October 27, 2009

To Request Roommate Change, Beijing Graduate Student Threatens Hunger Strike

I know I shouldn’t be wasting more time. But this....

How far can roommate troubles go?
Recently, a letter addressed to the Beijing Institute of Technology (北京理工大学) attracted a lot of attention online. The person who wrote it is a graduate student by the name of Xiu, Liangzhang (修良章), who claim that he is driven to desperation after requests for roommate changes were brushed aside by his university. To protest this inhumane treatment, Xiu, Liangzhang declared that he will go on a 3-day hunger strike followed by withdrawing from the university.

Xiu, Liangzhang’s letter:
I am a second-year Ph.D. student in the Department of Chemical Engineering at the Beijing Institute of Technology. Ever since the semester began in September, I have repeatedly complained to school authorities about my roommate Tang, Lihong’s improper behavior, who habitually stays up all night to play online games. I have requested that I be assigned to another dorm room, but the reply from the university has always been “No, No, still NO". Up until yesterday, October 13, 2009, I was forced to share a room with this Ph.D. student, who even at 7AM was still immersed in games. The continual clicking sound from his mouse stung my heart like a needle. Night after night I have go through the same hellish experience, even though I have high blood pressure and irregular heartbeat. And at day I have to drag my exhausted body to Liang Xiang (良乡) to conduct dangerous chemical experiments.

I am fed up with the perverted behavior of that Ph.D. student and apathy from the Beijing Institute of Technology. Pushed beyond my limits. Suffering from nervous breakdown. To express my strong dissatisfaction, I have decided to take drastic measures. Having endured till this far, I won’t be the next Ma, Jiajue (马家爵, a highly intelligent college student who brutally murdered all four of his roommates), nor will I seek to be the next ghost to haunt the Central Educational Building. Hence, I am going to go on a 3-day hunger strike. In addition, I am deeply disappointed and doubtful of BJST’s attitude and its Ph.D program. There is no need for me to further waste away my time and life here. I hereby declare my withdrawal from the university.

P.S. For the situation to reach this stage, Ph.D. advisors must shoulder a lot of the responsibility. I shall now expose them.

My roommate’s adviser Li, Qianshu (李前树), already retired, now holding a long-term position at South China Normal University (华南师范大学).

My own adviser, Lu, Gaoqing (逯高清), a part-time doctoral adviser at Beijing Institute of Technology, Director of Research Institute of Chemical Physics at Beijing Institute of Technology, Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering, Professor at University of Queensland.

Signed: Xiu, Liang Zhang

Roommate’s response:
I just found out about classmate Xiu’s letter, in which he claims I am the one responsible for his masochism. In the beginning I thought it was a joke, then I saw my adviser’s name in his letter. Now I am angry. This matter has nothing to do with my adviser, and by publicizing his name, classmate Xiu has shown his disrespect. I demand that he apologize. As for his adviser, well that’s his business. My arm can’t extend that long.

Next I want to talk about the conflict between classmate Xiu and me. They are just little things; I don’t know why he created all this drama--you actually need some talent to be famous like Sister Furong (芙蓉姐姐, wiki). O(∩_∩)O~, yes I am a gamer, but staying up all night to play is rare for me [despite of what he claims]. But I want to ask everyone, since I always wear my earphone and have the lights off while I play, is it fair for him to claim heart troubles over my mouse clicking while I have to endure his 100 decibel snores? (Even our neighbors can hear him) I probably have a more legitimate excuse to have heart attacks. Speaking of snores, I have to say that I admire his girlfriend very much for her ability to put up with him.

Regarding room reassignment, I was actually the one to bring it up first. During the first semester, I sought out the resident adviser but received the following reply: I need to find a replacement roommate first. In order not to subject others to the same torture, I stayed and bought earplugs instead! This thing has become my salvation. O(∩_∩)O~.

I have read through the entire thread, including replies by those classmates who know the truth and spoke on my behalf. I thank you! Yes, his girlfriend is a source of headache for me. 9 days out of 10 she squats in our dorm. In particular, there was a time when she lost her job, and she came daily, refusing to leave even when I take my siesta. The two of them had one computer each and made phones call in the same room when I was sleeping. OK, I can put up with this. But during summer, when we had no air conditioning and I had to strip off all clothes except my underwear, she still came! I felt embarrassed. Every time she came, she stayed until the resident adviser cleared her out at night. If people don’t believe me, they can check with the apartment guards, who keep a record of visitor times.

