FEATURE: Private university students protest curfews

By Lee Ying-chien, Wu Po-hsuan and Jonathan Chin  /  Staff reporter, with Staff writer

Mon, Jun 20, 2016 - Page 3

The success of a student-led campaign to lift a curfew on Fu Jen Catholic University’s female dormitories has inspired student groups from other private universities to fight to end the practice, which they say perpetuates gender discrimination.

Student clubs at Taichung’s Providence University, including the Legal Service Association, the LGBT Dream Association and Street Root, on June 5 announced the founding of the Providence University Dormitory Wanderers Alliance, which seeks to end a curfew on female dormitory residents.

The alliance has launched a series of online and hardcopy petitions, as well as campus speaking events, according to its social media page.

Tang Chuan-yi (唐傳義), president of the Catholic university, confirmed that there are curfews at several female dormitories, adding that they were put in place because limited showering facilities had led to students entering and using facilities in other dormitories, and the curfew ensured peace and quiet at night.

Law student Chen Hui-hsuan (陳慧萱) said the curfew is an imposition on residents, and she has been forced to stay overnight at convenience stores after concerts have finished to avoid having violations marked on her housing record.

Dormitory Wanderers Alliance spokesperson Lee Chih-yu (李志堉) said several Providence University dormitory residents had suffered injuries after running or speeding back on scooters to make the curfew.

“Those incidents show that the curfew is a hazard to student safety,” Lee said. “Fu Jen Catholic University’s abolition of female dormitory curfews inspired Providence University student groups to take action.”

Lee said the alliance plans to make the university adopt equal rules for male and female students, and the group has invited professors and advocacy groups to speak at campus events.

The alliance said it has encouraged faculty members to bring up the issue at a meeting of the school’s gender equality committee scheduled for the end of this month.

Students at Taichung’s Asia University on June 9 launched a campaign against dorm curfews and roll calls, with one group, Out Expert, conducting an online survey on the curfew issue that it said had gathered more than 100 responses.

Huang Yi-ting (黃翊廷), president of Out Expert’s self-styled “deployers of cultural disruption,” said that during a previous challenge to the curfew, Asia University administrators had punished dissenting students by revoking parking spots without notice, shutting down their air conditioning units and closing the school.

Out Expert became involved because it wants to fight for student rights on campus, he said, adding: “Freedom and democracy do not fall from the sky; only bird shit and natural disasters do.”

The nation’s prominent public universities have already discontinued curfews and roll calls.

National Taiwan Normal University secretary-general Lin An-pang (林安邦) said university administrators abolished its curfew on Nov. 23, 2011, after students opposing the policy made a “calm and rational” appeal to the administration and bolstered their case with a campus-wide opinion poll.

“Our youngest students are nearly 20, and their ability to manage their own affairs should not be an issue,” Lin said.

National Taiwan University in 1993 abolished curfews for both male and female dormitories following student protests, but now forbids guests after midnight.

Tsang Tai-ping (臧台平), an official in charge of student housing services at National Cheng Kung University, said the school decided to abolish its curfew years ago, in part because the curfew proved impossible to enforce.

“The top layer of bricks on the wall adjacent to the female dormitory was being worn down by students clambering over it to sneak in at night,” Tsang said, adding that electronic entry cards and the university’s “safe ride program” helped keep the campus safe without resorting to curfews.

National Chengchi University student housing adviser Chang Chun-hao (張君豪) said that the university abolished curfews eight or nine years ago, and since then security guards, military instructors, school administrators and student volunteers have been available on call overnight for safety purposes.

National Tsing Hua University student affairs dean Hsieh Hsiao-chin (謝小芩) said the university adopted electronic entry cards about 20 years ago, with access to each floor limited to registered residents of that floor, adding: “Safety is maintained by dormitory students being vigilant and watching out for each other.”