The University of Liverpool sparked outrage after allegedly singling out Chinese students in an anti-cheating notice released ahead of exams this month.
In its email, the university’s Student Welfare and Guidance department warned against “unintentional exam misconduct or intentional cheating,” pointing out possible repercussions such as failure, suspension or termination of studies.
However, the notice raised eyebrows when it specifically translated the word “cheating” in Chinese.
“Unfortunately, each year, a number of international students breach the University’s rules around exams; this can be unintentional exam misconduct or intentional cheating. Students who and [sic] caught cheating (舞弊) in exams suffer serious consequences such as a mark of zero, suspension of 1 year or termination of studies.”
At the end of the email, the department stated why it had to translate the English word.
“We find that our Chinese students are usually unfamiliar with the word ‘cheating’ in English and we therefore provide this translation: 舞弊.”
The notice immediately drew flak from within the university’s Chinese community. Among them is a 22-year-old student who felt that they were singled out unfairly.
“I personally think it is absolutely unacceptable and inappropriate — it is basically racist,” the student told the Liverpool Echo. “There is a large proportion of Chinese students at the university and you can’t make these assumptions about all of them. It’s heartbreaking because Liverpool is one of the most welcoming cities in the U.K.”
In the wake of the controversy, students launched a change.org petition calling for an apology from the university.
“It is so ridiculous that you call ‘cheating’ as terminology and think we Chinese student cannot understand it? The explanation seems to be too hypocritical!” another student commented. “Moreover, it is always the European students who break the law in library and we Chinese never speak loudly in quiet study zone. Teach the European students to obey the rules first and you are not qualified to discriminate against us!”
In response, the university issued multiple apologies through various channels.
According to Shanghaiist, one came in an email from its International Advice and Guidance team, which claimed that Chinese students were confused about the term in the past.
“The inclusion of the Chinese translation was certainly not intended to give the impression that the exam misconduct advice was aimed at Chinese students. We have had feedback from Chinese students in the past regarding the terminology so were addressing this to ensure our advice was clear.”
Another came from the source of the notice, Student Welfare Advice and Guidance, which tweeted that it did not intend to single out any particular group of students.
“Our @LivUniSWAG team work with our international student community to offer help & support throughout their time at Liverpool. The intention was not to single out any particular group of students, but to make the information as accessible as possible for our student community.”
A third apology came from Vice-Chancellor Janet Beer, who claimed that it was “wholly inappropriate.”
“There was a paragraph in this email which caused significant offence and has upset our students, parents and partner organisations. This was a mistake and is not representative of the high regard in which the University holds its Chinese students. It was wholly inappropriate and I apologise wholeheartedly for the offence it has caused.”
Featured Image via Facebook / University of Liverpool