It took authorities several days before they reverted to commonsense, but central government officials appear to have avoided the worst in their handling of this week's student protests at Beijing University. As so often happens on the mainland, the lower-ranking officials' first instinct, when faced with an unpleasant issue, was to ignore it and hope it would go away. By doing nothing, by shirking responsibility, they presumably were trying to avoid trouble with their bosses. All too often, their system punishes initiative and rewards evasion. But a rising chorus of protests from students quickly made that policy untenable, and eventually some sensible and mollifying moves were introduced. As a result, the students have both vented their feelings and gained a sense of having been heard by those in charge. This appears to have restored calm after days of rising campus tension as the June 4 anniversary of the Tiananmen Square killings draws near. None of this was necessary; some quicker and thoughtful decisions almost certainly would have pacified students and avoided the risk of mass protests. The issue was not at heart political; it concerned the university's reaction to the rape and murder of a 19-year-old student as she headed home late at night. The attack occurred last Friday night but university officials said nothing until Tuesday, even though rumours spread and a sense of outrage grew. This followed earlier student complaints about safety, which seemingly had been ignored. Now officials have allowed a mass memorial service, and the State Council has said it welcomes student suggestions about improving communications at the university, and will have the crime investigated by a special unit. A feeling of crisis appears to have passed. All that is fine. But if officials had responded sooner with a similar sense of conciliation, they might have avoided creating a sense of resentment which still lingers on campus.