October 04, 2009

"Unfortunately, Due to Illness Dr. Tu Fell to His Death From a Building"

This news came from Zhejiang University, though I can no longer find it from their website. Only a short attachment remains.

Zhejiang University (ZU) is one of the most prestigious universities in China, just not as famous as Tsinghua or Beida.


Engineering Department Held Memorial Service for Dr. Tu Xuxin (学院举行涂序新老师遗体告别仪式)
Dated: 2009-09-30

Memorial service for Professor. Tu Xuxin was held yesterday at 8:30AM in Zhangzhou Funeral Home. It was attended by more than 100 people, including university administrators, colleagues, students, Dr. Tu's relatives, and classmates.

Because of illness, Professor. Tu fell to his death from a building on 19th of Septemer, 2009, at 2A.M. He was 32 years of age.

Professor Tu was born August, 1977 in Jinhua, Zhejiang. He studied in Tsinghua University from November, 1995 to June, 2001, and obtained two Bachelor degrees there, one in Water Conservancy and Hydropower Engineering and another in Law. In the next 6 years, he was at Northwestern University in U.S., from which he received Masters (2004) and Ph.D. (2007) degrees in Civil Engineering. In June, 2009, after some postdoctoral work in Northwestern, Dr. Tu came to work in Zhejiang University.

Professor Tu was a kind and sincere person, well respected by all. Towards colleagues he was thoughtful and caring . Towards students he was patient and approachable, often going to dormitories to counsel them. In research, Professor Tu was deeply knowledgeable, visionary, and conducts experiments with dedication and rigor.

We would like to use this opportunity to thank all those who expressed concerns regarding this matter.

Attached is a summary of Professor Tu's stay in Zhejiang University (the portion that still remains on the website)

Dr. Tu applied via email for a teaching position in the Department of Civil Engineering.

Dr. Tu came on campus for interview. Plane tickets and boarding were provided by the Department.

The Department sent Dr. Tu Notification of Employment. Dr. Tu expressed his acceptance of the position (and all entailed treatments) the next day, via email.

Dr. Tu signed contract with the university.

Dr. Tu rented an apartment on Yu Quan Campus.; the housing is provided by the university to its teaching employees. Apartment area totaled 57 square-meter (Contains separate kitchen, bathroom, TV, refrigerator, air conditioner, microwave, electrical burner, bed, desk, chair, other furniture and appliances). After settling down, he joined the Organization for Scholars Returning from Overseas and participated in the Conference on Environmental Civil Engineering, where he served as a committee member helping to organize and set up the conference. He also was the Class Teacher for the entering class of 2009

Dr. Tu enrolled in training programs for new teachers.

University initiated assessments of employees for professional and technical promotions.

Dr. Tu applied in the university online system for associate professorship.

Due to illness, Dr. Tu fell from a building at 2A.M, and unfortunately died。


Responses from Netizens:

1. "Due to illness" "fell from a building"???

2. Faint, poor man is now made to "fall from a building"

3. It means he fell from a building. Why? Because he is sick. So there is no one to blame but the guy himself.

4. Is there any problem with this sentence? Did he not jump because he was suffering from severe depression? A 30 year-old with both wife and kids doesn't have an inkling of family responsibility or the courage to face a little hardships.

And a bunch of people go howling for him. What a worthless piece of specimen.

5. He probably climbed the building at 2A.M to ponder some profound research topic. Then he was hit by a wave of dizziness and fell.

6. This news is so artful and suave. How?

If it said Dr. Tu committed suicide because of mental depression, all those who know the conflict between the University and Dr. Tu will be angry.

If it said Dr. Tu committed suicide because of family and career troubles, the University will not be happy.

So, the reporter compromised by writing "due to illness", "fell from a building"

As if Dr. Tu had taken ill, and this strange ailment caused him to be like Sisyphus's stone, which automatically starts to fall when it reached high altitudes. Therefore Dr. Tu was suffering from the "Sisyphus's Stone Syndrome". The first person to invent this illness is this reporter from Zhejiang University. And the poor doctor died.

Well-written news. Very obvious how much thought has gone into its creation.

7.What a pity! I always thought my alma mater is one of the better universities in China. This kind of scandal is unexpected.

I know that students who stayed in China to do their Ph.D. have a much easier time. They just have to publish (not even good ones) to stay. With the support of their advisers, 2 years is enough for them to get tenure.