And if they want to have sex, they can always check into a hotel, or rent an apartment of their own. I will not complain the least. But this is a semi-public dorm room, with roommates. Sometimes I would step out for a second to talk to our neighbors. When I return, they are already naked in bed. Because they lock the door, I tend to think they’ve already left; after I step into the roommate, I discover otherwise. ⊙﹏⊙b Huge sweatdrop. The pair of cockroaches…so I lock the door again and stay outside for half an hour until they finish their business.

What's more…his bed looks like a pig sty! Because he recycles (for a fee) plastic water bottles, there is always a gigantic pile of garbage under his bed, accumulated over the course of a year.

I should stop complaining. Other people who are familiar with my plight will give us a fair judgment.

I mean I went through all of this, but in the end, he says my mouse clicking is killing him? Such double standard! I have already moved to another dorm, but he is as of now still roommate-less. Whose personality is at fault here? I think it is obvious enough!

Tang, Lihong

Xiu, Liangzhang’s response (a little incoherent):
My family has always been poor. We barely have income. A few years back my home town was undergoing commercial development, so we sold some land. The profits from that gave us some breathing room, and this is the reason that I dared to enroll in the graduate program. But now we are under financial strain once more.

My dad is a gambler with a bad temper. No one at home dares to speak out against him. He gambled away the money we got from selling the land and accumulated even more debts. Every time after losing he threatens suicide. Having a son in the Ph.D. program is the only thing that gives him hope.

I have always been really attached to my grandmother. She is 90 years old, never had a single good day in her life. Her health has been constantly deteriorating, and she suffers from dementia to the point of not wanting to dress herself. She might die anytime now. Thanks to my dad, we don’t even have money to buy coffin for her.

My mom is always sickly. My dad often hits her. And she has to take care of her mother-in-law, with whom she never got along. If not for her Ph.D. son, she would have broken down.

My big sister sends her two daughters to live with my family. She was forced to go through tubal ligation after the birth of the second daughter, but my brother-in-law only cares for a son and never spares a glance for his daughters. He has grown increasingly cold toward my sister and supports a mistress outside of the house. My sister is going crazy. She cries every day, and the only thing I can do is to tell her I will take care of my nieces in the future.

My girlfriend and I have been going steady for six or seven years. She was working in Ningbo, but because of me she came to Beijing. Given the bad job market, she is frequently jobless and can’t pay rent—several times I had to borrow money from fellow students and friends to pay for her. She comes to our dorm because we can’t afford to go out.

Myself. Health. I don’t have very good health. High blood pressure and irregular heartbeat usually leave me feeling dizzy and suffocating.

Debt. My undergraduate university has not given me my diploma because of the money I still owe them. And it is more difficult to get loans now because I have gone through most sources, including friends, but haven’t been able to repay them. I expect a lawsuit from banks any day.

Income. I had believed that at Zhong Guancun (wiki) a part-time job outside of graduate school would be a possibility, but going to Liang Xiang every day rules that out. My adviser hasn’t given me a dime. My sole income currently consists the 500 RMB monthly stipend from the university, who has yet to pay me.

Research Topic. I saw my primary adviser just once. He probably doesn’t remember that he has me as his student. My secondary adviser is busy, so he just ignores me. We waste a lot of time running irrelevant errands for the advisers (PH: some advisers, espcially Asian, are like that), at the expense of our own research.

About the Roommate Conflict
Tang, Lihong. We never really spoke to each other.

Because of age and personality issues, there exist many differences between us. I admit that my girlfriend coming to the dorm is my fault, but she always follows university regulations while here and never stays past 10 at night. Tang mentioned that we did private business in the room; well, since we have been together for so long, sex is normal. From my point of view, the fact that Tang is old and still without girlfriend is very strange. He hangs around the dorm all the time, surfing the net, watching movie, or playing computer games. I strongly look down on him. Since I am conservative, I also don’t understand why he likes to walk around naked. He practices Taekwondo, which I consider to be violent. In addition, before going to sleep at night, he does a breathing routine to strengthen his Chi, and that’s just downright weird.

