University Fires Teacher Who Traded Grades for Sex

2018-01-05 11:50:45

A teacher at a film school in northern China has been fired after he repeatedly coerced a female student into sex by threatening to fail her.

The teacher, surnamed Zhang, taught in the film and television department of Hebei Institute of Communications. According to Sixth Tone’s sister publication, The Paper, Zhang added the victim, an undergraduate, on messaging app WeChat in May 2017. He asked her out to dinner and a movie, after which they had sex at a hotel. Zhang then threatened to fail her on her final exams so he could continue having sex with her.

Chen Qiang, the vice president of Hebei Institute of Communications, told The Paper on Thursday that Zhang had an inappropriate relationship with the female student and that the school terminated his contract on Dec. 28. “The school has strict rules for discipline and ethics, and will not tolerate this kind of illegal behavior,” Chen said.

The case is a rare example of firm action on sexual harassment in China, where reports are sometimes ignored or buried until they attract attention on social media.

“It is good to see a quick reaction from the university’s side, as this sets a good example for other colleges to learn from when similar incidents occur,” Joy Lin, founder of Shanghai-based feminist organization We and Equality, told Sixth Tone on Friday. But Lin pointed out that the case should have been considered sexual assault and involved a police investigation, as the teacher used force, threats, and abuse of authority.

Located in the provincial capital of Shijiazhuang, Hebei Institute of Communications employs 1,069 teachers, according to its website. It’s just one of a host of universities to have faced allegations of sexual assault or harassment in the past year, as awareness of such crimes grows in China alongside social support for victims.

Social media has become a powerful avenue for Chinese college students to voice sexual assault allegations. However, few incidents result in criminal prosecutions.

A high-profile case in May 2017 saw the Beijing Film Academy launch an investigation after a female student claimed on her friend’s social media account that her teacher’s father had sexually harassed her years earlier. But more than six months later, the university has yet to release findings from its investigation. In the meantime, the original posts from the accuser have been deleted.

Nonetheless, many persist in publishing allegations online. On Monday, former Beihang University student Luo Xixi posted on multiple online platforms that her Ph.D. supervisor, Chen Xiaowu, had tried to have sex with her and sexually harassed at least five other female students. Chen denied the accusations, but the school announced that it had suspended him, pending an internal investigation.

Several weeks earlier, two professors in eastern Jiangxi province were removed from their posts after a blogger accused one of rape, and the other of burying the allegations.

According to a September 2016 survey of Chinese college students, more than 35 percent of 18,000 respondents reported experiencing sexual violence or sexual harassment, though they said the majority of perpetrators were friends, partners, and classmates, rather than teachers.

Editor: Qian Jinghua.

(Header image: PhotoAlto Agency/VCG)