Tsinghua building name incurs debates

Updated: 2011-05-26 15:10
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Tsinghua building name incurs debates

The No 4 teaching building of Tsinghua University is dedicated with shining Chinese and English characters of "Jeanswest Building." [Photo / Xinhua]

BEIJING -- China's prestigious Tsinghua University has triggered heated debates one month after its 100th anniversary of founding as it has named one teaching building after a well-known clothes brand.

The university came to the spotlight on Tuesday after a picture of the building's new name was posted online. People blamed the university for "selling itself" and the incident was labeled as the "falling of the spirit of universities," while others said it was normal for campus buildings to be named after a donor.

The No 4 teaching building of Tsinghua, built in 1987, is dedicated with shining Chinese and English characters of "Jeanswest Building," following a line saying that Jeanswest, as a leading company of casual clothes, has contributed its share to the nation's education.

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The Jeanswest, originally established in Australia in 1972 and bought by Hong Kong-based Glorious Sun Enterprises Ltd in 1990, opened its first store on the Chinese mainland in 1993. Clothes of the brand are a casual style designed for young people and sold at low prices.

The Jeanswest company suggested donating to the university during the latter's 100th anniversary. After discussions, the two sides decided to rename the building "Jeanswest Building" and keep the original name "the No 4 Teaching Building" at the same time, a spokesman for the Tsinghua University said.

The donation will be used to maintain and improve the facilities in the building, the spokesman said, not revealing the amount of the donation.

Jeanswest was not the first company to name a building in Tsinghua. Taiwan-based Yue Yuen Corporation, a sportswear producer listed in Hong Kong, named the sixth teaching building as Yue Yuen Building in 2003, the spokesman said.

Some students of Tsinghua said they were worried about the renaming, which made them feel the dignity of the 100-year-old university was not respected.

"I feel like the Tsinghua spirit were sold at a low price. Tsinghua should be noble and unchangeable. It just can not be changed so easily and frivolously," said a Tsinghua student named Zhang Jinyuan.

"The sudden change makes me feel the history of Tsinghua was lightened," Zhang said.

"The renaming can be accepted only when the donor is somehow related to Tsinghua," said Wang Yunbin, a second-year graduate student in the Department of Water Resources of Tsinghua, who has studied in the university for six years.

"Tsinghua had a Meng Weimin Building. Meng is an artist so he donated to the art building. But what is the relationship between Jeanswest and our teaching building? Even if it is a more famous or luxury brand, it still can not be accepted," Wang said.

People started to write jokes with the new name and take photos in front the building. "I do not want to see that the name has made Tsinghua a laughing stock," said an online comment.

The dilemma lies in the growing demands of the fast-developing universities and limited government education funds, said a comment written by a netizen named "Transparent Toy Museum."

"It is reasonable to seek social capital for sustainable development of higher education. On one hand, I do not want it to be too commercialized, on the other hand, who will share the burden of Tsinghua if there is no commercialization?" the comment asked.

The commercial cooperation could be diversified, such as providing more internships or technical research, said Peng Bo, another student of Tsinghua.

Jeanswest responded to the furious debate on its microblog on Wednesday. The company had been devoted to charity in educational fields since 1993 and most of the projects were named "Jeanswest," including the renaming the Tsinghua building, said the statement.

The company said it understood the contested debates and would continue to pay close attention to the discussions.

"In the future, Jeanswest will continue to support education in many ways," said the statement.