The university’s announcement “didn’t mention any duration for the ban, and we can’t be sure that Zhang Peng’s teaching duties won’t be revived after the storm passes,” said a student at Sun Yat-sen University, according to Intellectual, a Chinese online platform focused on academic issues. “The entire notice from the school was very cautious and never mentioned the words ‘sexual harassment.’” The student used a pseudonym in the article.
Earlier this week, more than 100 graduates of the university and students from other universities put their names to a public petition urging Sun Yat-sen University to investigate Professor Zhang, according to Sixth Tone, a news website based in Shanghai.
Professor Zhang is the latest of several Chinese academics to have been publicly denounced and punished in recent months over accusations of sexual harassing female undergraduates. In April, students at Peking University protested the school’s failure to punish Shen Yang, a professor of Chinese who had left the school. He was accused of assaulting a student who later killed herself.
In that and other cases, university administrators and online censors have tried to quell discussion of the incidents, and the same appears to have happened at Sun Yat-sen University.
The report from Ms. Huang that exposed the allegations against Professor Zhang also disappeared from the WeChat social media page where she had first posted it. China Digital Times, which monitors censorship in China, said an official directive demanding that the article be taken down also warned against reviving the issue of sexual harassment in universities.
Professor Zhang taught courses on primatology and ecology in the school’s Department of Sociology and Anthropology, taking students on field trips to study monkeys.
The students who brought complaints against him said he used those trips, as well as meetings to discuss papers, as opportunities to isolate female students, then grope, hug and kiss them. The report from Ms. Huang said that Professor Zhang became increasingly aggressive.
“This wasn’t a single compulsive act; again and again and again he sexually harassed students,” said Chen Hanyuan, a boyfriend of one of the students who denounced Professor Zhang, according to the report. “He was a habitual offender. How could Sun Yat-sen have tolerated a professor like this?”
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