Sogang Univ. is in turmoil over the Campus Opposition Party's (COP) criticism of the current General Student Council (GSC). But why should The Dongguk Post deal with another school's dispute? Because the problems of the Sogang GSC, which were pointed out by the COP, are similar to those problems besetting GSCs at all Korean universities. The problems can be condensed into two: One is "GSC without students,"and the other is "undemocratic and bureaucratic GSC."
So, what is the alternative plan? Frankly, I have no idea. However, the most important thing is not "indifference"but "concern"to find out the solution.
This Cover Story reports on the COP dispute in Sogang Univ., but it reflects on the problems of all Korean universities?GSCs.....................................Ed.
The COP Brought about a Dispute over the SC at Sogang Univ.
The Campus Opposition Party's (COP) criticism of the current General Student Council (GSC) of Sogang Univ. has been a "hot potato" on the Sogang Univ. campus. COP was first proposed last November by Kim Jae-yup, junior in Dept. of Business Administration, through Sogang Sarangbang, an online bulletin board. On Sept. 18, COP started its activities by putting up a wall poster, entitled "We distrust the current GSC," on the bulletin boards of Sogang Univ. The wall poster denounced the current GSC as "a small minority who monopolize the Student Council (SC)," and charged that the GSC is nothing but a servant of student movement groups such as Hanchongryon (The Korean Coalition of Student Council) and Junhakhyup (The National Conference of Student Councils). It means that the current GSC does not represent the 7,000 students of Sogang Univ. They also stressed that the current GSC is disqualified from claiming democratization on campus because the GSC itself is an undemocratic and bureaucratic organization with centralized power.
The following day, Eom Ryung, a former vice president of the GSC, put up a wall poster refuting the charges of COP, and the dispute over COP became a big issue on the Sogang campus. Eom Ryung pointed out COP's mistakes as follows: "COP charges that the GSC has been acting in total disregard of the wishes of the students. However, their assertion has never been verified." That is, COP argued from false premises. After that, various opinions on the argument between Eom Ryung and COP poured in from students through the online bulletin board.
On Sept. 26, COP put up their second wall poster, entitled 밊ive ideas for reforming the SC and relations between the SC and the School Authorities.?They criticized the current GSC once again and proposed setting up a new GSC system. The core of their ideas is as follows: First, abolish the SC of each college to prevent the GSC from becoming bureaucratized.
Second, create a Legislature and Judicial Review Board to divide the centralized power of the GSC. The Legislature undertakes the job of the present Central Executive Committee in the GSC, including a voting right and compilation of the budget. The representatives of the Legislature should be elected in proportion to the number of students of each college. Judicial Review Board supervises the activities of the GSC and the justice of general election according to the bylaws of SC. The members of Judicial Review Board are appointed by the chairperson of the GSC before his/her term expires and are approved by the next Legislature.
Third, the current GSC should be politically neutral through abolishing the politically oriented department of the GSC. In other words, restrain the GSC from partaking in political activities. Instead of that, approve a political organization as a legal circle.
Fourth, make the Circle Union and the Sogang Press Union independent from the GSC and secure various autonomous activities on campus. In addition, upgrade the status of the Circle Union to the rank of the GSC.
Fifth, apply school regulations to the GSC members, including that "the grades of GSC members must be over 2.0 and GSC members must be students with no criminal record." Also, legitimate students can take part in school administration through "School Development Committee," which was created last semester.
After the second wall poster, Sogang students paid attention to COP again. An anonymous student supported COP on the online bulletin board saying "The second wall poster proved that COP can give us an alternative plan beyond criticizing the current GSC." On the other hand, Kim Tae-hyun took a negative stance on COP, pointing out that "COP is merely feeding on the shortcomings of the GSC."?
As COP became a big issue, the Sogang Press Union suggested holding a debate on Oct. 4. Two members of the GSC, Eom Ryung who confuted the argument of COP, and Kim Jae-yup, the head of COP, were selected as panelists. However, COP refused to participate in the debate for three reasons: First, it did not believe it could reach the bottom line through a discussion with the GSC. Second, it doubted the impartiality of the Press Union which has been supportive of the GSC. Third, the panel is partial to the GSC. The Press Union agreed with COP and said that anyone who agrees with COP can join the debate. However, COP is still reluctant to join the debate, and thus the date is postponed indefinitely.
