Students must learn that there are lines it is not acceptable to cross
A video showing indecent behaviour at Hong Kong University is damaging to the individuals concerned, to their school and to the city’s image
Like it or not, university students can expect to be teased or even humiliated by their seniors as a ritual of acceptance or initiation. While ragging has long been a part of student life, there are limits as to how far it should go. We don’t know if an online video that recently went viral showing indecent behaviour by Hong Kong University students constitutes ragging, but if so it has clearly gone too far.
What really happened is now a subject of criminal investigation by the police. The 19-second clip saw a young man held down by at least two others inside a university dormitory while another man, wearing a hoodie with the words “HKU” and “Chemistry”, slapped the victim’s head with his genitals.
The university has set the right tone by appointing an investigating panel. The sense of urgency came as a sharp contrast to the response of the student association of the university hall in question. The group stressed that the incident was unrelated to university hall culture, adding that no bullying was involved. But it nonetheless apologised for causing public misunderstanding towards university halls.
The association is right in saying that the public has expectations of our university students. Regrettably, we are often let down by reports of students’ misbehaviour. Thanks to the internet, many untold tales have come to light. While some may just sound childish, others warrant attention.
At stake is not just the image of our universities and students. Elsewhere, raggings have caused psychological trauma, physical injuries or even suicides and deaths. Universities in India and Sri Lanka are notorious for such incidents. Reports show some 15 students have died and 25 have become disabled as a result, while 6,000 students could not tolerate the abuse and quit their universities.
There are those who defend such practices, saying it is a tradition that helps transcend social strata and fosters comradeship among students. But as far as the HKU case is concerned, it appears to be a case of sexual abuse, to say the least. The public response clearly shows that it has gone beyond what is acceptable.