“SHOULD students fall in love?” has always been a popular topic of debate and has even appeared as an essay question in schools, but no one has a definite answer as to whether puppy love is good or bad for teenagers.
According to a report on campus romance at China’s higher educational institutions that was released last year, 80% of the 35 million students have had dating experience.
It seems that dating has become a major and the most popular subject at university, but unfortunately, not all of these relationships were blessed.
A move by Shandong Foreign Languages Vocational College to secretly photograph lovers on campus and make the pictures public has provoked fierce debates among students and Internet users recently.
The photographs of these young lovebirds holding hands, hugging or kissing each other were pasted on two huge banners, with the title “Exposure of Uncivilised Behaviour”, that were placed near a canteen on the campus.
Although the faces were pixelated, most students have taken the “punishment” as a public humiliation.
Those opposing it strongly accused the college administrators of infringing on their private lives and argued that there was nothing wrong with falling in love. They also argued that campus romance would not affect their studies.
Other behaviour defined as “uncivilised” by the school included keeping pets at the dormitories, smoking and consuming alcoholic beverages.
“If dating is deemed uncivilised, is secretly photographing others a civilised behaviour?” asked one student, known as Zhu.
Another student, Lan Shou, said the college had no right to interfere in their private lives, adding that these couples had not committed any crime or immoral conduct.
Xiao Qin, a Year One student at the college, might have a different view and supported the ban on love on campus, giving the reason that students should just focus on their studies. But she was against the school’s action to openly humiliate the couples by displaying their photographs.
The college management stood by its decision and insisted that it was a warning to others to behave on campus.
“The pictures were pixelated and none of the students could be recognised,” said its head of publicity, known only as Shen.
This college of more than 10,500 students was not the only one that tried to ban love on campus in China.
A high school in Wenzhou, Zhejiang province, suspended two students, who were spotted holding hands.
The whistle-blower, who exposed the punishment on a social media site, also claimed that the principal had publicly shamed the pair by revealing their names at a meeting.
Many Internet users condemned the school for being “too harsh” on the teenagers, who were merely showing affection.
“Students should be given the freedom of love. At the same time, they should also behave and avoid intimacy in public areas,” a user wrote on the site.
In another city in China, two high school students bound themselves together with super glue after their parents tried to break up the relationship.
The boy, a 17-year-old from Shanghai, got to know the 15-year-old girl from Dalian over the Internet. They fell in love and soon, he flew over to meet her.
When both parents found out about the romance, they tried to thwart it, reasoning that both children’s studies had been neglected as they spent most of their times chatting on their cellphones.
But the parents faced strong resistance from the teens, who glued their hands together, to show that they could not be separated.
The drama finally came to a happy ending with the boy sacrificing his love and heading home, but it left behind a series of debates with the decades-old title: should students fall in love?
To love a person is not a sin. Should adults over-react to teen romance or love on campus, and try to impose their conservative thoughts on the Gen Z, who generally want to call the shots for their own lives, demanding their rights and freedom at all cost?
It is time parents, educationists and school authorities re-evaluate the pros and cons before making any decisions.
Instead of being too harsh on them, which might provoke a retaliation, it would be better if the adults could just spend more time with children, listening to them, explaining the risks they have to take and consequences that may arise from their actions.