Baptist University president hits out at ‘unruly’ student protest over Mandarin test
Union leader’s ‘slip of tongue’ during eight-hour stand-off caught on video
The head of Hong Kong Baptist University hit out at students for their “unruly behaviour” towards teachers during an eight-hour protest on campus, as video emerged showing the student union leader using foul language while addressing an instructor.
A clip that surfaced on Facebook last week showed Baptist University student union president Lau Tsz-kei speaking aggressively during the stand-off in which he was joined by 30 other students.
The protests stemmed from dissatisfaction over the results of a Mandarin language assessment, which 70 per cent of the test takers had failed.
To be exempted from the Mandarin class, students must either pass the test or show proof they passed a national language examination; otherwise, they must enrol in the class and pass it to graduate.
In response to media inquiries about the incident, university president and vice chancellor Roland Chin Tai-hong said the institution would pursue the matter in accordance with school disciplinary procedures if its regulations were found to be violated.
“I can feel the pain and distress of our teachers in the face of unruly behaviour by students they care so much about,” Chin said. “Abusive language and behaviour have no place at Baptist University.”
“We will also further enhance our teaching and learning to instil among our students a greater sense of [responsibility to become] ethical citizens,” he added.
Lau confirmed to the Post that he had used foul language during the confrontation on Wednesday.
He called it a “slip of the tongue” and said he did not intend to use foul language at all.
“I immediately corrected myself afterwards. I did not mean to say that word,” he explained, adding that he would apologise if the incident could be construed as swearing at the teacher.
In a two-minute video excerpt of the protest, students holding placards demanded that teachers let students retake the test and that they make the marking scheme public.
Lau said he hoped attention would focus on the issue itself rather than his language.
“I hope people would not just focus on this one word that I used out of all the eight hours of talking I did that day.”
The university made the exemption test available for the first time last year.
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Students who failed the recent test claimed the assessment went beyond basic Mandarin communication skills, and they asked for the marking scheme to be made public.
Lau said most students on campus were opposed to Mandarin language being a requirement for graduation, arguing the subject was not mandatory at most other local universities.
He added that students should either be free to use the three credits to learn another language, or take any other elective subject.
The teachers and students are to meet on Tuesday to discuss the matter further.
The university language centre, which is responsible for administering the assessments, said 40 per cent of students were exempted from taking the Mandarin class. Previously, only 10 per cent were exempted before the new test was implemented.
According to university statistics, fewer than five students had their graduation deferred for failing to fulfil the Mandarin language requirement since its implementation in 2007/08.