruitment drive for a couple of days. The students join the organizations on their own. There are many pretty women at Beijing Foreign Studies University, so people don't find that sort of thing to be impressive. Many social organizations are too conceited to be interested in pretty women. The Beijing Foreign Studies University television station is organized by the students themselves, and the electronic media teachers are mostly involved in administering the instructional facilities, including class scheduling and facility management. Who has got time to ask a first-year student to join the television station?
Actually I know that I have spoken so much in anger but all that may be meaningless. Friends have told me, "You should not feel bad. This is the Internet. Once a piece of news comes out, people will talk and whinge. It will be over like a puff of wind. No one will remember. Besides, speaking out wouldn't help anyway."
That is right. Looking at the negative reactions on the Internet, there are more condemnations than analyses. The Chinese people have been oppressed too long. When they are given a completely open and anonymous Internet, they cannot distinguish between democracy and extremism. They exhibit more mob fanaticism than clear reason and inference.
I am not sure whether it was due to society or human nature, but we tend to believe in rumors, negative news and any complaints on behalf of socially vulnerable groups. I also admit that various kinds of filthy and disgusting things are happening in various corners of society and I am not trying to prettify the world from the oblivious view from inside the ivory tower. But when I see people spitting on Beijing Foreign Studies University and teacher He along with other examples of academic abuse, I still felt very bad and I wanted to say something. I don't care if this means anything, or if I get laughed at, or if I get abused, or if I get looked down upon ... I only hope that I can emit my weak voice on this matter and placate my own conscience.