Women Students Association of Postech is having a campaign for preventing sexual violence.
/Photography from Women Students Association of Postech
On November 4th, the chairperson of one of the colleges in Seoul National University (SNU) was accused of sexually assaulting a female student. Other than the incident in SNU, a number of cases regarding sexual offences in universities have been revealed; there was a sexual harassment in group chats of male students, sexual violence happening in orientation in several universities and so on. These recent incidents added strength to the revival of the General Coed Student Council (GCSC) which had been vanished due to some reasons.
Vague direction for the GCSC
In 2014, among the GCSCs in universities located in Seoul, only four were normally operated because many people had doubts toward its presence due to increased role of national organizations and offices made by the school authorities. Shim Hyun-jung, a member of Human Rights Center of Dongguk University, mentioned “Since the general social gender sensibility increased, government and school also started to put more effort for solving gender discrimination.” This led to a downscale of the GCSC’s role in universities since there were new offices that dealt with these cases like gender equality committee and human rights center. Eventually, the GCSCs in universities extended their roles in the welfare of female students in the campuses by providing various items and space for female students. This raised doubts for some students of reverse discrimination regarding the GCSC’s activities since all the expenses used by the GCSC were from the student membership fee, which every student paid for everyone’s welfare not just for female students. Heo Jae-hwan (Junior, Sociology) said, “I do not understand why the GCSC does not give us the right to vote but uses what we have paid for everyone’s welfare.” Such argument spread out leading one of the causes that made the GCSC to disappear in many universities.
the existance of the GCSC
However, because of the recent incidents occurred in school campuses and increased cognition regarding the rights of women, revival of the GCSC has started to be discussed around the university society. Those who support the revival of the GCSC say that the discrimination has reduced only in the visible area. In other words, the real discrimination is hidden in the prevalent thoughts of people. Kim Ye-jin, the former candidate for the chairperson of GCSC, said, “Sexual discrimination is happening so unclearly that individuals cannot bring this into an official debate. Then, added,“To solve Sexual discrimination, GCSC will play a significant role in gathering these individuals and forming a public opinion.”
Also, after the GCSC vanished, the feminist movements on campus were always conducted by a small group of people without any authority. The suggestions these groups introduced did not have much effect on improving sex discrimination since nobody was forced to do it consequently, and in many times, the suggestions would be ignored. Kang Hyun-joo, the former candidate for the vice chairperson of the GCSC, said, “The small feminist movements in campus would always end up in failure since nobody listened to them. The GCSC will act out as the pivot for them by gathering the movements into one strong unified group with the actual ability to realize it. In addition, since there was no headquarter for feminist movements in campus, most of the activities were done for just that moment. We hope the GCSC will improve the situation by putting the activities into a permanent system.”
It seems other universities treat the matter similarly. The GCSC of Kangnam University provides many services for students who experienced sexual violence with school’s counselling office. Kim Na-ri, the chairperson of the GCSC of Kangnam University said, “If the victim student does not know what to do, we help them with their mental stability and organize the incident to file report to the police. We try to discuss the matter with the students but everything is operated anonymously for students’ privacy.” Additionally, in universities like Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH), where the ratio of female students is smaller compared to other universities, the presence of the GCSC is more crucial. Kim Ha-eun, the chairperson of Women Students Association of Postech, said, “For universities where most of the students are males, the welfare of female students is very poor. Since most of the events are focused on the majority group; the male students, female students are alienated most of the time. However, I believe it is difficult for school staffs to specifically figure out what the students need.”
A step further
from what we expect now
The need for the GCSC has become an action in Dongguk University as well as other universities in Korea. “Ready-Action,” the former candidate party for the General Coed Student Council in Dongguk University, tried to revive the GCSC of Dongguk University that has been absent for two years.
The revival could be one of the ways to solve the problems regarding the sexual discrimination in universities, but experts say there should be more than that. Shim said, “The GCSC should not end-up in involving gender discrimination but also set several steps further as to consider every part of human rights ignored in the school.”
Khang Seok-jun firstname.lastname@example.org
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