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Universities' website change sparks controversy


21:25, June 28, 2013

BEIJING, June 28 (Xinhua) -- Several renowned Chinese universities have triggered controversy after posting photos of beautiful female students on their websites amid commencement season.

A graduation picture of Kang Yikun, dubbed "Goddess of Renmin University," even caused her university's website to crash after being uploaded to its homepage.

The stir began on Sunday, when Renmin University, one of China's top universities, changed its homepage to include Kang's graduation picture in the background.

Other universities, including the Beijing Foreign Studies University, China University of Political Science and Law and Tongji University, have also posted their students' graduation photos on their website homepages.

Although some have praised the universities for prominently featuring their students on their websites, others believe that the move is being made to attract more male students.

"I think it is vulgar to use pictures of beautiful girls to attract boys," said Xu Jing, a college student from east China's Anhui Province.

The controversy has shocked Mao Yanzheng, a professional photographer who provided the photos of Kang.

"It is graduation season. The school asked me for some photos for a website background and I chose two that I thought would satisfy them most," Mao said.

An official from Renmin University's publicity department said she never expected the photo to trigger such a fuss.

"Senior high school students would not be attracted only by a single photo of a female graduate. They will choose universities and majors based on the university's reputation and employment prospects for their majors," said the official, who is also a female and preferred not to be named.

Direct comments on a student's appearance in front of the public is deemed not in line with a teacher's identity in China.

She added that the university has regularly changed its homepage since 2012, adding that it usually displays photos of professors and students.

Xiong Bingqi, associate dean of the 21th Century Education Research Institute, said changes in homepages are perfectly normal.

The controversy is being raised because the universities' homepages were very uniform and boring in the past, Xiong said.

"School homepages are a window into campus culture. Changing the stern and rigid stereotype of Chinese universities is a good beginning. But there shouldn't be too many followers. Each university should have its own characteristics," Xiong said.

Ma Zhichao, a researcher with the Shanxi Academy of Social Sciences, said solemn and uniform homepages make the universities appear overly bureaucratic, which has hindered their development.

"Universities are in essence service-oriented social units. It is important that they can become the spiritual homes of students and teachers," Ma said.

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