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Students get creative in annual battle for safe space

Add ‘fighting for a desk’ to the many stresses of study


Students get creative in annual battle for safe space

Add ‘fighting for a desk’ to the many stresses of study


A batch of photo taken from a jam-packed study session in Shandong University of Science and Technology managed to go viral this week, by illustrating the inventive lengths some students will go to to reserve a desk—ideally one by a window, as most buildings lack any fans or air conditioning.

Boning up for the postgraduate-entrance exam, outside of sleeping by the library doors the night before, requires military strategy. Hence these beauties, via CCTV, in which aspiring grad students weaponize everything from padlocks to used tissues to save themselves a safe space:



“Seat reserved; a generational curse upon anyone who takes it.”


“Reserved for sufferer of severe flu! Don’t come close.”


“2016 Postgraduate Exam Seat Reservation: I’ll fight for it with my life.”


“Cost for taking the seat shall be paid with blood”


Metal chains with locks, for that prison vibe


“Don’t touch!!”

The images prompted a wave of reminiscence from former students, many of whom critiqued the practice. “Definitely, those occupying seats with notes are ‘rubbish,’”@Ffeng丰 commented on Weibo,  with  @绿豆太流氓 adding,“Those who occupy seats by any means, but don’t end up sitting there, are the most despicable.” Netizen @靑麷 shared a similarly stoic view: “To be frank, the rule should be that students can only reserve a seat if they sit in it. If they want to tackle the postgraduate entrance exam, they must get up early. There is no other way around.”

Others were more understanding. “It’s normal to occupy seats and fine if students make full use of those seats,” and “It’s too troublesome to carry the heavy books each day” were typical examples.

A postgraduate student in Beijing surnamed Han told TWOC that the organization of her own entrance exam was “a disaster,” comparing scenes at her university to the annual madness of chunyun (春运, the travel period surrounding Chinese Spring Festival). “On the first day of the semester, the library was scheduled to open at 6:00 am. I got up at 5:00 am and waited at the library gate at 5:30 am,” said Han. “Once the gate was open, the students were all pushing forward. My glasses disappeared in the chaos, but I could not stop to look for it.”

A 2014 survey from Tianjin showed that 54.55 percent of respondents were against “occupying seats”, but less than 10 percent said they would actively protest it, with the other 90.91 percent demanding that colleges and universities should “clear off” whatever is left in the library after closing.

Some universities say they are working on the issue. In March, a college in Hunan province used WeChat to create a seat-management system.  “There is a QR code on the desk for each seat, and students can scan to take an unoccupied seat,” Yan Zhaohui, party secretary of the college library, told China Daily. According to Yan, students can scan the code, and take over a reserved seat with a second scan if the original claimant does not return after 20 minutes; a pre-reservation system may be coming soon. Until then, students will have to save their seats the old-fashioned way—with a brick, and a threat.


Images courtesy of photo.CCTV.com and news.enorth.com