Anxious Chinese parents longing to know how their darlings are coping in college may soon be surprised by unexpected official mail: photos of their tipsy kids.
On Tuesday, a widely circulated video described the new policy of a university in southwestern China’s Yunnan province. As part of a strict alcohol ban, any students caught drinking will have their red-faced pictures printed and sent to their parents via express delivery.
Yunnan Arts University also stipulated that parents of offending students would be invited to the school to help discipline their progeny.
The latest policy — which the video describes as “the most badass alcohol ban” — is only part of the university’s efforts to eradicate student drinking. The video explains how last semester, a teacher patrolled bars near campus with a megaphone to reprimand revelers — evidently to little effect. China has no legal drinking age.
The clip also includes sound bites from students saying they support the ban for the sake of protecting their own health and the school’s image. Their voices play over a slideshow of images of drunk and passed-out young people. Though faces are blurred, a reverse image search identified one of the photos as a snapshot from a raucous street in the British city of Manchester.
A university spokesperson told Yunnan provincial media that the policy was part of a host of “safety awareness classes” to mark the start of the new semester. In addition to alcohol awareness, the classes also cover fire safety, scams, student loans, drugs, and HIV.
Though some online comments criticize the university for meddling, most defend the policy. “You shouldn’t be drinking alcohol in school, and if anything were to happen … parents would accuse the school of bad management,” read one upvoted comment. Another recalled an incident where parents went after their child’s university after the kid died from alcohol-related causes.
University policies intended to protect the health, hearts, and minds of students regularly make headlines. In December, a college in Shenyang, northeastern China, made international news when it banned Christmas activities, saying it was protecting students from the corrosive influence of Western culture. A month later, another college in the same city caused a furor among students after banning online video games by blocking the IP addresses of gaming servers.
Schools even get involved in the most intimate affairs of their students. Many discourage dating, and some even explicitly ban public displays of affection. Last May, a young couple in eastern China was told off — and the male student even beaten — for cuddling on campus. And this week, a school in northern China was accused of tracking the menstrual cycles of female students to stop them from using their periods as an excuse to skip compulsory morning jogs.
While such measures are widely regarded as excessive, the close involvement of schools in nonacademic matters is generally considered beneficial for students.
One commenter in favor of Yunnan Arts University’s policy wrote: “Those who say the school is out of line: You won’t think that after you start to work. Without a single accomplishment to your name, you’d wish your school had been a little stricter, forcing you to do sports, forcing you to study, forcing you to work, rest, and eat healthily.”
Editor: Qian Jinghua.
(Header image: Young men drink beer during a graduation party at a college in Changchun, Jilin province, June 30, 2015. VCG)