Strip to study? Siberian University under fire after first-years parade naked at matriculation event
A university in Russia’s Kemerovo region in Siberia has come under fire since pictures of first-year students at a matriculation ceremony popped up online. The students had been told to strip as part of the proceedings, and so they did.
Students of Kemerovo State University (KemSU) celebrated their admission to the history department over the weekend at the university’s leisure camp in Podyakovo village, but several students shared pictures of the festivities online on Tuesday that instantly grabbed the public’s attention, as they show a group of students of both sexes that appear to be almost entirely naked.
The scandal drew the attention of both the university’s and the region’s investigative committees and an inspection into the activities of KemSU has been launched that will continue through September 9. So far, three KemSU employees have been forced to resign, including the dean of the history department and two of his deputies, but the students who took part in the incident have not yet faced any punishment.
Первокурсники истфака КемГУ разделись на обряде посвящения в студенты (с) pic.twitter.com/y5w4P4wf2q— Амир (@u1tramir) September 6, 2016
While some of the students say they stripped voluntarily, one girl who asked to remain anonymous told local VSE42 news outlet that upperclassmen had forced the first-years to undress.
“When they failed to persuade us, they began to threaten us with physical violence,” the girl is cited as saying.
“There were threats that they would come to our bedroom in the night and smear us with feces, photograph it, and post it on the web. We gave up and undressed then,” she added.
In response to the dismissals, KemSU students launched a campaign in support of their dean on Change.org, as well as a hashtag #язаистфак on social networks, which roughly translates as “I stand for history department.”
“The graduates, undergraduates and first-year students of the history and international relations department of the KemSU, as well as friends of the department are asking for a review of the remarks that led to the resignation of the dean and his deputies, and a launch of an internal investigation,” the petition states.
The students also explained that the episode captured in the photographs was part of a game which had got out of hand because the students became “overly-excited.”
“It was a game of ‘Three-ring Circus’ with a simple goal – students need to make the longest rope using their clothes,” the students explained.
“This game has been played [at matriculation festivities] for about eight years now… Over the years, it went quite innocently – students took off jackets, belts, sweaters… [Students] in the picture apparently were too enthusiastic, and the game hosts failed to stop them in time.”
The authors of the petition say the enthusiasm of the students was responsible for the controversy, claiming that the departmental authorities were not to blame for the incident. While KemSU authorities have not issued an official explanation yet, they have stated that the university will abolish a 28-year-old tradition and no longer organize field-trips for matriculation, holding only the official ceremony at the university’s main building.
Dozens of KemSU students and alumni posted pictures of matriculation events from previous years on social networks, sharing their stories and claiming that the scandal had erupted only due to the foolishness of those who took part in it.
Meanwhile, the board of university principals of the Kemerovo region has promised to introduce preventive measures to avoid such incidents in the future.
KemSU is considered one of the largest higher education institutions in Siberia, with some 20,000 students enrolled. It ranks 26th on a list of Russian universities most in demand and placed 145th in the Academic Ranking of World Universities as of 2016.