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Saturday,June 19,2021
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The veiled friction between student councils and students


Kyungil University has broken the habitual practice that freshmen must pay their student membership fees.  This decision was very popular with students and parents.  Generally, student membership fees are divided into two parts: one is the student council membership fee, and the other is the department membership fee.  The General student council membership fee is included in the admission fee that is used for student government, but the department membership fee is additionally collected from freshmen.  Also at Dongguk University, most departments collect fees from freshmen.

The student councils of different departments usually do not reveal a breakdown of their student fee usage.  Because of this, the student councils have a difficulty gaining their students’ trust. Another reason of friction between students and student unions is the excessive autonomy given to student councils.  “I don’t know that the department student fees exist in DU” said Kim Tae-Su, the finance accounting team leader.  DU leaves the determination of the budget to the department students’ discretion. Universities do not interfere in the internal affair of the student unions. 

In the case of some department student governments, they would reveal the real names of students who have not yet paid their membership fees.  This causes students to be divided. ”We must separate those students who have paid their student fees from students who have not, said Kang Ho-Min, a student majoring in Multimedia Engineering. When the real names are revealed, student membership fees are often paid rapidly.  When the department student unions decide to collect dues from students, they must stick to their collection plans. It is about being fair.” said a student of Chemical-Bio Engineering, Kim Jin-Han. 

In contrast, “Paying the membership fees is a personal choice and if the real names are revealed, the relationship between friends, seniors and students who have not paid can be really awkward for each other” said a student of Chemical-Bio Engineering, Oh Hee-Muk. “This is an abuse of basic human rights, because this measure precludes the right of students to decide for themselves,” said a student of Chemical-bio Engineering Kim Jae-Ho. 

This friction must not last.  First, to reduce these frictions, the University has to publicize events aimed at gaining supporting funds.  If student governments hold these events and they take place with all other students, they can be supported by the University. This would be a great system but it is not regularly used. 

Second, the University must enlarge their budget about the events aimed at getting supporting fund.  For example, Kyungil University decided to increase the support budget by getting rid of student membership fees.  “If the event has internal stability, the events that are held by the student government can be supported by the university budget. It is expected that this support will make the event much better in terms of quality,” said Jung Hun Tae, Kyungil university vice-president. In conclusion, gaining supporting funds can help the finance management to be more transparent.  

The student government’s part is also very important.  First, the student unions must reveal the details of expenditures to DU students.  The student department membership fee is composed of students who have paid their fees. If the students do not know the details and where the money goes, the students will not trust their student councils.  “If student membership fees are collected by students by themselves, they must make management of assets much clearer.  To make management of assets more clearly, the student union has to reveal the details,” said Kim Tae-Su, the finance accounting team leader. 

The University and the student government need to build a cooperative system. The system should entail that the university audits the student department council accounts.  To execute this system successfully, the student union and the University must discuss this subject further. The student council may be opposed to this system, and say that the system disturbs their right of self-government, that is autonomy, but revealing the details only makes sense. 

If auditing the student council’s account is hard, there is another method.  The college student unions and the department student councils can audit each other’s accounts.  For example, “The College of Economics and Commerce’s student council and the department student councils could audit each other’s accounts’’ said the College of Economics and Commerce’s student body president. 

Finally, the student council must let students decide whether they wish to pay the fee or not.  For example, “It is claimed that you need to pay the fee to register for a locker” said a student of Chemical-Bio Engineering, Kim Jin-Han, but there is no rule that the students must pay the fee.  There is no reason why the students should be forced to pay the fee from the councils.  The decision whether to pay the fee or not should be made not by the councils but by the students.  

The University and the councils need to make a greater effort to reduce the friction between students and the student union.  To begin with, the university has to increase the supporting budget, and the University and the department student councils have to agree to execute the system to allow that they audit the accounts each other. This system will allow the councils to gain their students’ trust.  Finally, it is very important that the students have the right to choose whether they pay the student fees or not.

 

Kim Jong-ha  keep14@dongguk.edu

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