Mandatory China Day seminar draws praise, criticism

Holds on student accounts have since been lifted.

The inclusion of a safety seminar for Chinese students as part of a China Student Day program has elicited mixed reactions from the students it was created to protect. The primary concern centered on MU’s decision to put administrative holds on student accounts until they attended in order to make the program mandatory.

Several students felt that the program assumed Chinese students were unable to take care of themselves, according to a Columbia Missourian report from last month. Graduate student Zixiao Zhao, a doctoral student in the Division of Plant Sciences at MU, felt that holds on student accounts who did not attend the seminar were a result of “administrative failure.”

However, other students felt that the seminar was not only helpful, but necessary.

“I think the reason they used the holds is because they want us to know how important this is,” freshman Yiteng Zhang said. “We’re all taught by our parents that safety is the most important thing in your life. So I think that’s mainly what they were trying to do. For me, if it’s something we have to go to, it’s reasonable.”

News Bureau director Christian Basi said the seminar was first introduced in 2015, and was a result of collaboration between the Chinese Students and Scholars Association, the Chinese Consulate in Chicago and MU.

“Representatives from the student organization approached us about making this program after one Chinese student and one Chinese scholar died in accidental deaths,” Basi said.

According to Yiteng, the seminar included discussions about car and driving safety, potential legal problems students could run into, and other problems Chinese students could face.

Basi said that turnout was low in the first seminar, which was voluntary. Representatives from the CSSA approached MU and the decision to mandate attendance through holds on student accounts was made.

He added that there have been no fatalities since the introduction of the seminar.

“If it wasn’t mandatory, some people wouldn’t go, because it was on a Saturday morning at 9 a.m.,” freshman Xiaoyu Chen said. “It’s pretty early and on the weekend, but it’s pretty important because the whole presentation is useful to everyone here.”

Chen said that it would be help for students to have the presentation on a weekday.

Zhang said that while moving the seminar to a weekday would help students, it would be difficult for government leaders, whose offices are in Chicago, and police officers who have to work.

“The presentation from the police officer made some really crucial points, as a new driver,” Zhang said. “He explained the difference between driving here and driving in China, and all the alcohol and drug use. Sometimes [Chinese students] think we’re driving properly, but maybe we’re not. Definitely, we never want to be pulled over by the police officers.”

In addition to addressing physical dangers Chinese students could encounter, the seminar also touched on potential online scams.

“The most important part for me was the information on the online scam,” Chen said. “This topic was mentioned by both government leaders and the lawyer they invited.”

Chen said that international students will pay extra attention to phone calls or emails that say they’re from China, and that several students had been the target of scams pretending to be important information from their country.

“This phone call or email may announce that your status in the U.S. has been canceled or other things,” Chen said. “As freshman here, we really care about these kinds of things.”

Basi said the holds have since been lifted on student accounts by MU, and will not be reinstated next year. However, the seminar itself will be continued, and MU is currently in discussions regarding how to encourage student attendance in the future.

“I don’t think the problem that some students have had with the program is that important,” Zhang said. “For me, it’s really simple — it’s something you have to do. It’s something that’s really useful for you. Why not?”

Edited by Morgan Smith |

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