Chinese university defends ‘homophobic and sexist’ lecture from ‘campus safety expert’

Society & Culture

A university in the northwestern province of Liaoning lectured new students about women who smoke, homosexuality, and drugs.

Shenyang Normal University

A Chinese “expert” on school security has been blasted online for “blatant homophobia and sexism” in his lectures — and yet Shenyang Normal University (SNU), one of his employers, has defended the specialist and refused to cut ties with him.

Last week, “Campus information gentleman” (@校园咨询君), a Weibo account dedicated to sharing college news and student complaints about their schools, posted (in Chinese) a screenshot of a private message from an anonymous follower.

“The new student orientation at SNU features homophobic and sexist material,” wrote the Weibo user.

In a photo included in the tip-off, a giant projector screen can be seen displaying a slide intended to show bad behavior on campus. It reads: “Girls smoking — Homosexuality — Promiscuity — Drugs.”

In addition to these, other “existing phenomena on campus” shown on the screen include gambling, alcohol-related arguments, and disputes in sexual relationships — all of which are associated with a negative image in the public’s eye.

homophobic lecture

The post quickly went viral and drew criticism on social media. Many called out the person who wrote the material for perpetuating pernicious and false stereotypes that gay people and girls who smoke are more prone to a hedonistic lifestyle of drug use and promiscuous sex. “This person’s views are shockingly ignorant, more consistent with someone who lived in the 18th century rather than in the 21st,” a Weibo user commented (in Chinese).

The story was quickly picked up by several news publications. On November 2, when reached by The Paper, the student who snapped the photo and submitted the complaint said (in Chinese) that she was a first-year student at SNU, and that the “controversial” content was from a lecture she attended. The lecture was given by a campus safety expert, who was invited by the university as a guest speaker, she said.

According to the student, at one point during his speech, the expert said, “It baffles me that gay people are so open about their sexual orientation now. Do they really not care how they are perceived by parents, classmates, and teachers?” At another point in the lecture, the expert stated, “Who on earth thinks it’s a good look for a girl to smoke?”

Responding to the backlash, a school official from SNU’s publicity department told (in Chinese) The Paper that the expert’s opinions were “misunderstood” by the critics. “They took his words out of context and misinterpreted the educational goal of the lecture. The expert did nothing but point out the phenomena and gave his critiques,” the spokesperson said. “When it comes to homosexuality and girls smoking, the school doesn’t encourage, approve, or support.”

Unsurprisingly, the university’s response only further fueled the existing complaints about it giving a platform to what many people considered as “bigoted views” about the gay community and women who smoke. The outcry demanded accountability, with many critics calling on the school to condemn the expert publicly, or at least to stop inviting him to give lectures to students from now on.