No compromise in ethical code, Hong Kong Baptist University president says, as calls grow to discipline protesting students
Vice chancellor adds that disciplinary proceedings are being pursued in wake of vulgarities hurled at staff
Hong Kong Baptist University’s president has asserted that while he wants to give students room to learn from their mistakes, he will not compromise in upholding ethical and behavioural codes.
Roland Chin Tai-hong’s comments came as calls grew for the institution to take disciplinary action against students who stormed a centre and hurled vulgarities at staff when thundering against a Mandarin requirement necessary for graduation.
Chin said he was inclined to adopt a liberal stance to fulfil the “responsibility of nurturing students and giving them opportunities” to learn from their indiscretions.
But he noted the school was vigorously pursuing disciplinary proceedings against those who breached its code of conduct. It was also reviewing how to strengthen the ethical and moral dimension of its general education.
Separately, a person claiming to be a university staff member, but not revealing his or her identity, launched an online petition calling for the public to join in urging the school to “make students fully understand they must not use intimidation to challenge academic assessment”.
The petitioner compared the students’ behaviour to “illegal detention” and gave suggestions for punishing the offenders, including issuing a warning letter and expulsion.
The matter centres on a Mandarin test the university introduced last year for students seeking exemption from taking a compulsory course for the language.
Recently released results showed that 70 per cent of the test takers had failed.
This ignited students’ dissatisfaction over how the exemption test was conducted, as well as the requirement to pass the Mandarin module. Last week, an eight-hour stand-off ensued between some 30 students and the school’s Language Centre staff.
During the protest, student union president Lau Tsz-kei was filmed using foul language while addressing an instructor.
The protesters’ conduct drew condemnation from the Federation of Education Workers.
“University students shoulder the future of society, and the public have high expectations of them,” the group’s statement read.
It called on the students to reflect on the incident and the school to deal with the matter seriously.
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Education lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen said the students’ actions were rude and unacceptable, but he expressed hope that the two sides would discuss their differences and find a solution.
Students who failed the test claimed it went beyond basic Mandarin communication skills, and asked for the marking scheme to be made public.
Lau previously said most students on campus were opposed to Mandarin being a requirement for graduation, arguing the subject was not mandatory at most 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.
University management and students were to meet on Tuesday to discuss the matter further.
Lingnan University undergraduates had to pass two compulsory Mandarin modules to graduate, according to student union president Ryan Lee.
“We practise pronunciation, like what we learned in primary school,” he said, adding he wished the time could be better spent on other elective courses.
Certain language modules for English and Chinese, but not focused on Mandarin, are compulsory for students at both the University of Hong Kong and Chinese University.
Chinese University student union president Au Tze-ho said most students did not find the courses useful.