Uni hurts its own cause

Uni hurts its own cause

A military camp will play host to 53 transgender female students of Suan Sunandha Rajabhat University from Monday until Wednesday, with the aim of adjusting their attitudes. They got in a spot of trouble late last month for participating in a poorly thought-out hazing ceremony that had them dancing and performing simulated sex. If that was out of line - and it certainly was - what are we to think of this university's punishment, its attitude toward the students in the first place and even its own record on hazing?

First, the so-called dance. The students who thought it up called it Rub Nong Sang San, or creative initiation, and posted the videos on a Facebook page created for the occasion. That is where more than 10,000 people viewed the students dancing and acting provocatively to the song Kluay Thup (crushed banana). "Acting provocatively" is the euphemism for pairing off and mimicking various sexual acts while, it must be noted, fully clothed.

It didn't take long for university officials to get involved. The school's rector, the deputy rector and the assistant rector all condemned the display. But they didn't stop there. Rector Leudech Kerdvichai arranged somehow for the students to be sent for attitude adjustment at Camp Phramahachedsadharajchao, a Royal Thai Marines base used in Cobra Gold exercises, close to U-Tapao airport in Chon Buri's Sattahip district.

Inappropriate hazing activities (left) are punished with a three-day stay with the Royal Thai Marines.

This order to the students to report to a military base is at least as inappropriate as the hazing incident. According to the university, Mr Leudech arranged for the marines to take in the students for two nights. What will be done during their three-day "training" has not been made public. Mr Leudech said he and two other university officials would pay for the military-run adjustment. This raises a host of questions, starting with one about whether the Royal Thai Armed Forces members, facilities and training areas are for sale or rent to anyone.

The forces charged with defending the nation should never be used like this. It strips dignity from the marines, and all of the Thai military, to be treated as if they are staff at a special home for juvenile delinquents. The question of "attitude adjustment" is distasteful and demeaning enough without military forces and bases being rented out for undefined courses.

Suan Sunandha Rajabhat lost a little public respect with the hazing violation. It continues to lose even more respect with its reaction. It has emerged that long before the hazing, the rector's office had attempted to apply special screening standards to the transgender first-year applicants to keep them out entirely. That was so strongly opposed by outraged lecturers that officials had to drop the plan. So it is no surprise that Mr Leudech immediately blamed the "overt sexuality" of transgenders as a way to avoid all blame for mismanaging the entry-day activities.

The university was also where last year's infamous hazing took place. Senior students from the Faculty of Industry Technology dripped candle wax on members of the incoming class, and burned the arms of several students. The rector's office then, as now, was appalled, but the students who caused actual bodily harm were not punished, although a representative was made to apologise.

"Inappropriate", then, is a word fitting many people and their actions at this school. It is sad when school officials feel the need to behave as poorly as the students they denounce and punish.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

Email : ploenpotea@bangkokpost.co.th

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