“It’s a challenge to be a dean”-an interview with Prof. Feng Guo
“It is a challenge to be a dean”, said Feng Guo, a professor of economic law at Wuhan University who was newly appointed as the dean of WHU law school this July. “After the designation, my friends told me that it would be a great burden,” he smiled, “they warned me that I might suffer from ‘three losses’-- the loss of hair, the loss of popularity and the loss of knowledge.” As far as Prof. Feng is concerned, the “three losses” theory is no joke, but a real challenge to anyone who is in his position. On one hand, as the dean in charge of the development of the law school, Prof. Feng needs to deal with the daily routine relating to his staff and students; on the other hand, he is a scholar who should focus on research and maintaining his academic status. Either of these requires lots of energy, let’s not even mention doing them at the same time. The ex-dean, Professor Xiao Yongping, offered Prof. Feng his advice--the only way is to devote more. “I have no other choice but to spend more time on work. As long as I am in the position, I will try my best.” Prof. Feng concluded.
Professor Feng Guo
During the interview came two phone calls, which reminded Prof. Feng of the meetings he was going to attend. However, the challenge is not only about the heavy work but also the pressure on adapting and improving an already matured academic management system. The Law School of WHU, whose achievements are broadly admired, has always been considered as one of the best law schools in China. Prof. Feng hopes that the school will improve itself and become one of the best law schools in the world. In his opinion, to realize this goal, two elements are of great importance. The first one is that the staff of the law school should not be satisfied with the present achievements. Each and every one of them ought to make effort to help the school reach first-class status. The other, is that external resources should be fully tapped. That is to say, WHU law school should host more high-quality academic forums and meetings and take part in national legislative and judicial programs actively, making WHU’s voice heard.
However, the natural geographical disadvantage and the scarcity of resources somehow make Wuhan a less attractive city than Beijing, Shanghai or Guangzhou. As a matter of fact, many young teachers prefer to teach in these cities regardless of the level of the universities they choose. Feng recognizes this difficulty and he is optimistic to solve it. “During the Spring and Autumn Period, the locations of Qi and Qin (two states in ancient China) were also a disadvantage to them; nevertheless, the two states became the most powerful ones and Qin finally united China into one country. The disadvantages of location will not stop WHU from developing into one of the best university in the world either.” Feng said hopefully. Having made a series of ambitious plans, he firmly believes that the bigger one dreams, the more he gains.
One of his plans is to launch the “Luojia Law Teachings”, a series of speeches given by top jurists. It has been held twice, during which Wang Liming, a top civil law professor and Zhao Bingzhi, a top specialist on criminal jurisprudence, were invited respectively, and both of the speeches were warmly welcomed. In Feng’s plan, “Luojia Law Teachings” will become a brand of WHU law school, and only the best jurists will be invited to give lectures here. As a matter of fact, its expertise has already been approved by many law professors. An alumnus even said that “the best jurists are on the way to Luojia.”
Another forum, the “Yong Jurists’ Voices”, different from the “Luojia Law Teachings”, is for younger scholars to exchange their opinions. The “Usage-based Talent Cultivating and Discovery Mechanism” is a more ambitious project. Under this project, WHU will establish a “law science academy”, which will have two breakthroughs. First, scholars belonging to other universities may be invited to do research in this academy for a period of time every year. “It doesn’t matter that some scholars are not from WHU. We can learn from their inspiring thoughts.” In addition, this academy will break the disciplinary boundaries so that specialists in different subjects can work together to solve problems from different perspectives.
Beyond the measures that attract scholars, there are also activities targeting students. “I have written many recommendations for students who wanted to apply for universities in Beijing and Shanghai. It is a good thing to experience more but it is not normal when the exchange is unidirectional.” Although Wuhan is not a central city, Wuhan University is making itself an ideal university by developing better courses and highlighting its advantages. “Eight students from Peking University have applied to our law school this year. It proves our increasing attractiveness, and we will become better.”
To develop better, funding support is necessary. Prof. Feng introduced that the “Legal Education Fund”, mainly donated by alumni, was planned to be established. One of the fund’s aims is to award teachers who make great contributions to the school. Nowadays, teachers are judged by their achievements in scientific research, which is not fair for those who spend most of their time teaching students. These teachers also contribute a lot. They are highly respected by students but usually receive little awards under the recent system. This new fund will solve this problem to some extent. Another use of the fund is to develop better courses and finance students’ internship. Different from the traditional scholarship that is founded to award only the top students, the new fund aims at benefiting all students by arousing their enthusiasm.
Professor Feng talking with journalists
Although professor Feng has to spend much time on his work as a dean, he never forgets his position as a scholar and a teacher. In his own mind, reading, thinking and implementing his own ideas are the most valuable things that being a teacher can bring him. In his students’ mind, he is an amiable teacher who cares for them very much. “He often talks with us and gives us advice on life and study.” said Lu Yu, one of Feng’s students. When talking about Prof. Feng’s advice to students, Lu mentioned Feng’s emphasis on reading. In this way, students can gradually form their own system of knowledge. “The world is changing and new things are springing up. Only those who have mastered the basics and are used to thinking in a legal way can see the legal nature from a phenomenon and analyze it deeply, meanwhile, creating new ideas.” Feng told us.
Prof. Feng is a dean, a scholar and a teacher. Nevertheless, all three titles share a common responsibility—to educate students. “Our students will be elites, with not only the ability to solve problems but also good moral character.” said Feng optimistically.
(Photo by Shi Weimin)
(Edited by Li Minjia, Wu Siying, Edmund Wai Man Lai & Hu Sijia)