By Cho Ryeo-jin, The Post Reporte
On May 23, DU campus was noisy all day long.
Groups of students were running around the campus shouting their protesting slogans, and other groups were staging sit-down demonstrations in Myeongjin Hall and the Main Hall, where the president's office is located. The students were protesting against the reorganization of the school system and the implementation of Track System, both of which are supposed to be implemented next year. Student councils and students from a college of Liberal Arts and other departments participated in this demonstration. The banners that were hung from Myeongjin Hall attacked the arbitrary attitude of school officials in managing the school, and student representatives read aloud their statements to make clear their positions on this controversial issue.
Part 1. What Is Going to Be Changed?
The demonstration is due to the ending of unpopular majors and to implementation of the Track System, which are controversial among students and the faculty.
First of all, the students regard the sufferings of these departments as the result of the imprudent reorganization of the school system. According to school officials, however, the reason for eliminating unpopular departments such as German Language and Literature Dept. and North Korea Major is because the demand for those studies is declining based on the number of students attending these classes, graduation rate, the size and number of classrooms for those majors and the employment rate.
Second, the new format under the Track System:
1. College of Buddhist Studies Track: Buddhist Studies, Indian Philosophy, Zen Studies, Social Welfare studies
2. College of Liberal Arts Track
1) Philosophy major & Ethical Culture Studies Track
2) Department of English Lang.& Lit. and English Translation & Interpretation Track
3. College of Social Science Track: Economics Major, Resource Economics Major, International trade Major
There will be other changes due to the school system reorganization. For example, College of Arts will virtually disappear, and Dept. of Performing Arts and Creative Writing Major under College of Arts now will shift to College of Cinema Media. Also, Division of Fine Arts is going to be an independent department. If this reorganization plan is confirmed, the plan will be submitted to the Ministry of Education and Human Resource Development and the Korean Council for University Education. If the plan is approved, then the new entrance requirements and school regulations will be applied to the recruitment of freshmen in 2008.
Part 2. Opinions of student council presidents
College of Liberal Art
"Liberal Arts are the pride of Dongguk, the school's academic foundation. But our school is now planning to weaken this pride by following trends in society. This is the biggest crisis in our school. We are protesting and asking why the SA is not giving us acceptable answers. We want to talk and we want them to listen to our opinion and accept our demands. They don't give us a chance to talk with them." said one member of Student Council of Liberal Art.
Dept. of German Lang. & Lit.
"Thanks to our continuous protesting, the SA changed its plan for reorganization. Our department was to be eliminated but now we are to be included in Track System. We just managed to survive the big crisis, while the SA did not offer any meeting to talk about this new school system.
Now we will be called Dept. of German Cultural Studies. As a German Lang. & Lit. Major, I cannot understand how it can be changed to 'culture' from 'literature', " said Kim Ka-eul, the President of Dept. of German Lang. & Lit.
"We are also trying to develope our department and our professors are doing their best to get sponsors to send students abroad for studying. They have met with the German Ambassador to get through this crisis. And we're considering how alumni can help undergraduates with job information and employment. We're also thinking of every possible option that will help us to survive, so we want the SA to rethink the reorganization plan," she continued.
North Korea Major
"We sent our opinion to the President Oh. We support it the reorganization of the school system but that should happen after both sides understand each other. That is to say, we agree with the idea of the reform but cannot accept the decision-making process of the reorganization. We know that it did not happen in a proper way.
The SA agrees that the position of our major in Korea is very high, but argues that our major is more effective in the graduate school than the undergraduate. But we are not so sure about this idea. If the SA gives us specific data that support its conclusion, we will accept the reorganization of the school system," said Ahn Hong-seung, a student president of North Korea Major.
"Our major may seem unpopular, but actually many studies about North Korea have been done and Ehwa Woman's University plans to establish a North Korea Major. And Ministry of Unification gives incentives to students who study this major. Even though we have many strong points like this, they will be downplayed if the SA pushes its plan."
"It makes no sense to reorganize the school system on the basis of the amount of students in a class and of graduation rate. The SA didn't consider the value of academic learning itself. We know that the university also needs reconstruction and renovation, but it must be done through a democratic procedure. The SA forces us to enter Ethical Culture Studies Major, but we cannot accept it because Philosophy Major and Ethical Culture Studies Major are totally different subjects from each other," said Choi Jae-hee, the president of the Philosophy Major.
"We don't think that we should make our vision for future by ourselves. It is none of our business. We are just complaining that they did not offer any chance for us to express our opinion."
College of Law
“I think a college is a place where voices from the Student Council and Faculty Council should be reflected in managing the school. However, in the process of reorganizing school system, the SA showed its undemocratic attitude by making unilateral decisions and ignoring different views from students. If this new system is surely helpful for the development of the school, I will not object to it. Furthermore, while executing the new system, responsibility and trilateral agreement among the student council, faculty council and the school officials are needed. The only thing that I want is to have trilateral talks between student council, faculty council, and school officials," said Shin Dong-uk, the president of Student Council of College of Law.
College of Information & Industrial Science
“It’s just unethical that the opinions of students, those who are most influenced by the new policy, are completely ignored that students, who are most affected by the new policy, were completely ignored in the decision-making process. There should have been a trilateral discussion among the Student Council, Faculty Council, and school officials. Besides, it’s not so sure whether the new system will succeed or not. As most people know, since this new system had been carried out by former president Hong Ki-Sam and the school had already been financed by the Administration of Education, the current president had to rush on this plan. So it’s not a long-term or carefully thought-out plan. Also, on the matter of getting rid of unpopular majors or studies, I worry about the crisis of Liberal Arts studies, which is an important field of study for social issues. Recently, Administration of Education has announced its financial support for humanities. It’s true that social demand should be considered, but in my opinion, keeping the original idea of "university will help the school to make its own special fields of study more competitive,” said Kim Yoon-kwon, president of Student Council of College of Information & Industrial Science.