These are all insignificant things, because they boil down to personality and habits. But once roommate relationship starts to deteriorate, they evolve into prejudices. I find his watching porn in front of my girlfriend particularly offensive. Also, he frequently stays up all night to play games, even disrupting my rest. Without enough sleep, I almost caused a few accidents during my chemical experiments. Those two things I just mentioned are just too much, so I wanted to switch dorm.

Changing Dorm
I wanted to find another dorm on my own. This proved to be difficult because I don’t know many people. The ones who live by themselves, I really don’t want to bother them. The others who pair off, well, why would they want to swap when satisfied with their own roommates? At the end of August, I even advertised online, offering money to those who would exchange rooms. No one replied.

I thought, all right, perhaps contacting the school would be easier. I went to the management office on September 3 or 4, but the dormitory managers told me they are too busy to take care of my request.

I went there a couple of days later and was told that personality incompatibility is not a valid excuse for changing dorm. Once I find a better reason, I can fill out an application which must be approved by the dormitory director. So I used the fact that Tang stays up all night to play games. I submitted the forms on September 14th. The department agreed, but Director Hong balked at signing my application, because he thought that the department is making him do all the work instead of mediating between me and Tang.

I was busy with research for a period of time after that. On the 20th, Tang stayed up all night again. I angrily demanded for a new room. The department sent a teacher to talk to Tang but would not grant my request, telling me they need more time. For the next several days, Tang continuously pulled all-nighters and I continuously told the department I wanted to be moved. After my request was turned down so many times, I was mad, and so were the teachers. They even sided with Tang and asked if I wanted a room to myself, or said that I had plenty problems myself, etc. The situation worsened, and I was still sharing the room with him.

Before the National Independence Holiday, my secondary adviser was notified of this matter. He told me one solution would be to buy a noiseless mouse or to give him money and let him move out. I refused. But we reached an agreement that I would attempt to resolve the conflicts through my adviser first.

After the holiday, I repeatedly complained to my adviser about Tang’s night behavior to no avail.

Yesterday, probably because my previous complaints were too many, he said some nasty things. And old grudges were dug up. Under these circumstances, Ph.D is no longer possible. But I must speak about all the wrongs I have suffered, especially since I have already spent or wasted a year here. I hope in the future no one will have to go through the same tragedy that I did, so I wrote about my intentions to go on a hunger strike and to withdraw from the university.

Responses have been varied, but thanks to those who supported me. The university seemed not to care at all. I am very hurt. They probably know that I won’t jump off a building, cut my wrist, or drink poison or something. I am already 2 days into the hunger strike, yet there have been no phone calls, and no visit from university employees to placate.

Finally, I want you all to know that I don’t need your sympathy, but I want your understanding. I see no hope right now. I have plenty of reason to die and am not afraid of death, but I can’t. Once my hunger strike terminates tomorrow, I will withdraw from the university. I will work, make money, and feed my family.

Good-bye, Beijing Institute of Technology.
Not going to sign

What happened afterward:
--School employee replied in the thread, claiming that permission for dorm change is granted, and that the letter was sent out before Xiu wrote this thread. “Your reply has not indicated whether you have accepted it or not." Wrote the employee, "Your advisers and fellow students were trying to get in touch with you. If there had been miscommunication in the past, then the best way to resolve that is to sit down and discuss”

--University officer admits that the thread is not made up, and the said conflict is already resolved. He/she would not reveal details regarding how the matter was settled.

--Many netizens are sympathetic toward Xiu. But there are also many who think that the whole incidence is evidence of a tragedy called “graduate students”, and this one in particular has high IQ but low EQ.


Related post(s)

Ph.D Comics: Vacation Relaxation


  1. Just wrote a long comment and, I think, accidentally deleted it without posting. To sum it up: Man, it probably shouldn't be, but that is really funny. Time to grow up dudes.

  2. LOL my thoughts exactly. Though the Xiu guy deserves some sympathy for all his family hardships.

  3. I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



  4. Thanks for the comment. I am glad that you enjoy reading the content :)


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