Adviser’s ‘oppression’ led to death, sister says
Wuhan University of Technology said on Sunday that there was a close personal relationship — like a father and son — between a graduate student who killed himself and a professor who served as his faculty adviser.
The professor, Wang Pan, has been accused by members of the student’s family of misconduct when guiding the younger man’s study and career paths.
While the university admitted that some misconduct had occurred and suspended Wang from advising more students, it said some accusations were false.
The sister of Tao Chongyuan, 26, attributed her brother’s death to Wang and was quoted in Beijing News on Sunday saying that the university’s statement evaded crucial points.
“It didn’t mention anything about Wang’s teaching ethics, which had obvious problems,” said the sister, whose real name was not used in Chinese media. (She has been identified only by pseudonyms.) “He at least deserves being suspended now, and I will sue him.”
Tao, a third-year graduate of the university’s School of Automation, killed himself by jumping from his dormitory on March 26, the university said, citing the police. The police had ruled out foul play, it said.
Three days later, Tao’s sister posted material on Sina Weibo, including photographs and what she said were Tao’s chat records with Wang. She attributed Tao’s death to Wang’s “long-term spirit of oppression”.
According to the chats, Wang asked Tao to call him “father”, and Tao did so several times. The chats also indicate that Wang asked Tao to buy lunches for him, wash clothes at his home and even provide wakeup phone calls on many occasions.
In addition, the chats suggest that Wang required Tao to “donate” part of his scholarship to Wang’s research institute. Wang also threatened to cancel most of Tao’s positions and honors at the university to force him to continue at the institute as a doctor instead of studying overseas or going to work, the sister said.
On Sunday, the university said on Sina Weibo that “investigations found that Wang had a nominal father-son relationship with Tao, which is not part of teaching and research”.
It also said that Wang used inappropriate methods in guiding Tao’s further studies and career. But the university did not find other misconduct, such as violating the student’s financial interests, obstructing Tao from entering higher universities or asking him to perform housework at Wang’s home.
The statement said Wang’s qualification to enroll graduate students under him has been suspended.
Wang has not spoken to the media.
According to Beijing News and Southern Metropolis Daily, Tao was of good character and was an excellent student. He had been rewarded with a number of scholarships. Wang was one of Tao’s undergraduate teachers, the reports said, adding that Tao had complained many times to family members about Wang’s behavior.