College of Life Resources Science
“I heard that a new system like this had failed, and so I came to doubt the success of this new system. Also, Track System will reduce unpopular majors gradually. Most of all, the unilateral attitude of the school is unacceptable for me. It contradicts a famous saying: ‘Students are the owners of the school’,” said An Joo-hun, the president of Student Council of College of Life Resources Science.
College of Social Science
"The positions of the six colleges are similar. What we want form the SA is only three things. First, an apology from the president for presiding over undemocratic reorganization of the school system. Second, dismissal of the school-affairs team whose decision -making process is not democratic. Third, a reform of the school system that includes the SA, students and professors all together.
The reorganization of the school system progressed quickly and without any advance notice from the school. Voices from the students, who are greatly affected by a reorganization of the school system, were not heard enough. The SA doesn't respect students' opinion and doesn't treat them fairly in negotiations. Students should participate in the process of this reorganization along with the SA as equal members who is not the center of the school's business.
However, we have no choice but to accept the decision, because it is almost confirmed. Realizing that the SA doesn't respect the intrinsic value of education itself, we feel antipathy towards the school's policy of giving priority to business-like efficiency.
The College of Social Science will divide into three divisions in 2008. It will be divided into Division of Political Public Administration, Divison of Economic Trade, Division of Social Journalism. We, however, want the School Affairs Team to convert the faculty system into a department system," said Chung Won-chul, the president of College of Social Science, about their position.
College of Education
"The reorganization of the school system directly influences our college, but we also agree with other colleges' opinion. And a more serious problem is that the reorganization of the school system was planned in a one-sided manner.
If school officials believe that students are customers at school, they cannot impose the new system to students. But, the school is forcing it onto students. It makes no sense. And I feel bitter about the school's unfair attitude towards students.
It is expected that the building and administration system both of the Graduate School of Education and College of Education will be unified," said Lee Jong-kwan, the president of College of Education.
College of engineering
"We have no special relationship with the reorganization of the school system. Therefore, we didn't join the demonstration at the main building occupation," explained Lee Yang-soon, the president of College of Engineering.
Part 3. Opinion of the General Representative Council (GRC)
"We think that the school administration should follow the current plan. However, the SA should listen closely to the view of the students. There wasn't much discussion between students and the SA for this reorganization. So we can't agree with the new system if th SA rush into this reformation without listening to students' voice. More discussions are necessary. The students and the SA should continue to meet and express their opinions. This is our basic opinion. And as everybody knows, several discussions between students and the SA were already progressed. This could lead to some opinions of the students being accepted if the SA took students' opinions seriously, it might have accepted them. I heard that some parts of Track System were canceled. And I also heard that the SA is considering to eliminate some majors. Actually, the specific reorganization plan should have been handed in to the Ministry of Education by the 14th of May, but it was postponed until the 31st. And we are still negotiating.
There is no other way than continuous negotiations," said Chung Pyeong-joo, the president of the GRC,
Q: Why are you forcing through the new plan even though there are a lot of protests against it? And what do you think about the student protests?
A: We already know student opinion and the reason of demonstration but students don't know the seriousness of the present situation. As you know, we posted a public notice about the reorganization in April. This new school system had been planned since Project 108 was announced in March. After the notice, many students protested against us and we had several negotiations with them. Now, they are demanding the rights to participate in the school administration. But we don't understand because we already had many conversations and listened to their opinion, which caused us to change a lot of the original plans. We didn't force them to follow our plans, but we did ask them to give us better developed opinions after our notice. Even though there was enough communication between us, the students are not yet satisfied.
Q: Why do you plan to put the Philosophy Major and the Ethical Culture Study Major together?
A: We negotiated with the professors of both majors, and they agreed with the plan.
Q: What do you want the students to do?
A: We also have specific ideas about the reorganization and we are sure about this plan. It is almost confirmed and the students should think about what is best for the school. The students keep insisting that we are not democratic, but we modified our plan to reflect their opinion and sent them details before making a confirmed plan. And they should know the fact that our school received a warning last year. We were told to reduce the number of the students, but we didn't.
Students should know that we informed all concerned students about why we had to keep the reformation schedule. We did everything that we possibly could. We think the students haven't been interested in the school system. They should have been interested in this reorganization when it was first planned and they should not just focus on this present situation. We also want them to think about the future of Dongguk.
What has caused this campus conflict? Both sides are at fault. Some members of the Student Council have a specific vision of their major's future but the others do not. Second, there was also a problem about the demonstrations. Their occupation of Main Hall on May 23 was not democratic, which made them hypocrites. And third, some students were not sincere about the demonstration even when it was a very serious action for a student to take.
There are problems with the SA, too. Even though there are a lot of positive effects sides from the reorganization of the school system, the SA should try to better communicate with students. Most students say the biggest problem is that the SA think only of the business management of the school. Although the reorganization plan was modified, there are still a lot of complaints because of that reason. The SA should think about for whom the school system is being reorganized.
Who owns the school? The answer should be "all Donggukians." All the students should aware that they are the school and should not be observers in this campus conflict. And the students who insist that the SA is not democratic should not act hypocritically. The SA will be able to prevent a similar crisis from happening again by holding democratic negotiations with students who have the right to be at the center of Dongguk Univeristy's plans for the future.
Cho Ryeo-jin, The Post Reporte firstname.lastname@example.org
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