/When we talk about ‘CU people,’ who are we actually referring?
How different can the experience in CUHK be for various stakeholders?/

This article was originally published as 《如果我們能連結——訪問中大不同的持份者》in 《中大五十年》
Author: Luk Ming-man
Translator: Hazel Fok

Editor’s note:
The editorial team had interviewed people from different groups in CUHK, like the school management team, students, and school workmen. And by combining the fragments of various stakeholders’ life in CUHK, we hope to paint a more comprehensive picture of this place. Due to the limited space in our booklet, the interviewees may not particularly “representative,” but their life experiences and words can surely be the nutrient for us to think about how to make CUHK a greater place.

1. 28 years of youth, 28 years of service — Ling, a dorm guard in United College

Ling is a dorm guard of Bethlehem Hall. She has worked here for 28 years and just received the United College Long Service Award for her efforts over the years.

Ling is required to stay in the hostel for about 8 hours every day. Throughout her 8 hours of works, she would sit at the reception for 2 hours (but if her colleagues get a day-off on that day, the session will last much longer). During her sit at the reception, she would have to deal with stuff like checking out malfunctioning washing machines and borrowing keys to residents. As for the remaining 6 hours, she would be cleaning the hostel, including the toilets and the rubbish bins in students’ dorm room. For Sundays, she would sweep the floor of the entire hostel, including the floor inside the dorm rooms.

However, the work in summer holiday was usually much harder than other times in the year because the dorm rooms would often be rented to various organizations. “When one group leaves at noon, another one will check in at three. Within the three hours, I have to rush to wash all the bed sheets and pillow cases, clean the floor, sweep the bookshelves, wash the dust filters of air conditioners. In the past, the bed sheets used to be sent to laundry shops for cleaning, but now we have to do it ourselves. I have broken two watches because I worked too quickly.” said Ling.

Although her workload seemed to have increased over time, she said things had improved a lot over the past ten years. “Ten years ago, we didn’t have microwaves, and it required a lot of work just for boiling some hot water.”

Talking about the past, we asked her about the biggest change within the hostels of CUHK throughout the decades. She said that hostel in the past was more united —”warmer” to be precise. She said: “In the past, we didn’t have air-con in the hostel, and every resident would open their room doors. It felt like a hostel that way. Everyone just closes their room doors now. It felt more like a hotel this way. The hostel felt happier back then.”

The regulations in student hostels also changed over the years. “A few years ago, when residents invite some friends to come over, the dorm guard would let those friends in as long as they can recognize the friends. Non-residents could then come into the hostel freely without the accompany of a resident. But one time, a resident complained to the warden about such practice of the dorm guards. Therefore, the regulation was changed, and non-residents have to be accompanied by at least one resident to get in now. Nonetheless, non-residents can leave on their own.”

For her favorite place in CU, she liked Lake Ad Excellentiam and the coconut palms near Chung Chi College student canteen the most. “It is nice to take a stroll there in my free time.” She liked her job overall, “other than the stable working hours and regular day-offs, what more important is that I can communicate with the younger generation which allows me to feel younger!”

2. An eye-witness of 40 years— Prof. Hui King-man, Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the University

We also interview Prof. Hui King-man, the current vice chancellor of CUHK. Prof Hui King-man studied in CUHK from 1976 to 1980 and worked as a teaching assistant here from 1980 to 1982. In 1996, he started working as a marketing professor here and took up administrative positions in the university since 2004. He had been experiencing the development of CUHK for over 40 years.

“As I have taken up administrative position in the school, I rarely enter classrooms now. And now that I have grown old, I don’t use the sports facilities anymore,” said Hui. He thinks that the university had expanded a lot. “There were only 4000 students when I first came to CUHK; now there are 24000 students within the campus!” And because of the increase in student numbers, the infrastructures in the campus has all undergone expansion and modernization. “There is less of an earthy, country scent here now,” he said.

When asked about the most unforgettable places in CU, he became enthusiastic and shared a lot of memories with us. For example, he lived in Chih Hsing Hall in New Asia College in the past. He used to watch the stars and the night view of Yolo Harbour with his roommate, and they would talk about everything — their dreams, family, country. “The external appearance of the hall hadn’t changed a bit, but the internal of the building had been renovated and changed a lot. It feels different to be there, not in a bad way though” he said.

Other than New Asia College, he also mentioned the pier and the small stores near university station in the past. “I sometimes reminisce about the old times. I had to run to catch trains and would go fishing near the Tolo pier. I boated in Tolo Harbour and always played with the sparrows kept by the small shops next to the train station.”

In his eyes, the most beautiful building of CUHK would be the Institute of Chinese Studies. “The design of the general building was kept in the renovation, but the courtyard was refurbished which gives out a stronger artistic vibe. And when I look at the carps in the pond inside the institute, I often find myself wondering whether the carps are still the ones I saw as an undergraduate or the great-great-grand children of those.”

