Student pressure mounts as Shanghai Covid lockdowns drag on

Concerns raised about impact of lengthy restrictions, with institutions further afield facing questions, too

April 15, 2022
A 'big white' volunteer sits at a compound gate in Shanghai, Xuhui district during 4 day city wide lockdown as it drags on past the planned finish date as Shanghai struggles to control a large outbreak of COVID-19.
Source: iStock

Universities in Shanghai have been fighting to find ways to manage isolation schemes and feed students on campus as coronavirus-related shutdowns in the city continue.

Shanghai higher education institutions have been in lockdown mode and offering online teaching since 15 March, but restrictions remain in place as a wave of Covid-19 cases reaching into the hundreds of thousands continues to sweep the metropolis.

Universities are responsible for supplying food to students who are living on campus, as external delivery services are not allowed to enter under current coronavirus restrictions.

Local reports showed that teaching staff were among volunteers to pack and send meals to student dormitories, using their own vehicles, at Shanghai Jiao Tong University and East China University of Political Science and Law.

However, complaints on social media indicate growing tensions at some institutions as the lockdowns continue. Weibo posts from students at Shanghai University of Finance and Economics claimed that a student who tested positive and their roommates “were isolating in classrooms” and voluntary students were exhausted because “three students were responsible for food supply, good distribution and taking trash for more than 100 students per floor”.

Online posts from students at Tongji University complained about insufficient food supply and shortages of daily necessities, for example, “there were only 50 packs of sanitary towels for a dormitory of over 800 students”.

Meanwhile, Weibo hashtags urging authorities to offer a clear timeline as to when universities can end lockdown measures were attracting heated debate, with pressure coming from students based in Nanjing, Chongqing, Tianjin and Fuzhou.

One group that has emerged as being particularly at risk is retired professors who live in staff dormitories.

Screenshots of a message by retired professor Qiu Xigui, a Chinese historian and palaeographer, who was asking for help to “get some green leaves”, were circulating online, prompting criticism about Fudan University over not taking care of the scholar who “wrote the most influential study of Chinese palaeography”.

Fudan released a statement on 11 April saying that it has been helping all senior professors and that “everything is normal now”. A similar accusation levelled at East China Normal University for neglecting the community where retired professors live. The university then clarified via media that relevant complaints had been taken care of.

Since coronavirus first swept the world in 2020, Chinese university students have lived under strict Covid policies with lockdowns being swiftly imposed in response to local outbreaks. Student have resorted to social media to express their anger over campus lockdowns, particularly in areas that were deemed low risk. Previous research has also warned about the mental health impact on students under lengthy lockdowns.

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