Peking University in Beijing

Photo Credit: Alex Dolan | Daily Texan Staff

Chenxi Deng, a 22-year-old graduate of Peking University in Beijing, audited a UT course to stalk the student he would eventually stab in the face. According to the University’s course auditing policy, a jail cell is the only thing keeping Deng from auditing another course in the future. 

A non-UT student needs only an instructor’s signature, $20 and an open seat in a classroom to audit a course, according to Kim Taylor, spokeswoman for the Office of the Registrar. An auditor attends class but does not hand in papers, take part in discussions, receive evaluations or earn any credit.

Additionally, the Office of the Registrar does not keep electronic record of course auditors, according to Shelby Stanfield, vice provost for enrollment management and registrar. In that respect, previous auditors, such as Deng, could come back to audit more courses.

“There is no process that if somebody comes back and tries to audit a course that we would check that, or that they would be tagged in the system for us to deny them admittance,” Stanfield said.

Taylor said non-UT students are virtually unrestricted in the number of courses they can audit. In theory, Taylor said, someone could take a degree’s worth of courses for a fraction of the cost of tuition. Enrolled students can audit courses as well, but they need additional dean approval and are limited in the amount of courses they can audit.

The University’s course auditing program has been open to the general public and has remained largely unchanged since the early 1940s, according to Taylor. 

Stanfield said the auditing program will remain the same moving forward. 

“Auditing did not enable this individual,” Stanfield said. “If someone is going to do something bad, they’re going to do something bad. He could have sat outside the room or the building and watched her that way. It’s no different than [saying] the sidewalk allowed a bad person to walk across campus.” 

Derrick Mitchell, a radio-television-film and Persian language and literature senior, said he finds the lack of oversight on the University’s auditing policy to be weird.

“You should at least be a student or have some professional tie to the University to audit a course,” Mitchell said. “What’s the point of calling it a University if anyone can sit in a classroom?” 

Stanfield said course auditing is akin to other University resources provided to the general public, such as access to museums and sporting events, as well as the Tower observation deck or the Union Underground.

“Events on campus don’t require sign up,” Stanfield said. “Most buildings and facilities on campus are open to the public. In one respect, getting an instructor’s approval and paying a fee is more stringent than all the other public activities that take place on campus day in and day out.”

LaToya Hill, associate dean of Student Conduct and Emergency Services, said Deng’s actions would have met the criteria for permanent separation from UT and all other UT System institutions, but course auditors are not subject to University judicial policy because they are not technically students. 

Stanfield said auditing programs are common at other universities but noted he is not aware of other institutions’ procedures.

“I don’t think our auditing process is unique by any stretch of the imagination,” Stanfield said.

UTPD Sgt. Charles Bonnet said Deng and the victim were involved in a romantic relationship as undergraduates at Peking University, though the victim left China after graduation to pursue her master’s degree at UT. Deng was allegedly auditing a high-speed computer arithmetic course to stalk the victim and rekindle their past relationship.

Electrical engineering professor Earl Swartzlander, who presumably granted Deng access to his classroom, could not be reached for comment.

Photo of Chenxi Deng courtesy of APD

The alleged assailant in Wednesday’s fork stabbing in the Engineering Science Building followed the victim from China in order to re-kindle a romantic relationship, according to UTPD officers.

Chenxi Deng, a 22-year-old graduate of Peking University in Beijing, supposedly stabbed UT graduate student Li You in the nose with a metal fork on the third floor of the ENS building Wednesday evening at roughly 5:45 p.m. 

According to the police affidavit, You had four visible puncture wounds on the left side of her nose as well as abrasions near her left eye. During a press conference Thursday, UTPD Sergeant Charles Bonnet said she might have a broken nose.

You was initially treated by EMS in the engineering building, but was taken to St. David’s Medical Center for further treatment. She was discharged Thursday.

Deng was charged with aggravated assault causing serious bodily injury, under the category of dating violence, which is a second-degree felony with a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. Though a judge at the Travis County Central Booking Facility set Deng’s bond at $50,000, Deng had not posted bail at press time.

Deng was also given an emergency protective order requiring that he stay at least 200 yards away from You at all times.

According to Bonnet, Deng and You were involved in a romantic relationship as undergraduates at Peking University, though You left China after graduation to pursue her master’s degree at UT.

After maintaining contact via social media, Deng decided to follow You to Austin, Bonnet said. In a statement given through a UT Mandarin Chinese translator, Deng said he began “auditing” classes he thought You might take in order to run into her.

“[Deng] had a good idea of what classes she was going to be taking because they had been undergrads together,” Bonnet said.

Hongjiang Li, an electrical and computer engineering graduate student who was roommates with You last year, said he saw Deng enter the class he and You were taking Wednesday night before the stabbing.

“Before the class began, I was sitting on [You’s] right side,” Li said. “The guy came in and sat to the left of the girl, and she immediately moved to the right of me.”

Li said he did not recognize Deng as a usual student.

“I didn’t think he was registered for the class,” Li said. “I’d never seen that guy before.”

Li said once You left the classroom, Deng immediately followed her. Li stayed behind to talk with other classmates, but left the room when he heard police in the hallway.

According to Bonnet, You and Deng were talking in the hallway before the interaction escalated to physical violence.

“[Deng] attempted to have a conversation, [You] attempted to not have that conversation, it escalated into an argument and then into a physical confrontation,” Bonnet said.

After the alleged stabbing, four students nearby took hold of Deng and held him to the ground until UTPD and APD officers arrived.

Electrical engineering junior Priscilla Chang said she witnessed Deng being restrained when she went to use the third-floor elevator.

“I saw the guy being pinned down by a few other guys, and he was going nuts,” Chang told The Daily Texan on Wednesday. “He was yelling some crazy stuff, but I couldn’t really tell what it was — he seemed incoherent. He was fighting the guys trying to hold him down.”

You could not be reached for comment.