Lastly, he would like to leave some words to people in CUHK. “I hope that the school can become a welcoming space for different values and culture. I hope that teaching staff can unleash their talents and creativity in their respective positions and students can cultivate their moral character while pursuing knowledge. And everyone in CUHK shall try their best to protect the campus environment and support the sustainable development of the school.”

3. “I hope the university show more consideration for handicapped people” — X, a disabled student

X is a disabled teaching assistant. He had pursued his undergraduate degree in CUHK and is now further studying and working as a TA in CU for his master’s degree. This year is his fifth year here.

When he was an undergraduate, he always traveled to different places in CUHK, like his friends’ dorms, and the non-resident hall of his college, to read comics and play video games. But after starting to work as a TA, he had unwillingly developed a daily routine – working, leaving the workplace, and staying home. “Now that I am working at the school, I barely leave my office. The only reason for leaving will be to go for lessons.” And he said that a positive change in CUHK in the recent years would be the addition of new buildings with lifts that connect the school. “The route for me to go from one place to another has become less hard.”

He thought that CU ought to pay more attention to the needs of students in wheelchairs. He explained, “for example, the pavements of some sidewalks are rugged, like the path from university station to Chung Chi college.” Sometimes, when the sidewalks were too bumpy, he’d chose to walk directly on the busy road. “But then that will be dangerous.” He added, “it will be nice if the pavements of those bumpy sidewalks can be changed into smoother ones.”

Another unpleasant experience X had in CUHK happened in Woo Sing College. “The current design is that people in wheelchairs must be escorted by the dorm guard in order to take the lift (which is located behind the security gate) to the canteen. I felt uneasy whenever I go there because it seemed that I caused great inconveniences to others.” This experience sparked an idea in his mind, “I hope that all the future colleges will create wheel-chair friendly passages for people to access to the public areas within the college. I don’t want to bother others anymore.”

When asked about his opinions towards the plan of CUHK, he answered: “I hope that no more buildings with weird, unhandy design will be built. Moreover, I hope that more well-cultured people can enter the management of the university.” “Firstly, this kind of people,” he said, “should not just focus on the ranking and the monetary profit of the school. Secondly, they should not be blind to injustice and spend all their time in covering up their mistakes.”

4. “My ideal CUHK would be a place with a stronger humanistic atmosphere” — Javier

Javier studied an undergraduate degree in CUHK from 2009 to 2012. He participated extra-curricular activities actively. In fact, one year, he took up exco positions in six different student societies which were a legendary achievement. He is currently further studying in CUHK and works as a teaching assistant here.

When asked about a place with unforgettable memories, he immediately thought about the place he lived in for the longest time — his hostel. “The people in my hostel had this tradition, of which when it was nearly time for quitting the hostel, people would go and swim in Lake Ad Excellentiam at late night! The seniors would buy all these life buoys and floating beds, and they would invite other residents in the hostel (who were brave enough) to swim in the lake and appreciate the night scenery together.” His years as an undergraduate has passed, yet the memories of his life in the hostel would always be something he deeply treasured.

He also said that CU used to be great. “When compared to other universities, CU is different. Everything here seemed to fit into the natural environment surrounding it.” But then, he thought that CU had gradually become similar to other universities, “the new buildings, like TITB, CCS, TCW, all look like shopping malls. Even though they are spacious, they feel cold and unwelcoming. They were not designed for larger groups of people to hang around. It seems really hard to feel a proper space for a big group of people to sit down and chat now.”

And if Javier felt so uneasy about the recent changes of CUHK, how would his ideal CUHK look? “My ideal CUHK would be an idyllic place. It would not only be a place shared by CUHK students and staff but a beautiful campus share with different people from the society. I hope that everything in the campus, from the trees to the food on the canteens, can give out a humanistic atmosphere. For example, different stores in CU could be undertaken by various co-ops and NGOs, so that students do not have to fight to resist the expansion of large chain stores inside the campus. Moreover, I hope that the public space in CU can be truly spaces for people, not spaces where you will be chased away by the security just for sitting on the ground. Teachers and students can make better use of public spaces to hold different activities, like panels and movie screening for everyone to join, and will not be hindered by the tiresome administrative process.”

Lastly, Javier left some words for the management of the university: “Do listen to students’ opinions. Don’t just manage the school by balancing the cold numbers and figures. Surely, it would be a tough task to care for students’ opinions in such a big institution. But hasn’t the courage in taking the hard road been part of the integrity of this university all along?”Harbour with his roommate and they would talk about everything — their dreams, family, country. “The external appearance of the hall hadn’t changed a bit, but the internal of the building had been renovated and changed a lot. It feels different to be there, not in a bad way though” he said.

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