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Sunday,November 29,2020
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Internal Bleeding as Dongguk Struggles to Elect a New PresidentSchool Community is Facing a Danger of Breaking down
The board of Dongguk University began the process of electing a new president in November, with the term of the current President of Dongguk ending in February. Selecting a new president should have been completed in December, but the board still has not made a final decision. On December 4th, three final candidates were selected among the five people who had registered as candidates for the president. Those three candidates were Kim Hee-ok, the current President of Dongguk University, Bokwang Sunim, a professor of the Division of Buddhist Studies, and Cho Eui-yeon, a professor of the Division of English. At that point, the selection was progressing according to the plan. However, a dispute arose when one of the candidates, Kim Hee-ok, withdrew his candidacy on December 11th. He uploaded his resignation on the homepage saying that, “I am laying down my candidacy, acknowledging the request of the religious body that the presidency at a religious school is recommended to be limited to only one term.” Following this, a suspicion arose that the religious body had intervened in the process of selecting president. Soon after the Presidents’ withdrawal Professor Cho Eui-yeon also withdrew his candidacy on December 14th. Many professors, students, and even staff members criticized the religious body for interfering in the selection of the new university president. On December 16th, the board gathered at Lotus Hall to elect a new president. Two opinions were in conflict. One position was that the agenda of electing president should be followed as planned while the other position was that the issue of the religious body’s intervention should be resolved first. The board meeting ended without any progress. A month later, on January 15th, the same situations were repeated at the board meeting. There still were various opinions among the board members. On that board meeting, a few board members kept arguing about the suspicion that the only remaining candidate, Bokwang Sunim, had plagiarized his papers. School Community is Facing a Danger of Breaking down Two sides are arguing each other for more than three months Some board members, like Sungta Sunim and Hosung Sunim, stood by Bokwang Sunim, saying that the suspicion that he plagiarized some of his papers does not affect the ability to run a school as a president. While the board members were fighting each other, two student organizations, the Student Council and the Student Council of the College of Buddhist Studies, made different protests. Choi Kwang-baek, the President of the Student Council, said, “A president election has to be nothing but impartial because a school president is the most important position that represents the whole students, alumni, professors, and staff in a school. This election has lost its democratic property. The board has to restart a process of president election from the very beginning.” The Student Council of the College of Buddhist Studies expressed a totally opposite opinion saying, “A vacancy of president will make school administration difficult to be managed. We want the board to elect a new president as soon as possible.” After a thorough investigation, the Board of Research Ethics at Dongguk University announced on February 4th that 18 out of 30 papers of Bokwang Sunim were confirmed to break the research rules. The Board of Research Ethics said, “Actually, all of his papers may be regarded as plagiarized works. However, considering that research rules have recently become more severe, some of his papers could be considered as his creation.” Refuting the Board of Research Ethics, Bokwang Sunim said, “The procedure of judgment has been too shortened. The board is just focusing on punishing me. I sincerely request the board to judge my paper again with experts and buddhist associations.” On February 11th, the 289th board meeting was held at Lotus Hall. However, the meeting was cancelled because nine of 13 board members were absent. Being seemed to anticipate the absence of a few board members, the chairman of the board, Jungryeon Sunim, gave a press interview. During the interview, he said, “I really feel sorry for showing this shameful news to all Donggukians. I am the only one to be blamed for the situation.” He added that, “Educational environment around Dongguk University is becoming worse and we have many things to solve. All board members have to reflect on themselves whether they are neglecting their duties. Without solving these problems, school community might break down.” On February 23rd, the 289th board meeting, which was cancelled before, was held again. Unlike the other board meeting days, the agenda of electing a president was put down for the first time. About a disciplinary punishment toward Bokwang Sunim for plagiarizing his papers, Sungta Sunim said, “Bokwang Sunim has been a professor of Dongguk University for more than 20 years. It means that there was a chance to investigate him when hiring him as a professor. Now is not a right time to verify him. It is an emotional reaction.” Rebuting Sungta Sunim’s argument, Youngdam Sunim said, “The Board of Research Ethincs is an official organization of our school. Doubting the credibility of the Board of Research Ethincs is wrong.” The querrel never stopped until Jungryeon Sunim arbitrated it saying that it would be better to postpone the election until the next board meeting. Jungryeon Sunim ended the board meeting and went out of the hall. Meanwhile, after the meeting ended, some board members had a temporary board meeting to elect a new chairman of the board and Ilmyeon Sunim was elected. Youngdam Sunim complained, “Holding a temporary board meeting without a chairman is illegal.” From today, as the position of president is vacant, the Vice President for University Managemant will act as a president temporarily.

Kim You-jeong  youjeong719@dongguk.edu

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