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    Professor’s High-Speed Chase Prompts PKU Campus Entry Changes

    The public complaints of a Peking University professor about being manhandled by security guards have put the spotlight once again on the accessibility of China’s top university campuses.
    Dec 22, 2023#education

    Peking University has said it will further relax its campus entry policy after a university professor shared his account of being chased and manhandled by security guards, as the debate over whether China’s leading universities should be more accessible to the public rages on.    

    In his article on Q&A site Zhihu posted Dec. 12, associate professor Li Zhi from the college of engineering wrote that he was chased by a security guard as he tried to enter campus without having his staff ID checked or going through the security turnstiles.

    “I remembered the doctor’s advice not long ago that several short periods of high-intensity exercise a day are best for staying healthy, so I decided to do some sprint training to see if I could get rid of the security guard,” Li wrote.

    The associate professor also revealed that he has not complied with the university’s identity verification rules since they were introduced in 2008, including refusing to show his identity card or register his face for facial recognition entry.

    Many leading universities such as Peking University and Tsinghua University have retained restrictions on public entry to campus introduced during the COVID-19 pandemic last year.

    While some say that these universities are public resources that should be open fully to the public, many students and staff oppose further reopening due to the disruption it causes to campus life. 

    However, restrictions on the public have also caused inconvenience for students and staff, including congestion at entry gates and difficulties when friends and family visit.

    In response to the professor’s article, Peking University told domestic media outlet The Paper on Thursday that it will extend visiting hours and improve security arrangements at campus gates to reduce congestion.

    As two of China’s top universities, both Peking University and Tsinghua University have attracted huge numbers of study tours and visitors after reopening to members of the public this year. During the summer holidays, visiting slots were being sold by scalpers for between 300-500 yuan ($42-$70).

    Many students are already concerned about the current levels of visitors on campus. Jin, a junior student from Peking University’s school of journalism and communication, is opposed to the further opening of campus to the public as the university’s main responsibility is to contribute to society through research and education, not by being a “tourist attraction,” she said.

    “I think we Chinese people have a special sense of reverence or admiration for renowned universities, which is different from other countries,” Jin explained.

    Pressure on universities to further loosen restrictions is increasing. According to an online poll of 27,000 respondents, 70% support universities opening further as they are “social resources,” while only 20% are opposed.

    In his article, professor Li urged the university to strike a balance between maintaining order on campus and being open to the public.

    Peking University and professor Li Zhi did not respond to Sixth Tone’s request for comments.

    Editor: Vincent Chow.

    (Header image: IC)