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The Editorial Board, HKUSTSU, the 20th Session

22nd November 2012

y T s i eR

v I UN

of

WINGS

Extra   Edition

Suicide and Tragedies   On the 5th of November, a Year 1 Math student committed suicide by jumping from his apartment in Tsuen Wan. His posthumous paper revealed that he could not bear the academic stresses and was despair to look for salvation in the unwisest way. This is already the third suicide case within 6 months, making a ‘’record-breaking’’ history in universities suicide cases. Compared to the rate of one case per year in other universities, the suicide rate rose to around two cases per year since 2007 and now there are three cases in half a year.    Many may ask, “Why UST again?” Nevertheless, the UST saga of soaring rankings and positions is plagued by the tragedies of the increasing suicide cases, followed by a notorious name of “University of Suicide and Tragedy” UST is labeled with extremely demanding and harsh academic environment. In the past, UST has already aroused public concern towards its workload and academic stresses to students. Now that UST is getting closer and closer to the boiling point. UST will be risking itself into serious public criticism and condemnation for any further increase in the suicide rate.    Although academic stresses may not the sole reason for the suicide cases, it is undeniable that these stresses did increase the hardship of these students and act as a catalyst for their mental breakdown. If the reality is a ‘Dog eat dog World’, then we are already living in one. In UST, people do not talk much about current affairs but grades, mean and SD. Reigning over by the academic affairs, most students here do not seem to be enjoying the kaleidoscope of U-life.   The habitat of UST clearly exhibits the wrong grafting of school’s ambition and students’ capacity to endure. To preserve the current position and move up the ladder of world’s best universities, students are often pushed to the limit and sometimes even beyond it. The academic environment of UST resembled a realistic food chain with a thin border differentiating the top and the bottom--- Mean mark. Yet, mean alters according to the performance of others. Over-drilled students became obsessed with means and marks and they cannot afford to lose the ‘security line’ as the difference of 1 SD from mean can be dramatic. At the same time, it is very difficult to squeeze some ‘A’s from the hand of the professors due to the strict grading system. Students huff and puff to get to the top. In the highly competitive environment, some students may stumble into the truth that even though they strive at their full stretch, they may not be best of the bests as they used to be.    The stranglehold of the syllabus and schedule

wounds us most. With the lightning midterms and projects, students are force-fed with an over-sized diet that they cannot digest properly. Students suffocate in the tight schedule of the subjects. It comes in the alternate pattern of exams and projects. The time span between them is for other homework. There may even be situation of 4 to 5 midterms piling up in one week. What’s worse, these midterms are conducted at night, giving sufficient time for you to have both the midterms and the usual classes on the same day but insufficient time for revision. Some 1-credit courses may even have the same workload as those 3-credit or 4-credit courses, forcing you to allocate a lot more time on this 1-credit course. In a course, many topics are compressed and zipped into one ‘perfectly tailored’ course syllabus which allows students to dip in the topics superficially. For example, a one month HUMA course includes almost every Chinese history topic you learnt in lower forms, from origin of China to Qing dynasty, from philosophies, religions to Chinese paintings. No in-depth content is offered. Quantity overrides quality. Such deformed curriculum wears and tears the students.    Many students may be fooled by the rosy picture of enjoyable university life. Some even believe that the suffering will be gone with the end of public exams and you will live a paradisal University life. Yet, the icy truth is that life in UST is nothing close to that. Instead, UST may even be the complete opposite. Little do they realize it is just a false hope that will never be entertained. The hope that once bolsters them all the way through the public exams turns out to be a myth. To them, everything seems to be falling apart. Eventually, they lock themselves up in their wildest desperate hallucination with reluctance to accept the reality.    In the suicide case, the student was a Year 1 math student of the School of Science. As a matter of fact, the School of Science has a number of existing efforts to cope with the situation. Since 2009, the school of Science hosts the roundtables for freshmen of the science school each year, trying to understand their needs through communication. To ravel the problem of increasing death rate, the school of Science also sets up an academic counseling office for a variety of activities like personal counseling, study groups, alumni sharing, etc. in 2012. Questionnaires and online platform are also adopted to approach different types of students. When asked of the effectiveness of their efforts, the follow-ups after this suicide case and the reason behind the increasing suicide cases, the school seems to be beating around the bushes and trying to evade the issue without giving the direct answers to our questions. The great question of the day is ‘Why is this still happening?’ But SAO just responds by giving us with the lists of the efforts in the past few years of the counseling and development team like Healthy Living Festival, Peer Counselor Training Program, Mental

Health First Aid Course and self-enrichment workshops to teach students how to ease their tension.    Without darting at the root problem causing the phenomenon, the measures done by the school are nothing more than painkillers with just short-lived relaxing effect. Their nightmare revives as long as students return to the academic affairs. They always said, ’’Give more time for relaxation.” But where does the spare time come from? After-school activities and entertainment are strongly discouraged by the school’s output-oriented tight schedule and syllabus. Without any cooling down given by the school, the students become burnt out as the school keeps speeding up its production line. It brings us back to the basic question of education. What is education? If results and scores trump the content of education, then what’s the difference between education and industrial production? At least, academic output should not be the parameter to define students. Without a revision of the existing curriculum and timetable, all talks will be empty talk and UST will remain to be doomed.    But no matter how tough life is, there is no reason or excuse for any one of us to give it up. Life matters the most. When you are stumbling, your beloved ones will always support you unconditionally. Whenever we feel weak, we should always bear in mind that we are never alone. Suicide will shatter the hearts of your beloved ones. After all, there are always people we can turn to when we feel lost or frustrated. The darkest hour is that before dawn. Only after the burn of the fiercest flame, a Phoenix can be reborn from the ashes as a brand new life. When the difficulties and sufferings are transformed into motivation to improve rather than just sadness and negativity, you can glow even in the darkest time. University is just a short phase of your life. If you already give up here, you will not be able to experience different stages of your life and smell the roses along the way.    Things are not destined to be in our way but we can always choose to face it with faith. It takes more courage to continue than to quit. We believe that all UST students have the bravery to climb the uphill mountain together and live out the true colors of our lives. Counseling Service On-Campus Counseling & Development Service, Student Life Center Room 5003, 5/F Academic Building (via Lift 3) Making counseling appointments: on-line https://sao. ust.hk/counseling, click “Make an Appointment” on the menu, or call 2358 6696.


第二十屆香港科技大學學生會編輯委員會

二零一二年十一月二十二日

振翅之

大號 康 富士 學 外 香港

本月的五號,一個科大一年級生在其荃灣住 所攀窗躍下身亡,其遺書透露因學業壓力而自 殺。這次已屬科大近半年來的第三宗學生自殺事件, 令科大成為諸所港大學府中自殺事件最頻密的大學。 對比起其他大學約每年一宗的自殺率,自零七年起, 科大的自殺率已上升至接近每年兩宗,而現在不足半 年間已發生了三宗自殺案件。在科大一躍為亞洲頂尖 學府的光環下,大眾對科大始終毀譽參半,甚至有人 戲言科大是“university of suicide and tragedy”。 對很多人而言,科大無疑是學業壓力大,氣氛緊張壓 迫的代名詞。科大的工作量及學業壓力一直備受公眾 質疑,隨着科大的自殺率將與MIT「平分秋色」,科 大將難避免成為眾矢之的。   即使學業壓力不一定是自殺的單一原因,無可否 認的是,沉重學業壓力為學生造成極大的精神壓力, 成為令其精神崩潰的催化劑。「風聲雨聲讀書聲,聲 聲入耳;家事國事天下事,事事關心。」在科大,我 們聽不到熱切討論校政時事的聲音,時刻掛在嘴邊 的,都是分數、成績。科大的學習生態正正展現了學 校的野心和學生承受力之間的落差。為不斷催谷排 名,使科大一步一步攀上最高學府的巔峰,學生被推 至承受能力的極限邊緣,成為被消費榨取的一群。根 據科大的宏大目標塑造出的科大式教育形成一龐大食 物鏈,上下兩級僅以一條名為「平均分」的分隔線分 開。然而,這分隔線的高低是根據其他學生的表現決 定的。繼而,學生開始拼命追逐著這飄忽的平均分, 保着這條不能失守的保險線,只因他們知道一個sd的 差距可以是雲泥之別。在科大的嚴格精英評分制下, 教授只能把A級給予塔尖的極少數學生,學生再汲汲 於學業成績也未必能如願以償,成為那極少數人。   最令學生感到窒息的莫過於學校的時間及課程綱 目編排。在席捲而來的中期試和報告下,科大的課程 和時間編排不過是填鴨式教育的又一延伸,內容更 多,時間更緊逼,學生辛苦的同時又無法好好消化理 解內容。考試和報告梅花間竹地出現,而中間稍有的 空檔則是預留給其他課業的。在考試高峰期,一個禮 拜內甚至會有四五個中期試。更甚的是大部分中期試 都在晚上考的,學生車輪式的早上課,晚考試的,令 學生難有足夠時間溫習。一些只佔一個學分的課程的 工作量竟與三四個學分的無異,逼使學生把大量時間 花在比重不高的課程上。科大在課程綱目編排上更 欲「一口吞盡西江水」,把眾多課題壓縮於一個課程 之內,讓學生在每個課題下點水而過。如其中長達一 個月的人文科覆蓋幾乎初中所有的中史課題,甚至更 多,從青銅時期到清朝,從哲學,宗教到藝術,課題 雖多卻欠缺深入。量重於質。在這樣的教程下,學生 的身力和心力被長時間磨蝕虛耗。   不少學生曾沉醉於美好大學生活的遠景。有些人 曾以為辛苦日子會隨公開考試結束而遠去,大學會是

個享受人生的花花世界。然而,現實總把幻想破滅。科 大生活不可能是他們夢想中的輕鬆生活,甚至可能是其 相反。對某些人來說,這個遠景曾是一路支撐着他們走 過幾個公開試的夢。如今,夢碎了。怎辦?這現實崩潰 了他們的世界,從而令不願接受現實的人把自己拉進了 萬劫不復的漩渦中。   若你在漫步校園之際有多加留意校方的宣傳,你可 能發現校方早就嘗盡各種方法,嘗試紓緩學生的學業壓 力。以是次事故死者所屬的理學院為例,理學院自二零 零九年開始舉辦圓桌活動,讓學院得以了解新生的需 要。除此以外,理學院亦早已成立了學務輔導辦公室, 專責理學院的輔導服務,舉行林林總總諸如個人輔導、 校友分享等活動,教導學生如何應付沉重的壓力。   既然校方早就扭盡六壬,何解仍猶似杯水車薪、無 補於事?我們曾向校方查詢,希望得知是次自殺事件的 真正原因、事故後校方的跟進以及校方對其輔導服務作 用的評估。然而校方卻一直顧左右而言他,未有直接回 答我們的問題,學生事務處更只列出由學生發展及輔導 小組在近年舉辦的一系列活動,例如陽光大使朋輩輔導 訓練計劃、精神健康急救基礎課程等,令人質疑校方除 了以輔導服務減輕學生的沉重壓力外,有沒有認真看待 每次的自殺事件,探究學生自殺問題的根源,思索如何 減輕學生的學業壓力。   要是校方根本沒有正視學生的壓力來源,那麼再多 的輔導服務,都不過是用以「吊命」的嗎啡,讓遭遇壓 力問題的學生暫且苟延殘喘,對病症卻毫無幫助;再多 的心理輔導,都不過是用來充充場面的雞肋,食之無 味,棄之可惜。   校方的輔導服務每每強調學生要多加放鬆,以紓緩 學業壓力,另一邊廂卻為學生安排了極其緊湊的課業, 實無異於強迫學生放棄學習以外的一切生活。學生日程

表上的每個項目,總離不開上課、功課、報告,學生就 猶如齒輪日復日、年復年,無日無之地不停轉動,卻得 不到片刻安穩的閒暇。這不禁令我們一再深思,何謂教 育?若然教育不過是分數和成績,大學教育卻又何異於 工廠的機械化生產?姑勿論科大校方是否有意如此,校 方用GPA決定學生參加海外交流的機會,用GPA決定校 方對學生的支援、GPA淪為大學貨幣卻是不爭的事實, 如此又豈能怪學生通宵達旦、廢寢忘食來求考試分數高 上幾分?甚至可以說,學生的壓力根本就是由這種極不 平衡、極不人道的課程制度迫出來的。要是校方沒有認 真檢討現行的課程編排制度,所有的輔導服務、所有的 分享講座都不過是自說自話、癡人說夢;要是校方依然 固步自封、墨守成規,那麼未來就依然會有一個個年輕 的生命,在這座氣度恢宏的學術殿堂內夭折。   但是,不論生活如何多艱苦、如何催人,我們都沒 有理由去放棄生命。在軟弱困頓的時候,我們總要提醒 自己,我們並不是孤獨的,日子雖然難捱,但身邊總會 有些關心你的人。自殺並不僅僅是放棄自己的生命而 已,更是對身邊人的傷害。生命中總有些能讓我們倚靠 的人,無論身處怎麼樣的困厄,自殺總不會是我們唯一 的選擇。   黎明前是最黑的,鳳凰亦須浴火才能從餘燼中重 生。只要你能把困難都視作挑戰和動力,即便是最黑暗 的時期,生命也能有長足的進步。大學不過是人生中的 短短幾回寒暑,若我們經歷些微挫折就放棄,日後即使 有再廣闊的康莊大道,再迷人的鳥語花香,我們也已無 福消受了。   生命總是未能盡如人意,但我們能夠樂觀面對,相 信事情會漸漸變好。繼續面對困境,比起逃避現實,需 要更大的勇氣。我們深信,所有的科大同學都能共度時 艱,在喘不過氣的校園生活中相濡以沫,並為生命染上 斑駁奪目的色彩。

Community Resources Service Unit:

Tel Nos:

Hong Kong Federation of Youth Hotline (香港青年協會青年輔導中心「關心一線」)

2777 8899

Suicide Prevention Services (生命熱線)

2382 0000

The Samaritan Befrienders Hong Kong Hotline (香港撒瑪利亞防止自殺會)

2389 2222

The Samaritans Hong Kong (撒瑪利亞會) 24 Hour Multi-Lingual Suicide Prevention Hotline

2896 0000

Note: 1. Information from Center for Suicide Prevention, The University of Hong Kong: http://csrp1.hku.hk/sss/index.html

Counseling Service On-Campus Counseling & Development Service, Student Life Center Room 5003, 5/F Academic Building (via Lift 3) Making counseling appointments: on-line https://sao.ust.hk/counseling, click “Make an Appointment” on the menu, or call 2358 6696.


Wings Extra Version: Hong Kong University of Foxconn