Project 211

Jeans firm's no fit as Tsinghua sponsor, students say

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 29 May, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 29 May, 2011, 12:00am


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Jeans may be standard wear for university students but for many at Beijing's prestigious Tsinghua University, naming a campus building after an Australian jeans brand was just a bad fit.

Jeanswest's name appeared on Tsinghua's No 4 teaching building on Monday, sparking heated debate.

While many said they understood that naming university buildings after a company or a person was common around the world, some students and teachers said it was the kind of company that mattered.

'We all feel it [the 'Jeanswest Building'] sounds very weird. It's too commercial. Plus, it's a clothing maker, which has nothing to do with academic studies,' second-year Tsinghua student Pang Ziyang said.

But Tsinghua already has several buildings named after companies, including the 'Yuyuan Building', named after a Taiwanese shoemaker, and the 'Hongmeng Building', named after an advertising group.

Dr Xiong Bingqi an education expert at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, said the real issue was what kind of company a school should choose when searching for sponsorship. 'You may need to consider whether the values and morality of this company are in line with the school's spirit. Also which industry does it belong to? As well as its reputation, technology...' he said.

A consultation mechanism for the sponsorships was also important. 'If this issue had been open for public consultation and information about how this money would be used had been announced, there wouldn't be such criticism today,' he said.

The controversy intensified when the plate introducing the company beside the metal characters 'Jeanswest Building' was missing on Thursday morning.

According to Xinhua, campus staff removed the plate after angry students painted it white on Wednesday night. Xinhua quoted the Tsinghua publicity department as saying the university would not restore the plate, but it would keep the Jeanswest Building name.

The Education Ministry said it would not intervene because naming school buildings in return for commercial sponsorship no longer required ministry approval.

A Jeanswest staff member said it had sponsored many education-related projects before and many companies had done similar things in the past.

'It's just that our company's name is the same as our products' brand name and therefore it's more eye-catching,' she said.

Tsinghua plans to raise more than 750 million yuan (HK$899 million) from companies by offering naming rights to 14 of its buildings, research centres and colleges, according to the website of its education foundation.