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Who Moved My Department?

Gold and silver possess great value in small amounts. The same applies to the departments that are uncommon or left in only a few universities. However, these days, universities are trying to get rid of them by restructuring departments. For a long time, this has been the subject of discussion and is still a contentious issue. Dongguk University is not an exception. The department of German studies was cut in 2008. After the incident, students tried their best to take their major back, but  the university was stubborn about the decision. Also, the Department of Creative Writing was merged with Korean Literature, and the Department of North Korean Studies almost disappeared. It is not an exaggeration to say that this problem has its root cause in universities trying to earn money from their departments. They jump to conclusions based on the standards they made, ignoring the thoughts of the students. To prevent the departments from being cut or merged recklessly, students should take the step forward to save their department on their own. Also, universities should establish an organization to communicate with students. On top of all, they must admit the value of each major.

First of all, students should inform the community about the existence of uncommon majors like the Department of North Korean Studies or German Studies. Only a few people might be aware of them and the problems they have. So, as more and more people get to know about the issue, there is a chance that some organizations might be willing to help them financially or academically. For example, after conducting various activities off campus, students in the Department of North Korean Studies at Dongguk received support from the Minister of Unification. The project was done on a huge scale, from giving out fliers writing a petition. Their department was on the edge of being cut, but their resolute position was the key to saving their department. Putting every plan we made into actions might not sound realistic but the successful case of the Department of North Korean Studies gives us hope. Also, as the saying “Heaven helps those who help themselves” goes, we have to take the first step to solve the problems by ourselves and after that, the rest will follow automatically.

Second, the university should create opportunities so that the students and school representatives can speak out about their ideas. In most cases, the school just informs students of the changes without giving them plausible reasons. It would be unreasonable to hear the news of our department being merged or cut suddenly. Even in the worst scenario where the school has no choice but to merge or cut it, they should at least try to talk to the students. After going through that procedure, the school should reach the final decision. If so, there is a little possibility of students protesting or occupying the principle’s office. For example, Kyung-Hee University has established an institution where the students and the school can talk about issues like tuition fees or merger between departments. This has actually proven to be an effective and diplomatic way of solving a problem. Thanks to the organization, both the students and the school are benefiting a lot. By expressing thoughts and coming to an agreement, neither the school nor the students have complaints about a new agenda. This creates an atmosphere of tranquility and peacefulness. It seems that Dongguk University also has to act on a project like this in the near future.

Lastly, a university has to recognize the importance of the majors like the Department of North Korean Studies or Creative Writing because they have their own significance. It could be said that the universities are similar to a corporation in some ways. For that reason, school officials make it a priority to earn profit and publicize the schoool by the outcomes that each department brings. For example, there was a merger between the Department of Creative Writing and the Department of Korean Literature at Dongguk. Obviously, the two departments have different academic pursuits, but the university said that the Department of Creative Writing does not deserve financial support due to the low employment rate of students after graduation. This shows that universities only focus on making money. However, students did not choose Creative Writing as their major to get a job in the first place. Instead, they had a pure objective in mind to learn the subject itself. At this point, the school officials need to think about the true meaning of school once more. A school should be a place where students are given an opportunity to learn about a certain field they have interest in, not where the strong take advantage of the weak.

Merging and cutting departments causes many problems to students. Not only are students’ right to learn are infringed but also the right to contribute to the decision making process. All the students who are frustrated by the news of their merger or cut should work in various fields of activities to let people know what they are going through. Also, the universities, especially Dongguk University, should set up an institution and accept the opinions of the students wholeheartedly. Most importantly, they must admit the fact that each department is valuable and treat it as essential part of the university. My personal definition of university is the place where we get a change to study the subjects which we feel enthusiastic about. At Dongguk, there are many students who are eager to study their major in depth at the cost of difficulties of getting a job. For some, studying their major could be the last hope they have for the future or the very thing that keeps them alive. So, all the departments, be they ever so unpopular or unique, must be maintained and respected.

 

Park Hye-yeon  hyeyeon0216@gmail.com

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