A group of students from Fu Jen Catholic University in New Taipei City (新北市) yesterday called on Cardinal Prefect Giuseppe Versaldi of the Roman Catholic Church to help abolish a curfew the school imposes on female students living in its dormitories, which the students said is a violation of gender equality.
Versaldi, the Vatican’s top education official, yesterday attended a seminar at the university.
The university’s policies are subject to a framework outlined in the Ex Corde Ecclesiade issued by Pope John Paul II and the appointment of its president must be approved by the Vatican.
The students, led by philosophy major Huang Tai-li (黃台禮) and holding a placard that read “abolish the girls’ dorm curfew,” made an appeal to Versaldi as he arrived at the school accompanied by the university’s dean, Chiang Han-sheng (江漢聲).
“There is sexism at our school. Girls’ dormitories are locked at night. Boys’ dormitories’ are not locked,” Huang said. “Sometimes we cannot enter the dormitories at night. It is very dangerous for us.”
Versaldi said he did not understand what Huang said, and asked her to talk to one of his aides before entering an elevator.
Huang also tried to hand Versaldi a petition, which was received by a man who appeared to be Versaldi’s aide.
Huang said that students living in girls’ dormitories are required to return to the building before midnight, after which the doors are locked and students have to wake a proctor if they want to enter.
Those who stay out would be required to perform chores on campus for two hours for every 30 minutes they were late, she said.
Furthermore, those who returned by 12:30am were punished by a demerit the first time they broke the curfew and another demerit would disqualify them from a draw for a dormitory room the next semester, she said, adding that those who returned after 1am are barred from the draw on their first violation.
Huang said the price of staying out is so great that many students would rather stay out all night, sometimes at 24-hour restaurants, than go back to their dormitories after midnight.
“The school might think it is protecting us, but the policy is only putting us in danger,” she said.
Huang said that male students attending the university can enter their dormitories whenever they want by swiping a card, adding that the school should also install card readers at girls’ dormitories.
According to Huang, students have been protesting the curfew since 2009 and have made their appeals to Chiang numerous times to no avail and that the students hoped that Versaldi would help resolve the issue.
The university said the students should have taken a more mature approach to the issue and urged students to mind the rules of courtesy when foreign dignitaries are visiting the school.
“In a democracy, everyone can express their opinion, with the proviso that it be done in a way that is respectful to others and appropriate,” it said.
The Ministry of Education said it respected the university’s policies, but that it should ensure sufficient communication had taken place before a rule is enforced.
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