An effort by one Chinese university to foster physical activity on campus appears to have backfired, as students are devising cunning tactics to fool college administrators.
According to a report on Wednesday in Communist Youth League-affiliated newspaper Beijing Youth Daily, Changsha Normal University in central Hunan province since last month requires its students to run 120 kilometers each semester. Completion of the task counts toward the students’ grades in physical education.
In China, it’s common for universities to impose exercise requirements, and equally common for students to come up with creative ways to shirk their jogging duties, with lazy students often paying others to complete their fitness obligations for them.
To pre-empt cheating, the university in Changsha said students had to use a smartphone app to record their runs. Additionally, to prevent students from simply cycling or walking the required distance, runs must be completed within a specific time frame — for example, a 2-kilometer jog in more than 4 minutes and 22 seconds but less than 20 minutes.
Other measures have also been put in place to prevent students from completing the distance on behalf of their friends or classmates. For example, the maximum distance that can be submitted each day is 4 kilometers, and the app won’t accept two run logs if they are both uploaded within the same short span of time.
At Changsha Normal, students have reportedly taken to paying others to run for them. This phenomenon — aptly named paotui, or “running-legs” in Chinese — originated from people paying others to wait in line on their behalf to buy train tickets, and it has since come to include a wide variety of errands.
Rule-breaking can also be lucrative. In 2014, a man earned 19,000 yuan ($2,800) from his fellow students by hacking into his university’s website and entering fake running records.
Some students have advertised online that they are willing to run for others at a rate of 1.25 yuan per kilometer, or 120 kilometers for 130 yuan, the Beijing Youth Daily report said.
To combat such problems, some universities are turning to technology and naming-and-shaming as means of instilling honesty in their students.
Xing Kehan, a sophomore at Zhejiang University of Finance and Economics in the provincial capital of Hangzhou, told Sixth Tone that her university has installed swipe-card machines that record students’ personal information and photos, and that university staff must be present at the beginning of a run to ensure cardholders are who they say they are.
Xing said her school also has other, more dramatic measures for discouraging rule-breaking: Students caught skirting the rules are displayed on posters outing them as cheaters, in addition to having points deducted from their PE scores. As a result, Xing said, few students are now willing to take the risk of having others run for them.
(Header image: Students run on the campus of a college in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, Oct. 23, 2013. An Xin/VCG)