Their dormitory was apparently "unkempt".
So the authorities at a university in China's Hunan Province decided to punish them in a strange manner, sparking a fierce debate on social media.
The students were forced to wrap themselves in blankets in the hot sun as punishment, Global Times reported.
It happened during the school's compulsory training, a local daily Xiaoxiang Morning Herald reported.
Drill instructors at the College of Foreign Studies in Changsha ordered the group of 20 students to lie down on a paved athletic track and cover themselves in heavy quilts as a penalty for their "unkempt dormitory".
"The instructor checks to see if our quilts are neatly folded," said Mr Liu Min (not his real name), a freshman, was quoted as saying at the school.
Drills and disciplinary action are part of China's military education programme, which requires all university freshman to undergo stints of training designed to toughen them up and foster patriotism.
A school official defended the instructor's actions and said that the punishment lasted "only five minutes".
"The weather was good and temperatures were below 32 deg C," said Mr Xie Yong, a deputy director of the college's student work department.
More than 30 students, mostly young men, were also required to wrap themselves in blankets and wear a plastic bucket on their head as they ran laps, said Mr Xie.
The students were subjected to the penalty as more than 2,000 others taking part in the military training watched.
According to local reports, the school called the spectacle "punishment education."
An unnamed student was quoted as saying that it was really "miserable and embarrassing" to be punished in such a manner in front of thousands of people.
But not all students were critical of the punishment.
Hu Ling, a first-year undergraduate, said that more extreme measures were understandable as many of the students needed to become stronger.
Said Hu: "They don't do what they're told because they're pampered at home. The instructors are being strict for our own good."
But a school official, Mr Xie, said later: "Such punishment is not appropriate for girls on an emotional level."
He said the school would arrange counselling for the students involved.
This article was first published on September 19, 2015.
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