The atmosphere in Li Po Chun is tense and fragile at the moment. On Thursday, students demonstrated peacefully outside the residence of the Principal in a candle light vigil. This was after 3 students, including a couple, were expelled from the college under the ‘inappropriate intimacy’ and ‘sexual intimacy’ rules. Earlier, more than 70 students wrote individual letters to the principal imploring him to reconsider the decision.
The news has spread to the Hong Kong press. An article laced with factual inaccuracies and misquotations was printed in the most widely circulated English daily here. This has done nothing apart from aggravating matters further.
According to school rules, being reported for ‘inappropriate intimacy’ or ‘sexual intimacy’ twice can lead to immediate expulsion from the college. The details regarding these rules have been deliberately left ambiguous by the administration because it is not possible to define each and every minute detail. Another rule is the interdorming rule- being in someone else’s room after 11pm can be punished by gating.
There was a huge controversy regarding the expulsion of the couple because according to many, it was one of these ambiguous cases. The couple were not reported to be in the same bed, but the girl was sleeping in the boy’s room at 4.30 am. The case could be argued to be interdorming or inappropriate intimacy. The couple are widely seen as a victim of the ‘flawed’ rules at school and there is a mass movement to amend the laws.
The community is split at the moment. Students can be broadly categorized into two groups, with a continuum in between. The first one calls the expulsion unjustified and totally wrong. The other group says that the couple were fully aware of the rule and its consequences, and after being caught for the first time were warned of expulsion. Therefore, despite the fact that the expulsions were extremely unfortunate, that was the only thing that could have been done in the case.
Obviously emotions are high; the people that left were dear to all. But some students vented out their frustration directing all their criticism towards the principal, Dr. Stephen Codrington. Some have gone on an all-out offensive calling for the incumbent principal to step down, or be removed. It is imperative to recognize that most people are discontent with the decision made; however only a small minority are actually rising up to oppose the principal. This has complicated matters further.
The student community also argues that expelling students is really easy (reflected by the fact that at least 7 students were expelled over the past 2 years), and this should be tightened for the wider benefit of the society. The Student Consultative Committee has been pushing for a panel to scrutinize the punishments to ensure that they are fair, and transparent. A similar proposal was rejected a few years earlier by the board. Talks were started with teachers to revive that this year.
The students also ask for a greater explanation regarding the motives and reasons from the administration concerning drastic measures like expulsion. Earlier expulsions this year have left many students in doubt, and spread various false rumours which can be removed by effective communication between the staff and students.
These events took place at a time when the second years are trying to concentrate on their final I.B examinations. Steps are being taken by the staff and students to ameliorate the situation. The end to the problem is not in immediate sight, but hopefully things will get better soon.
Note: The article might not represent specific views of individuals in school, but tries to give a general perspective of the college community. Individuals have not been mentioned for privacy matters.
-United World College Student Magazine-