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    University Denies Tracking Students’ Menstrual Cycles

    Students say they were told to report their periods so they couldn’t escape morning exercise.

    A university in northern China’s Shanxi province allegedly asked its students to report when they were menstruating in order to prevent them from lying to evade compulsory exercise.

    A freshman at Taiyuan University of Science and Technology (TUST) posted on Q&A website Zhihu that starting last week, the university’s economics and management school required all students to get up at 6:30 a.m. and run nearly 2 kilometers. The anonymous poster said that the school then sent a student around to record every female student’s period. Students were warned they could claim no more than 10 days a month of menstrual leave from morning exercise.

    “Isn’t that a violation of privacy?” the post asked. “Plus, the morning run has messed up many students’ rest. [After the run] they eat breakfast and then go back to sleep because they are just exhausted.”

    The school’s Communist Youth League branch told The Paper, Sixth Tone’s sister publication, that the menstrual monitoring has ceased. The office claimed that students in charge of the morning run had initiated the registration of their own accord: “The way they did it was problematic, but the goal was clear — to be fair and to urge students to exercise.”

    Most students posting online were more fired up about the morning run than the menstrual surveillance.

    “I hate it. We have to get up so early and jog around the schoolyard on empty stomachs for more than 1.5 kilometers, then climb back up to the sixth floor to get our books, eat breakfast, and have class,” another anonymous student posted on microblog platform Weibo.

    A student at a different university in Taiyuan told Sixth Tone that her friend from TUST complained to her that she has been tired since the compulsory exercise started, and had even gained weight.

    “Isn’t it up to university students themselves if they want to run or not?” she said. “They aren’t in high school anymore, yet they’re monitored in the same way.”

    Compulsory exercise is common in Chinese educational institutions, from kindergarten to university. Some universities have even used smartphones and fingerprint recognition to stop students from hiring sporty stand-ins. For example, in 2016 Changsha Normal University in central China’s Hunan province required students to use an app to record their runs.

    Contribution: Zhou Qi; editor: Qian Jinghua.

    (Header image: Students take an early morning jog at a university in Tianjin, March 11, 2015. VCG)