EDUCATION

Chinese art professor caught kissing students sparks public outrage

PUBLISHED : Monday, 13 October, 2014, 5:48pm
UPDATED : Monday, 13 October, 2014, 7:46pm

An elderly Sichuan university professor photographed hugging and kissing two female students at a restaurant has sparked a debate about sexual harassment at China’s universities.

Associate professor Wang Xiaojian, who taught at the Sichuan Institute of Fine Arts in Chongqing, became the first educator to lose his job after China’s Ministry of Education released new guidelines for universities strictly prohibiting teachers from having intimate relationships with students.

Wang, 60, provoked outrage over the weekend after several photos circulated online of him hugging and kissing two female students, one on the face and the other on the hand, at a restaurant in Chongqing.

“It is indeed scary to see an associate professor, an art critic, failing to act responsibly as a teacher,” Wen Jianghua, a columnist for the Henan Business Daily, wrote on Monday. “Could this be the tip of an iceberg of moral corruption in some colleges?”

On Sunday, the Institute of Fine Arts said the photographs were authentic and suspended Wang, who by the end of last year had already retired from most of his duties. His retirement benefits have also been reduced, the institute said without elaborating further.

“Wang’s behaviour has seriously violated the moral code of educators and has had a severe social impact,” the school said in its statement.

The school also distributed an apology it said was written by Wang. “My inappropriate behaviour after drinking alcohol was wrong. I want to deeply apologise for the harm I’ve caused to the [two women] and the damage I’ve caused to the school’s reputation,” the handwritten note read.

Just last week, the Ministry of Education rolled out a new set of guidelines to prevent sexual abuse on campuses.

These guidelines strictly prohibit college teachers from having “inappropriate relationships” with students or engaging in sexual harassment. The rules also warn educators not to accept kick-backs from students, as well as prohibiting plagiarism and making remarks that challenge the Communist Party’s rule.

In September, a group of 256 scholars, teachers and students across the nation sent an open letter to the Ministry of Education, urging it to take stronger action against sex crimes on university campuses.

The letter referred to a case at Xiamen University, where two students confronted authorities with evidence of repeated sexual harassment by a history professor. The 48 year-old educator, who was accused of luring students into having sex with him, has since been suspended. The university said it had launched an investigation.

The Women Awakening Network, a Guangzhou-based women’s rights group that helped draft the open letter, said the university has not yet released results of its investigation.