The story appears on

Page A4

December 25, 2023

GET this page in PDF

Free for subscribers

View shopping cart

Related News

Home » Opinion

A hotly pursued university teacher renews debate on campus security

When an associate professor at Peking University entered campus by jumping over a gate, he was hotly pursued by a janitor. His story about the experience revives the debate about whether colleges and universities should open its gates to visitors in general.

According to Li Zhi, the teacher in question, current entry policy dictates that faculty entering the institution must have their faces scanned for admission. Li had not authorized the school to use his face for verification, so each time at the gate, he had to submit his employee’s card for registration and verification, which could take some time.

Finding this cumbersome, Li usually dispenses with procedure by simply jumping over the barrier. He gets away with it because the janitors know him — until in this latest incident.

A janitor who did not know Li began to chase after him. When the janitor failed to catch up, quickly switched to a bike, caught Li and let him go only after seeing Li’s card.

Li shared his experience online in a post titled “On my sprinting with a janitor today: High time for Peking University to change its access protocol” earlier this month.

It would be hard to say who is more deserving of our accolades in this drama of hot chase: the rights-conscious instructor or the conscientious gatekeeper.

Apparently, after Li shared his story online, it afforded plenty of ammunition for a renewed debate: Should a college or university open its gates to all, without cumbersome identity checks?

As late as 2008, Li revealed, the Peking University campus was still freely accessible to all.

Today, the faculty need to have their faces recognized for clearance even when exiting the campus, he said.

In response, Peking University said it is working on a new system that will allow visitors access to its campus in a variety of ways and that it is expected to go into force next year, the Beijing Daily reported.

Those opposed to full opening-up said a surge of visitors would overwhelm the school’s educational resources and disrupt daily teaching, to say nothing of the likelihood of security accidents. Admittedly, all these issues could be adequately addressed by an appointment scheme for visitors. A visitor today usually has to schedule an appointment several days early.

During the summer holiday this year, campuses such as Peking and Tsinghua were so hot as study tour destinations that arranging an appointment for entrance had become a highly lucrative business.

In a recent commentary authored by renowned education expert Xiong Bingqi, he observed that given its complications, it would be difficult to prescribe one recipe for all campuses in term of access, but that each school should work out its own access protocol by allowing fully for input from faculty, students and nearby residents alike.

Xiong did highlight a principle: Colleges and universities, as public-funded institutions, should be proactive in making their campuses open to society at large.

The complaints about overstretched campus resources seem to be manageable in adopting a case-by-case approach.

For downtown campuses, given their limited resources, the entry by appointment system can be advisable, as a means to manage the inflow of visitors.

But admissions to those campuses in the suburbs should be unrestricted, given their expanse of campuses, so that local residents could visit campuses without the need to show ID documents, for residents have the right to view nearby campuses as a kind of park.

In this aspect, the practice of some overseas campuses can be revealing. For instance, in some campuses there, public and residents can freely use the lawn or coffee houses in a campus without fences, though cards would be needed to access libraries, labs, stadiums and dorms. This ensures the primary function of a university in terms of teaching and research without compromising residents’ access to the campus.

This practice could be easily emulated. In most Chinese universities today, access to individual departments, libraries and labs have already been equipped with card-reading clearance systems, so visitor disruption to core university functions is eminently manageable.


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend