Summary: On December 10, a forum post started to spread on the Chinese major BBS – Shanghai Maritime University female graduate student Yang Yuanyuan (杨元元) committed suicide in the dormitory bathroom. Criticisms pointed to the University. University publicity department then scrambled to post relevant information about the incident over night. Professor of Sociology at Fudan University in Shanghai, Hu Shoujun said the deceased already passed way, to show respect, everyone please stop judging her. He also hoped people who are alive, especially those who were born into a poor family to be strong, live on and continue to improve.
Poverty-stricken graduate student commits suicide
This forum post with the keywords “Shanghai Maritime University”, “female graduate student” and “suicide” and so on suddenly attracted netizens’ concerns and discussions, and for a while became the most popular forum post.
The author of the post wrote “last Thursday morning, Shanghai Maritime University School of Law 2009 graduate student Yang Yuanyuan hung herself with 2 towers tied together from the water faucet. She was half heeling and painfully ended her own life.”
From Yang Yuanyuan’s request letter to school, she was from Yichang, Hubei province. Her father passed away when she was 6, and her younger brother was only 4. These years, her mother raised both kids while enduring great hardships. In 1998, Yang Yuanyuan was admitted to Wuhan University to study economics, two years later her younger brother also was admitted to Wuhan University to study environmental science.
After her brother went to college, the factory where her mother worked at has relocated. (I assume their old home was part of the factory or given by the factory) So she had to purchase a home near the new location of the factory. However at the time they did not even have enough money for Yang Yuanyuan’s tuition, and the younger brother also took a loan for school, they had no money to buy a new home. After losing the place to live, the mother went to Wuhan University and lived with Yang Yuanyuan. Wuhan University officials considered her family’s special situation, took care of them and delayed her school tuition payments as well. Finally Yang Yuanyuan finished her undergraduate with work-study programs, and her brother was also sent to Peking University for PhD program.
Yang’s letter to school requesting her mother to be allowed to live in the dorm
Mother was forbade to live in the dorm
After graduated from college, Yang Yuanyuan found a couple of jobs. Even though they were not stable jobs, but they allowed her to slowly pay off her debts and also to cumulate some savings. At that time, she already had the idea of continuing with her school. Soon she was admitted into Shanghai Maritime University School of Law, the maritime law graduate program.
At this time, Yang Yuanyuan’s mother was pushing sixty and needed to be taking care of. Yang once again took her mother to school. The neighborhood around Maritime University was remote and quiet and rent was not cheap. Yang Yuanyuan did not have extra money to rent a home, so she once again wanted her mother to stay in the extra bed at school’s dormitory. She sent numerous requests to school, explained her situation and begged school to let her mother temporality stay in school, but was not successful.
In the past two months, Yang Yuanyuan and her mother slept on the same small bed in the school dorm. But school never arranged a place for her mother and asked her to rent a place off campus. They even “forbade her mother to enter the school dormitory “. “not able find a home, Yang yuanyuan did not sleep for 5 days and 5 nights. Her mind and spirit completely collapsed; hence the tragedy happened on the morning of November 26.” The author of the forum post said.
Author said, the morning of November 26, Yang Yuanyuan’s mother had a bad feeling, worrying something was going to happen to her daughter. So she arrived at the dorm building and begged the manager to let her go up, but she was refused.
She then went to places where her daughter would always go to and also could not find her. So she called Yang Yuanyuan’s classmate at around 8:40 am, asking her to go to the dorm and take a look. After that, Mother Yang got a phone call from the classmate, she only said “Auntie, hurry and come here” then hung up. Mother Yang rushed to the dorm, and another school housing staff took her upstairs.
The door opened, mother Yang saw Yang Yuanyuan’s legs on the bathroom floor by the door. It was around 9 am, Yang Yuanyuan’s heart was still beating. They called 120 but eventually it was too late.
Mother Yang recalled on the morning of November 25, at the rented room living with her mother, she suddenly sat up from her bedcover, talking to herself “all say knowledge changes lives, I learned so much knowledge, but there are not much changes.”
Yang Yuanyuan’s mother describs her daughter’s suicide.
“Ms. Yang (teacher) we really do not want you to leave this school.” Yang Yuanyuan kept the text message her students sent her. (Yang taught at Wuhan University during Sept 2002)
Yang Yuanyuan’s dormitory, building 24
Since the incident, Yang Yuanyuan’s brother and cousins etc. 6 family members all went to Shanghai. Up till now, School already put Yang Yuanyuan’s mother and uncle at the guest house to deal with the aftermath. The school said that the relatives’ living and meal accommodations are taking care of by the school.
The school said, currently Yang’s family demanded for 350,000 yuan of compensation for her death. Except for the 50,000 yuan going to be used for Yang’s funnel, the rest will be used to purchase a home for Yang’s mother to live. Yang’s family said they will not blame everything about Yang’s death on school, but the school is partially responsible. They though Yang Yuanyuan’s suicide was cause by her state of mind, but the school housing staffs’ terrible attitude towards Yang and her mother worsen the situation. Family hopes school to hold relevant staff members responsible, organize a funeral event for Yang Yuanyuan and make the responsible people to apologize to the family.
Comments form all sides
Students: She never asks for help
According to Yang’s classmates, she was a gentle girl, and served as student leader in school. She joined communist party when she was in the University. She was enthusiastic and modest, always was willing to help when classmates had problems, always tried to resolve conflicts between classmates.
However, she never talked about her own difficulties. She owed school money, Yang Yuanyuan always wanted to take care of it on her own. Until she paid off her debt, no one knew about it. Because she was in her 30s when she went to graduate school, she had an age difference with the rest of the students there, plus there weren’t that many students living there, it was difficult for her to communicate with others. Occasionally she was with her mother, but whether it was eating or walking, she followed her closely, she seemed lonely.
Professor from Wuhan University: She was gentle and stubborn
Professor of Economics and Management at Wuhan University heard the news and deeply regret the incident. The teacher said, Yang Yuanyuan was the student of Wuhan University in 1998. She was one of the extreme poor students. The school gave her help and care in every way they could, including giving her work –study positions, remission or deferral of payment etc. Because her original professor already left school, we could not learn more details of her situation. In the memory of her classmates, she was a gentle and stubborn girl. Her family background made her to be determined and stubborn.
From the website of Shanghai Maritime University
Student Yang Yuanyuan, female, graduated from Wuhan University in July 2007, in September 2009 she was admitted to our international law graduate program.
After she first registered with the school on September 12, Yang yuanyuan’s mother had always lived with her in the same dorm room. After school housing staff noticed the situation, they tried to persuade her to stop letting her mother stay in students’ dorm room. On November 24, mother Yang moved out to a rental room off campus.
On November 26, 7:30 am, Mother Yang came to the dorm to look for her daughter, then she left. At 8:30 Mother Yang called Yang’s classmate from the school security booth, asked her to go take a look at Yang’s room. At 8:40 classmate went to her room and did not see her there, but her bathroom door was locked shut from inside. School security was notified and so was the facility worker in order to open the locked bathroom door. Once the door was open, they found Yang Yuanyuan already committed suicide. At the same time, School faculty, housing staff, mother Yang and some students all showed up. School security carried Yang out of the bathroom and proceeded with CPR rescue efforts, while others called 120, 110. When the school doctors arrived they also performed CPR on Yang, and soon sent her to Nanhui Central hospital. Eventually the hospital’s rescue effort failed and Yang was pronounced dead. The police arrived to school and gathered witness statements.
For Yang’s sudden death, the school felt strongly and deeply regret. We are currently following the relevant regulations to properly handle the aftermath.
Sociologist: the dead is gone, the living shall be strong
Professor of Sociology at Fudan University in Shanghai, Hu Shoujun said he felt regret and sorry for her death, at the same time, he expressed his view according to netizens’ comments. He thinks as for people who are still alive, please try your best not to judge the dead, “as long as she did not commit a crime, just let her rest in peace.” This is to show respect for the dead.
Hu Shoujun thinks that the people who are alive, including the families of the deceased must learn to be strong, no matter what happens, must be strong and face things rationally. This is the correct outlook of life. China has many poor students hoping to change their destiny by studying, to this approach, he still agrees with. There are many examples from the ancient times that people change their destiny through knowledge.
Professor Hu also said that in the current downturn in employment and such a complex social background, many poor students are facing the family giving up everything for their schooling. The gap between expectation and the strong disappointment inevitably casts shadows on their minds. Professor Hu said these people’s lives should indeed be concerned, especially their state of mind. However people who were born in a poor family should also “try to make a good showing”. They have more reasons to be strong and live on. “Man should constantly strive to become stronger”, learn to psychologically strong and adaptive to society, otherwise all bets are off. After all being alive is the best way to repay your family.