Wetenschap - 1 januari 1970




Dear Editor,
On 4 December, six articles appeared on different pages of Wb mentioning
the ‘Chinese’. The Chinese have never received so much publicity in the
village history of Wageningen. Unfortunately, all the articles showed
negative and somehow discriminative attitudes towards the Chinese
community. Several of them are targeted at a group of young students who
have paid a lot of money from their own pockets (about €36,000 each) for
the WU-China Agricultural University BSc programme to come here to study.
Together with more than 100 self-paying MSc students, the ‘Chinese’ have
brought in several million euros each year to Wageningen, which has
compensated for the dramatic decrease in Dutch students. As such, foreign
students have contributed to the survival of the university! However,
these articles, especially the articles with the one entitled ‘Chinezen
vragen de stomste dingen (Chinese ask the most stupid things)’ have deeply
hurt the feelings of more than 300 Chinese students and researchers living
in Wageningen. I could not imagine how much arrogance showed on Mr Wouter
Maalcke’s face when he was talking. ‘There are only stupid answers, but not
stupid questions,’ people always say. In Dutch we also have a saying,
‘Vragen staat vrij’. Is there something different in this university? I
think the article may have shut the mouths of a lot of Chinese students who
are already shy about asking questions. What does Mr Maalcke think? Than he
can drill a hole in the head of these students and pump in the knowledge?

I also felt quite uncomfortable when I saw that people showed no mercy when
one of these Chinese students accidentally burnt his hand by a strong acid
in the lab. It was clear from the article that rather than concern, blame
was assigned. This incident is very much in contrast to a similar one (or a
much worse one) that occurred a while ago when a Dutch student was infected
by the HIV during her practical course. This story was covered extensively,
but never once did I hear anyone mercilessly blaming this girl for her
carelessness. If you have a little imagination, you might be able to put
yourself in the shoes of these new Chinese students, who had just arrived a
few days before (two months later than their classmates), who had to put up
with all the hassle of the complicated resident permit procedure, who had
no time to even recover from jet lag, and for whom it was probably the
first time they have travelled to a completely new country. It is a small
consolation that most of them do not understand Dutch, since the articles
in Dutch (p1, p5) are more insulting than the one in English (p4). However,
to those Chinese who understand Dutch, such public gossip gave an even more
bitter feeling. If I were the parent of this student, I would be really
worried about the education and living environment in Wageningen, and would
reconsider spending my money at WU.

These Chinese students are laughed at for not being able to understand
their Dutch mentors' English. They are accused of ‘playing computer games
for the whole night’ and ‘sleeping with their heads in the acid cabinet’.
My immediate question is if the students are actually as bad as this, how
were they accepted at Wageningen University in the first place, with a
promise of receiving a Wageningen University degree? I heard that Mr Ralf
Hartemink (one of the programme coordinators) went to China four times to
evaluate these students, and to check the curriculum provided through China
Agricultural University where these students did their first two years of
study. I must say, I have some doubts about where he spent his time in
China. I hope he was not there to just look into the pockets of the
students and to enjoy the Chinese food in local restaurants.

I was surprised when I first heard of the WU-CAU BSc programme two years
ago. My gut feeling was how would WU manage to receive these second-year
university students and teach them with their not-so-fluent (my Dutch
colleague may disagree with me) English? Is WU prepared for this? Not
really! The Wb news in a previous week showed that there are not enough
courses provided in English, which made some classes very crowded, some lab
instructors could not speak English and some lab manuals and labels are
still in Dutch. Personally, I would say that if WU wants to have a
sustainable international programme, the university and in particular the
course coordinators will need to invest, to provide high standard English
courses, to select good students, to provide them with enough supporting
facilities. The Chinese Association of Students and Scholars in Wageningen
(CASSW) is a very warm-hearted organisation, and has shown its willingness
to help the university. I think the course coordinators should use this
advantage to provide additional language and knowledge support to those
students arriving late to give them a jumpstart. In today's market-
orientated education, WU is not a strong competitor when compared to
American and British universities. It will need additional merit to
attract good students. If WU does not address the concerns of all students
and provide a good education, its reputation will be ruined quickly, and it
will no longer be able to recruit students. I hope the Executive Board have
thought about this and have the answers in mind.

Chun-Ming Liu, PhD