Student leaders at some Chinese universities are taking themselves way too seriously

Society & Culture

Amid a wave of revelations about how bureaucratic practices have taken over Chinese student groups, 41 student unions at Chinese universities, including prestigious schools like Tsinghua University and Peking University, have jointly released a proposal to curb the trend.

According to the authors (in Chinese), the practice of building hierarchical structures within student organizations is “an urgent problem that can no longer be neglected or tolerated.”

The statement, released on October 6, argues that student groups are supposed to address the needs of students and protect their rights, whereas many senior members of student unions have been leveraging their positions to advance personal interests, such as bonus points in applications for graduate schools.

The proposal also criticizes some members for being ego-driven narcissists bloated with self-importance, reminding them that no matter how much power they attain in student unions, in the end they’re just students elected to serve the interest of their peers. Moreover, the authors call for student unions to resist the corrupt political culture of excessive drinking and indulging in extravagant activities.

The proposal came after a chat screenshot from a student union at Chengdu Aeronautic Polytechnic in Sichuan Province went viral last week. The screenshot shows a member at the public relations department directing a question regarding a meeting date to the organization’s president.

One of the group managers, offended that the person had the gall to @ the president — and to do so by casually addressing him as “elder schoolmate” — sent a profane response to the group.

“How dare you tag President Yang? Did you just call him ‘elder schoolmate’ (学长 xuézhǎng)? I don’t want this to happen again. You have no f**king idea, do you?”

Chinese student group Wechat screenshot

Another group manager weighed in right after, reminding members that should be mindful of “one’s status” and the way they speak.

The screenshot prompted a number of college students in China to share their unpleasant stories of condescension. According to (in Chinese) a student at Sichuan University of Science and Engineering, junior members at his school’s student union are required to send holiday greeting messages to seniors, and those who misspell names or don’t use sufficiently respectful titles are subject to punishment.