Opinion: Legend of Beida security guards and their Beida dreams
For decades, Beida has been trying its best to provide a platform of learning for anyone who has a Beida dream.
Published May 26, 2013 | Written by Wu Cuiting
Legend has it that security guards at Peking University (PKU/Beida) are wise men hiding on campus.
Because every day when people pass by the gate, the guards will usually ask them ultimate, philosophical questions: “Who are you? Where are you from? Where are you going?”
Just for fun. The gatekeepers strengthen the campus security by allowing holders of valid certificates only to enter the university; Otherwise visitors are asked to register their ID, according to a Beida system implemented since 2008.
But if we think about it further, it would not be a joke that people view support crew at Beida in a different way. It seems that the ray of a university, where knowledge is discovered and shared, glorifies people around it and makes them special from others.
“Beida bao’an,” or security guards at this university, were famous. They were known for their “courtesy” from the first impression people get when entering the university gates. But what made “Beida bao’an” more special was that during the past 20 years, over 500 of them have been admitted to higher education institutions.
But those guards themselves didn’t see that as a legend. For them, it was only a story consisting of one dream after another.
Zhang Juncheng was the first to lead the trend. He became a Beida security guard in 1995. Humble and low-paid in his job, he never gave up. At Beida, China’s most prestigious university, he took every chance to study, just like ordinary students. After three years, he got a junior college certificate of law from Beida after succeeding in the national higher education exams for self-taught adults. Then he continued studying and got a bachelor degree. Finally, he has become vice president of a technological secondary school and also a part-time lecturer teaching a course about etiquette for public relations at Changzhi College.
Zhang’s story inspired other young Beida security guards. Since then the legend began.
Zhang Guoqiang came from rural Luoyang and didn’t go to high school. He had more luck than many other drop-out youngsters because his first job was working as a Beida security guard. Every morning during the exercise with his colleague, Zhang saw students reading books by the Weiming Lake. Every night he went on patrol, he saw students walking out of library with books in their hands.
Such scenes touched him deeply and inspirited him to pursue further education. He walked on the way Zhang Juncheng had once walked before him. With three years of hard work, he got a junior college certificate, and then took two undergraduate courses.
Gan Xiangwei is one of the most outstanding cases among all the legendary guards. Gan, who already held a junior college certificate, had a Beida dream in his heart. He managed to join the Beida security guards after graduating from college.
But Gan’s ambition was not limited only to a college certificate that already had made him stand out among the guards. Though his knowledge was basic and he knew few relevant people at the university, the learning environment at Beida observed his progress.
Gan was eventually admitted to the Department of Chinese Language and Literature. A Beida student, he made it - reading by the Weiming Lake or walking out of library by 10:30 p.m.
“When I was in my security uniform, I stood by the gate to salute every person walking by, whether they were poor or rich, riding bicycle or driving BMW. When I took off my uniform and sat in the classroom, I was just a student captured by the charm of Chinese literary history,” Gan wrote in his book “I became a Beida student through standing by the gate instead of sitting in the classroom.”
Beida President Zhou Qifeng spoke highly of Gan: “As a security guard, he made the best of the Beida resources to study. He made efforts not only in doing his job well, but also in making a progress in life and improving himself. That is worth our admiring.”
With his inspiring story, Gan was entitled as “One of Ten Most Influential Persons in Education” in China in 2011.
In the group of Beida security guards, stories like that happened more often than one would expect. They could stand for people who never stop pursuing their dreams. The same stories also happen in waiters or cooks at universities.
That phenomenon tells that there must be connection between university and its staff since all of those inspiring stories happen on campus. Is it the university’s ray illuminating people around it?
Diamond would shine only if there was light playing on it. It is young people’s consistent pursuit of dreams and the openness of university that makes Beida security guards legendary, shining diamonds.
Security guard seems an unimpressive occupation at first glance. People even seldom notice the guards until they forget their identity cards when entering the campus. But they are the same youngsters with a future like other students at universities. Before working as guards, they were probably also students with a university dream.
Though that dream was far away and vague, those young people still wanted to make it closer. As for many security guards, according to Yanzhao Metropolis Daily, it is the intention for a better learning environment that has attracted them to work as Beida security guards. Some of them had already a degree in high education. There are also some people who were moved, changed, or inspired by the atmosphere of a university. They have dreams and they are determined to fulfill the dreams. That is the premise of their shining.
In terms of the role of university, in that case, it should be a public space that provides an example, a mentor, a teacher, and a space for studies.
Universities play an important part in the development of society. They have created immaterial wealth that could change generations of people, some of who might otherwise never see the power of education. Beida has set an example that one’s destiny, though from a "lower" education background, is not doomed if they try to study more and work harder. Atmosphere at a university, like students reading by the lake or studying in the library, shows a different lifestyle and path. Teachers in different spheres show them the beauty of knowledge.
Beida is known for its enthusiasm to encourage people to study. For decades, the university has been trying its best to provide a platform of learning for anyone who has a Beida dream. It provides part-time education and online education. It organizes training programs specifically for migrant workers. It records lectures and puts them online with a global accessibility.
In 2013, Beida launched a new School of Continuing Education that aims at improving the quality of diploma education and producing more talented students. “The role of the continuing education at Beida is to be part of the Beida process to build a world-class university and to serve the society,” newly appointed Dean Guan Haiting said.
Beida aims not only to cultivate elite students, but also to bring a better education to the whole country and the world. “Beida is for everyone,” then President Zhou said.
What makes a university eternal? Thinking of the ancient Academy in Athens and the Apricot Orchard of Confucius’ times, we found that it is the spirit of pursuing wisdom and an education without discrimination that make them prestigious for thousands of years.
Beida, along with many other universities, would be respected and remembered by their contribution to providing a stage for so many common people who have dreams they strive to pursue. That is the halo the university wears, a university where the wise are “hiding” and shining.
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Edited by: Jacques