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Comic's donation to college draws chorus of catcalls

(China Daily)

13:22, December 14, 2011

SHANGHAI - A controversial Shanghai standup comedian's sponsorship of the famed Fudan University has met with pockets of applause and loud booing.

Zhou Libo, who shot to fame with his jokes in the Shanghai dialect, has provided a 300,000 yuan ($47,100) scholarship to the university each year.

The gesture set off a wave of controversy.

Over the weekend, Lu Gusun, a famous Shakespearean scholar at Fudan, jumped on the scholarship on his micro blog, saying the campus had been invaded by entertainment figures.

Starting this year, 15 students will win the scholarship annually, according to Fudan.

Previously, Zhou set up the scholarship at Shanghai Normal University.

"The establishment of this scholarship is a sign of bowing to vulgarity," said a teacher who declined to give his name.

But Feng Wei, professor at the university's department of history, had a different view.

"Frequently, people appear to lack tolerance and believe Zhou Libo is deficient in refinement. But his support of education deserves applause. More similar financial aid programs should be encouraged. After all, it's good for students," he said.

The 44-year-old comedian has a huge following for his quips and gags in the Shanghai dialect. He has been praised as "rare talent" and "born to be on the stage". But he has been criticized, particularly about details of his personal life.

He once had a broken marriage. His ex-wife's family was strongly against the relationship. Zhou injured his future father-in-law and was jailed for 200 days.

In 2010, after divorcing, he married a 40-year-old, well-to-do businesswoman in Wenzhou, Zhejiang province.

Also in 2010, Zhou sparked public anger after saying on his micro blog that the Internet is "a public toilet" where netizens relieve themselves of their private thoughts - about 200,000 of his followers deserted him in protest.

"Many people want to donate money or establish a scholarship at Fudan. I don't know why the school choose Zhou Libo," said a girl surnamed Zhou who graduated from the university two years ago and had received many scholarships as a student.

"He is such a plebeian person who always spouts empty and insincere chatter to amuse people," she said. "It's unworthy to receive such a scholarship."

"So far, Fudan has more than 200 scholarship and financial aid programs. Charitable work needs the support of the whole of society, and the development of a university also needs the help of all social sectors. As long as it benefits students and education, no matter how much the amount is, Fudan will consider each donation seriously and carefully," Fudan University e-mailed in response to a China Daily request for comment.

"Donating to education is a lofty act, and shouldn't have strings attached or conditions that harm students' development. We oppose any speculation or commercial practices," the university said.

"Professors and students want a good atmosphere on campus, and this is correct. A university should be inclusive, and professors and students have the right to criticize - the choice is theirs. We respect their choice because it is the foundation of university culture," it said.

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