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Student Housekeeper Plan Has Critics in Shanghai

A home service company in Shanghai says it plans to recruit college students to clean dorm rooms for their well off peers.


While supporters of the idea say it will provide another part-time job opportunity for needy students, others say it will put poor students in the embarrassing situation of working for their richer classmates.


Li Rong, general manager of Shanghai Laibang Household Service, said he came up with the idea after several students hired his company on a one-time basis to clean up dorm rooms before they moved in at the start of the semester.


If Li ever gets the new service off the ground, he says it will play a key role in the future development of his company.


"Setting up an office on campus means that we get a brand building opportunity among people who are most likely to need our housekeeping service in the future, and that we can establish a pool of students to develop a home tutoring service in the future," Li said.


"This is not a matter of students' helping each other," said Wen Jun, a sociology professor at East China Normal University.


Wen said school authorities should be very cautious about giving approval to the company to set up the new business.


"Doing dormitory cleaning is something we can do and we should do," said Li Jing, a graduate student at East China University of Politics and Law. "This isn't really heavy work, is it?"


He said that as an adult, it isn't proper to use his parents' money to pay somebody else to make his bed and clean his bathroom.


Li Rong isn't surprised by the concerns.


"I expected such objections, and to be frank, I thought it could be even worse," he said. He added the idea is like any other business — people get service by paying for it, and people earn money by working. "I just don't understand why prejudice is an issue," he said.


"I doubt whether there will be students interested in doing that," said Ji Lei, a student at Fudan University. "After all, there are so many part-time jobs, and I don't see the advantage of doing cleaning for peers."


So far the firm has talked to several school officials, but hasn't set up any on-campus offices due to the high rental costs.


(Shanghai Daily September 21, 2005)

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