Since this favoritism is so common, and any capable new researchers are severely discriminated against, it is not surprising that the level remains so low.

I think students overseas should maintain a file of all universities that do not honor its promises. Everyone of us should unit together and boycott them. Only we can help ourselves.

8. Finally, the supposed "inside story"

14 years ago we both matriculated in Tsinghua and were classmates for 5 years.
I graduated in 2000, but Tu stayed on for an extra year to get his degree in Law.
Then he came to the U.S., Northwestern University.

Four years ago when I first came to America, Tu was already 3 years into the Ph.D. program. He, his wife, another classmate of ours and I gathered together for dinner. He appeared to be so optimistic at the time.

Four months ago I went to Chicago to say good-bye and see him off. He was still cheerful, telling me that Zhejiang University verbally offered him Associate Professorship. I warned him that the university might not keep its promise, and there have been precedents with Stanford graduates who went back. He might just get a position as lecturer.

He told me, it doesn't matter if he just get the lecturing job. The key is to work hard and build up good relationships with others.

Last night a good friend of mine D called me up on the phone, and said I should read a certain article online. He has heard me talking about Tu going to ZU and felt that the stories are too similar. It indeed was very similar. So I wrote to the author and contacted friend H who is also working in Zhejiang Province. H was shocked.

After much effort we got in touch with people in the Civil Engineering Department, and we were told that it was Tu. The incident happened three days ago. The author by this time replied: "Sorry, it was him."

We don't know all the details yet, and we haven't been able to contact his family. The contents of the will have been talked about but not confirmed. The only thing we can say for sure is that at the time of his death, Tu was merely a Postdoc with "possibility of advancing to professorship". He was not even a lecturer. We can also say that at this time ZU is conducting promotion assessment for employees.

As his classmate of many years, I don't think the main reason [of his suicide] is work pressure. He was the type of person who enjoyed pressures and challenges. Our alma mater Tsinghua is known for its highly competitive environment, but he worked diligently and excelled. He was deservedly The Head of the class. During his Ph.D., Tu had trouble publishing papers because he and his Adviser disagreed on who should be the first author. But he never gave up. To date, he has published 3 papers as first author, 1 as second, and a bunch of others are currently undergoing review.

I don't think "family problems" was the cause either. I have met his wife briefly. She was an amiable person, who in support of her husband also returned to China, even giving up a faculty offer in U.S.

I am writing down all this out of great sadness and pain.
To commemorate my good brother,
and to warn others who come after us.

9. Another conjecture
Several internet sources claim that Dr. Tu committed suicide because of mental and verbal abuse suffered at the hands of his wife Dr. Fang Xin and her family. They reportedly called him loser, a failure at the high age of 32, and just another member of the "three have nots"--no house, not car, no income.

http://www.douban.com/group/topic/8099635/ (A summary of the various rumors surrounding Tu's family problems)


  1. well, depression is an illness.

  2. @ anonymous above

    It depends on the country. Judging from the Chinese comments, I don't think too many people regarded depression as an illness. More saw it simply as a stigma and a flaw and/or weakness in the personality.

  3. I was a PhD student at Northwestern at the same time as Tu Xuxin (or Xuxin Tu as we called him). His death has been very upsetting to many of us, his former classmates and we only wish we knew what the truth was. Xuxin was a great classmate, a ridiculously hard worker, and possibly one of the most talented engineers I've been around.

  4. The truth is the communists killed him

  5. For more details on this sucide matter, check out this link


  6. Dr. Tu suffered depressing since August. He had prescription in order to sleep. He was given an entry-level teaching employment contract, not an associate professor position as he personally expected.

    The income of a lecturer in China's top university is not that much after passing rent and tax. He does not have other source of income such as research grant and commercial projects.

    Dr.Tu's wife does not have a job (she also got a Ph.D). Their 3-year old daughter is about kindergarten ago, but the enrollment is very expensive in large cities in China.

  7. @ Anonymous 2

    My condolences.

    @ Shane

    Thanks for the update.

  8. It must have been some serious mental illness. Based on what I have read, he had a bright future, even if not at ZJU. You don't just jump and leave all that behind unless you're very sick.

  9. He was suffering from acute mental depression. I don't think he was treated for it.

    But what led to the depression is causing people to debate.


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