University attacked for suicide waiver

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 10 November, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 10 November, 2010, 12:00am

A mainland university has raised eyebrows by asking nearly 20,000 students to sign a waiver that would absolve it of liability for campus suicides and self-inflicted injuries.

Students at Shandong Jianzhu University in Jinan were asked on November 1 to sign an agreement which would clear university authorities of responsibility for suicides and for self-inflicted injuries by students provided the institution had fulfilled its responsibilities, according to the Jinan Times. The university was assailed for lack of compassion and sensitivity after the document was leaked to the public on the internet.

Reports show that across the mainland about 40 college students have taken their own lives on campuses in the first nine months of this year, with motives varying from broken relationships to gloomy job prospects.

An official in the university's student affairs department admitted yesterday that it had asked students to sign the waiver but denied it was compulsory.

He said the agreement was designed to cultivate a sense of responsibility among the students, and some of the clauses were simply extracted from the Ministry of Education's guidelines from 2002. These were issued after mainland universities began to see a rising number of legal disputes with parents over campus accidents.

Some academics questioned whether it is the role of the ministry as an administrative agency to settle civil disputes but said the guidelines addressed some of the misconceptions over university safety issues as well as helping to clarify liability.

Song Bin, a Shandong-based lawyer, said the agreement did not break any law but was of little practical use as existing law was clear on the issue, whether students signed the waiver or not.

However, Song said the agreement should be signed under the principles of fairness and consensus.

Professor Xiong Bingqi , vice-president of the 21st Century Education Research Institute, said the waiver showed a lack of sensitivity, and was unnecessary as long as the university followed the law.