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Home at CUHK

Prof. Cheung Yuet-wah (Photo by ISO staff)
Professor Cheung singing and playing the guitar at open house
Student residents visiting Professor and Mrs. Cheung (1st and 2nd left, back row), and their daughters (3rd left and 1st right, back row) during Chinese New Year
Prof. So York-kee Clement (Photo by ISO staff)
Professor So hosting a lucky draw in the hostel
Professor and Mrs. So (1st and 2nd right, 3rd row), and student residents

The University has always been proud of the strong sense of belonging of its members. CUHK is a home away from home for them, and this is more than a metaphor—some CUHK people live on campus. Among them are Prof. Cheung Yuet-wah and Prof. So York-kee Clement.

Prof. Cheung Yuet-wah

  • Sociology, Chung Chi College (1975)
  • Chairman, Department of Sociology
  • Member, Chung Chi College Assembly of Fellows
  • Hostel Warden, Madam S.H. Ho Hall (MHH), Chung Chi College

Setting up House on Campus

Prof. Cheung Yuet-wah joked, ‘I have been the hostel warden of MHH since 1994, making me the most senior warden of Chung Chi College.’

Professor Cheung was an active student resident in the past. ‘I loved not only participating in hostel activities, but also taking up the job of organizing activities.’ Upon returning to CUHK to teach, Professor Cheung also took care of the College’s student affairs. It was natural that the College Office approached him when they looked for a warden for MHH. Without hesitation, he moved in with his wife and two daughters—then nine and two, respectively.

MHH is a medium-sized co-ed hostel with about 200 student residents. ‘The job of a warden is to help students adapt to life in the hostel and solve the problems they encounter living there. In addition, a warden has to support and participate in hostel activities organized by the students,’ said Professor Cheung. While the College Office is responsible for recruiting workmen, delegating jobs, and preparing rosters, Professor Cheung has to monitor the workmen’s performance. ‘Though they are only responsible for minor works such as cleaning, front counter service, incongruity does occur as each staff has his/her way of working. This is particularly pertinent during the handover of day and night shifts. I have to play the mediator which is time-consuming. However, it allows me to learn a lot about managing workers, which is something beyond my area of expertise.’

Early Bird Versus Night Owl

As the College’s most senior warden, Professor Cheung gave a brief account of the changes in student residents over the last two decades. ‘In the early years, most of them were local students. Starting from the 2000s, the number of mainland and exchange students gradually increased. Today, they account for 15% to 20% of the total student population in MHH. That means we have a more diversified residents’ backgrounds and lifestyles. For instance, mainland students tend to sleep early, whereas local students are more active at night, like to gather in the lobby or on the lawn outside the main entrance after10 pm. They chat, discuss homework, prepare for activities, practise for the Inter-Hostel Singing Contest and Fu Cup, etc., till 3 to 4 am occasionally. The noise they produce may disturb those who want to sleep.

‘When this happens, I have to intervene and remind them to keep discussions at moderate voice levels. These disputes happen from time to time but they are minor. The students are rational and all I need is a little art of persuasion.’

Professor Cheung pointed out that computerization, the advent of the internet and social media has helped to facilitate the coordination and connection among students, and have not kept them inside their rooms. The design of the students’ publicity materials has also demonstrated more creativity than in the past, thanks to these technological improvements.

Open House

Professor Cheung admitted that being the warden entails sacrificing a lot of leisure time that would otherwise be spent with his family, especially at night. 'I am glad that my wife and daughters do not complain much. They love the beautiful campus, too. My daughters regard themselves as CUHKers though they did not study here.’

Professor Cheung enjoys being a warden and interacting with students. 'At the beginning of each academic year, I host an open house in my apartment. All student residents are invited and the place is packed. I play the guitar to lead them to sing and I perform magic. It’s full of fun. Some students praise my work; some visit me after graduation; some invite me to their weddings. Such shows of goodwill and gratitude encourage me to go on with my job.'

30 Years on Campus

Prof. So York-kee Clement said he is happy to live on campus over a long period of time.

'I was a student resident throughout my six years of undergraduate and postgraduate studies at CUHK. When I came back from the US and began to teach at the University, I chose to live in a hostel and that has lasted till now. As a student, I lived in the temporary hostel made of metal. It was situated next to the Sir Philip Haddon-Cave Sports Field. I also lived in Wen Lin Tang, Madam S.H. Ho Hall, Ming Hua Tang, Ying Lin Tang, and the Postgraduate Hall which is now the Pentecostal Mission Hall Complex. As a teacher, I first lived in Friendship Lodge, Chih Hsing Hall, then moved to the Postgraduate Hall in 1995. My latest residence was at the Jockey Club Postgraduate Hall. If you have to compile a “highest numbers of hostels lived” list, I think I do have a place,' Professor So pointed out.

Professor So has been living on campus for 30 years, and has never thought of living outside. 'I am used to hostel life. It feels warm. Living in this fully equipped, picturesque campus, much time is saved commuting to and from campus. I can go to office any time to work. My wife, Lee Yuet-lin Alice, an alumna of the School of Journalism and Communication, and my two sons also love the campus. So, living on campus and being the warden is win-win for us. In fact, Alice takes up the job of honorary lady hostel warden to take care of our female student residents.'

Prof. So York-kee Clement

  • Sociology, Chung Chi College (1980)
  • Communication, Graduate School (1982)
  • Professor, School of Journalism and Communication
  • Hostel Warden, Jockey Club Postgraduate Hall

Announced Inspection

Comparing the duties of undergraduate and postgraduate hostel wardens, Professor So said they are similar. But as postgraduate students focus more on their studies and research, they may not like to participate in a lot of hostel activities.

'Another point I like to mention is that when I was the warden of the Postgraduate Hall two decades ago, about 90% of the residents were local students; the others were mainland and exchange students. Today, the distribution is reversed—of the 1,000-plus students, 90% are from the mainland,' said Professor So.

When strangers live together, conflicts are inevitable. According to Professor So's experience, communication is the best way to address the conflicts and the lessons learnt are incorporated in the hostel regulations. 'As a result, the hostel regulations grow thicker and thicker!' said Professor So. Back in 2001, there were only two pages of regulations. Today, there are four and a half, together with four more for declaration and general information. Student residents have to sign on them.

As both graduate and undergraduate students are adults, Professor So gives them maximum freedom and seldom inspects their rooms to check for visitors staying overnight without authorization. Having been warden for over two decades, the most unforgettable experience is his rare inspection in the late 1980s. 'Back then, I was the warden of Chih Hsing Hall. One day I announced to all students that an inspection would be carried out at about 11 pm. When I arrived at the lobby as said, dozens of students greeted me and applauded my operation. What a unique experience it was!' remarked Professor So.

Comments from the Lady Warden

Mrs. So said, 'CUHK campus is quiet and comfortable like a huge park, reminiscent of certain overseas suburban environments. It is rare in Hong Kong. Our flat is located on the ninth floor, but I can hear birds sing in the morning. What a pleasure. I regret that I cannot spare more time to stroll around and use the fitness equipment, due to my busy schedule.'

Professor So plans to live in Sha Tin, close to CUHK, after his retirement.


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