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Donggukians Seek for a Real Dream Path

Dongguk University is the only private university whose score on the NCSI (National Customer Satisfaction Index) increased for five years in a row. According to the research from the Korea Productivity Center, Dongguk placed the fourth last year among Korean universities. Based on these results, freshmen entered Dongguk with high expectations and joy. However, what awaited them were the Dream Path and other tasks that are required to be completed within their first four semesters. Go Jae-yun, majoring in Mass Communication and Journalism, said that there would be less time for her since she has to study, do part time job, participate in club activities and etc. She added that it feels like she is back to high school where every subject she took was mandatory. Some freshmen argue that these requirements are too much of a burden, and that there it is needless at university, where freedom of students should be a priority. Why does Dongguk maintain such programs?

 

   
 
 

▲ Students protest in front of the Main Building on March 24th to stop the restriction on student rights and demand changes in Dream Path.  

 

  / Photograph by Ro Chang-hun


Dream Path is a program as well as a system planned by the Career Development Center, to give students some guidance in performing well at school by maintaining certain goals. The program includes setting a goal and deciding on paths and processes to achieve them. It also includes the comparison with other students and time for introspection. The Dream Path started in the second semester of 2013, and is now a mandatory program for freshmen in 2014. 64 volunteer work hours is expected to be completed by the end of second year. 28 credits of common liberal arts, such as Public Speech, Debate on English Cultures and etc., should be taken within four semesters as well. Make-up courses would be only held during vacation sessions. Moreover, TOEIC scores required for graduation should be done within four semesters as well. If these tasks are not done, there might be some disadvantages from the school such as limitations on course registration.

 The Student Council argues that it is unreasonable to force freshmen to follow the school’s decision because university is a higher education institution which must guarantee autonomy of students. According to Park Woong-jin, the vice president of Student Council, the Student Council makes efforts to protect students’ right that is violated by the school. What is more, Dream Path started less than a year ago, which means its effectiveness has not been proven. If the school wants to provide better system for students, the school should not use force and instead promote the programs so students can make their own choices. The Student Council stated that the school should provide a better guide without force and should consider students’ opinions more.

Students are required to upload their social activities, reports and others records that could be relevant to the diagnostic standards in Dream Path. Since there are penalties when such things are not completed, the school’s action cannot be seen as encouragement, but a punishment. The meaning of volunteer should exist in self-willingness, not in being forced to do something for graduation.

Furthermore, restricting students to take certain courses for certain credit is too restrictive. Students can register maximum of 18 credits normally, which means that almost 40 percent of students’ schedule should be filled with common liberal arts classes. Plus, those who receive C+ or less cannot take make-up classes during regular semesters, obliging students to take these classes during vacation semesters. In addition, being forced to achieve TOEIC scores of 550 to 750 depending on their majors by the end of second year is useless for longer term needs, because the validity of these scores lasts for only two years. As a matter of fact, the signature campaign to protest against the Dream Path from school was successful, with a goal of 7,000 signatures, over the half of the total number of students.

The school’s arguments, however, are quite different from those of the students. According to Kim Tae-hyung, the section chief of Career Development Center, where Dream Path was created, there is some misunderstanding between the school and the students. The school believes that penalizing students for not meeting the requirements of Dream Path, for example in registering for courses, is impossible since students pay their tuition and have the right to be educated. The main purpose for Dream Path is to offer several programs to encourage student autonomy.

Even though it might seem like an act of forcing rather than encouraging, the program has the ultimate goal of helping students to be well-prepared for job recruitment when they graduate. The school is interested in the wellness of the students, so it is only natural for them to suggest such programs. Of course, the fact that the employment rate of students has an effect on the university’s prestige should not be ignored. The school wants to give an opportunity to freshmen and sophomores to think of their future and prepare for it from the start of their university lives, so that they can be less pressured in their senior year. Kim Tae-hyung said, “The school tried their best to build the system that does not violate students’ rights. The school does not want to be a factory  producing students that are suited only to get a job. Since the program is not fully developed, we will try much to discuss with students and change as much as we can to fulfill them. At the same time we are trying to be helpful for their future, not to regulate or control them.”

According to the school, the 64 hours of volunteer work and the required TOEIC scores, are not needed until graduation, not by the end of their fourth semester. 64 hours are calculated with the standard of two credits worth for social volunteering courses, for which students need to accomplish 32 hours of volunteering time per credit. Furthermore, those who have volunteering hours in their portfolio are ten percent more likely to get a job than those who do not. Kim Tae-hyung added that when students start volunteer work, the misunderstandings and complaints will disappear. “When students participate in volunteer activities, they can realize what intellectuals should do for the society. I believe students will participate in more volunteer work after they have more experience,” added Kim. For the common liberal arts lectures, the school argued that the main audiences of common liberal art classes are freshmen and sophomores. Therefore, professors prepare the direction of their lecture based on that expectation.

However, juniors and seniors currently take 14 percent of the quota for common liberal arts classes, and 28 percent for MSC (Mathematics, Science, and Computer – basic engineering). For these reasons, the school has tried to encourage freshman and sophomore students to take courses that are aimed at them in their first few semesters. As for Practice in Seon, the extra payment during the vacation sessions is needed since the lecturer should be paid. During ordinary semesters, the school pays the lecturers but treat it as non-credit class, to provide students an opportunity to take more classes. Kim Eun-jin, a sophomore majoring in Business Department, said that Dream Path’s requirements are not that difficult and seem to be helpful in the future when writing a resume and cover letters. “I think I cannot remember what I have done in my freshman and sophomore years when I become a senior. Even though I do remember some, I am sure that the memory is not as clear as the time. Dream Path might be burdensome now, but will be a great present for the future,” said Kim. The work that should be uploaded to Dream Path are two reports that are already written during the class, a self- assessment list, four social activities, etc., and Kim did not feel that these tasks are unreasonable.

The school tries to provide the best for students and the students try their best to achieve their dreams and goals. However, if the school pushes students too hard, what are intended as favors and gestures of good will may be seen as burdens and obligations for students. The school should provide better programs with better conditions, while students need to open their minds more and invest their time exploring such useful programs. The problems that have occurred cannot be solved by concessions from one side, but through efforts and willingness of both sides. Students, Dongguk and the Post expect a better Dream Path to be operated in the near future.

Ro Chang-hun  kazimiar@dongguk.edu

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