Sunday, January 6, 2008

An Abusive Professor in Guangzhou

The day after the New Year, an anonymous letter, with a pseudonym Broken-Heart Ph. D. (伤心博士), was posted in an internet forum in China. The post has an astounding title, begging a professor "Would you Please Not to Abuse People Anymore?". The post was immediately carried in many other online forums, including New Thread, and received much heated discussions everywhere.

The author of the post is purported to be one of the suffering graduate students of Ai Yuncan (艾云灿), a microbiology professor at Sun Yet-Sen University (中山大学) in Guangzhou. In tearing language, the letter described Professor Ai as extremely abusive, verbally and sometimes physically, towards his graduate students. The article also provided a list of 13 Ph. D. students who had come to Ai's lab since 2004. They were described as either left without a degree or trapped in a limbo in the lab.

The author of the post also claimed in possession of a record of Professor Ai's verbal abuse. The record was not posted due its large size. While begging for the professor to stop his abusive behavior, the author wish to warn any students who are considering of applying for the lab.

Afer New Thread carried the post, it received another letter from someone claiming to be a student of Professor Ai's. This new author claimed to be the first student of Ai's who had fought back the abuse and successfully changed adviser within the school. It also included a few more of Ai's victims: students dated back to 1998. In this new article, the author encouraged Ai's current students to stop being victims, fight back and seek help from authorities.

To its credit, Sun Yet-Sen University appears to be responding rather quickly. It already posted a notice in the school web site stating that an investigation group has been formed to look into this matter. The group's initial findings are that although some details in the original post are unfounded, the problems are not entirely baseless. The group claims that Professor Ai is a diligent and strict scientist, who is under tremendous pressure of executing several big research projects. It is due to his lack of people skills that Professor Ai had resorted to crude treatment to some of his students. The group also indicated that Professor Ai has recognized his wrong-doings and apologized to his students.

It's not clear whether any further actions will be taken.

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