It is yet to be known whether the alternative plans by COP will come true. However, the obvious thing is that the winds of change are blowing across the Sogang campus, and the coming general election will determine whether it is "a tempest in a teapot"?or not.
What Do Sogang Students Think of COP?
What do Sogang students think of COP? The Sogang Press Union surveyed 525 students about COP.
As for the question, "What do you think about COP "position?" 40.7 percent of the respondents sympathized partly or fully and 18.2 percent of respondents answered negatively. Thus a plurality of respondents agree with COP in its argument over errors of the current GSC.
However, only nine percent of respondents said "Yes" about the question, "Can COP be an alternative to the problems of the current GSC." And about the question, "What is the limit of COP?" 43.6% of respondents pointed out that COP hasn't offered a concrete vision about the SC.
What's Wrong with the Student Council?
The following fictional debate is based on opinions of students and ex-members of the Student Council(SC) whom I met while gathering news material. The debate will give you a chance to think over the SC. What are problems of the SC? What is the SC for?....................................................Ed.
Moderator : A non-activist SC won the general election at Seoul National Univ last year. Although that kind of case is not news, the fact that a "non-activist" SC appealed to lots of students shows the present activist SC is weakening. Let's analyze the causes.
Anti-SC : Today's SC is a "SC without students."?It means the SC is not supported by the majority of students. Though times have changed, the SC always deal with the same issues as before, including the "annual"?struggle against tuition fee hike. That makes students turn their back on the SC.
SC : Many people say times have changed." In spite of that, the reason we make the past problems of our society an object of criticism is that the problems are not yet solved.
However, it is true that we are losing our influence. That's because we lack a sense of vision and students are not interested in the SC.
Anti-SC : Student indifference to the SC indicates they have changed. Thus, the SC should keep in step with the changing students. Now, it is next to impossible for the SC to consolidate various student concerns into one political issue.
SC : We try to change what is wrong, but if students are apathetic, it will be a useless effort. Let's say we want to revise an article in the SC bylaw. Of course, student consent is required. However, lots of student don't know the SC has a bylaw. So, is it right to let it be?
Moderator : After all, student indifference and an unchanged SC is the main factor that weakens the SC. Now, let's look at the other side of the SC. It is said that the current SC is undemocratic and bureaucratic.
Anti-SC : That's right. The SC has an unreasonable vertical structure in its decision-making process. The decision of the head group is passed down. When the head group makes a decision, they don't listen to student opinion. Thus, the various opinions of students are not reflected well.
SC : In the 1980s, the era of struggle for democratization, students transformed a political circle into a student council, which made it easier to increase the volume of their voices. As a result, each university had their own student council, and an nationwide student council similar to Hanchongryon was founded. The fact that the current student council is a continuation of the 1980's movement is because it is based on student concerns. Also, to win the general election shows that students approve of us as their representative organization.
Anti-SC : I doubt that the current SC represents students. Let's look at the election process. A person who wants to be an authorized candidate has to get signatures from students. However, most students sign only because they are acquainted with the candidate. Strictly speaking, the SC is an organization base on acquaintance. Besides, the voting rate is just over 50 percent.
Moderator : That will do for pointing out the problems of the SC. Now, what do you think the role of the SC should be?
SC : What is the SC for? We have a responsibility to protect the rights of students against the School Authorities, and to let students know what are their rights. However, we are losing our power. Students are becoming more individualistic. Members of the SC should act to reconstruct the university community.
Anti-SC : I think the SC infringes on student rights. What is the most fundamental right? It is to take classes without obstruction. But the SC holds gatherings and shouts out their political slogans through amplifiers while other students are taking classes.
The SC is also wrong to think that they are in charge of enlightening students. What makes you think that you are cleverer or more intellectual? University students are not idiots.
The most important role of the SC is to improve student welfare through cooperating with the School Authorities.
SC : Leaders have a responsibility to offer a vision. The SC must inform at least freshmen about what rights students should have and what they have to do. We don뭪 look down on students.
Anti-SC : What sort of student representatives are these so-called leaders? The members of the SC are frequently absent from classes, and what they are good at is getting drunken. They consider themselves to be privileged. Student representatives should be arole models for students.
Moderator : Opinions seem to vary on this point. Unfortunately, we don't have enough space to continue this debate. Instead, let's pass this issue over to our readers?
Choi Jong-taek email@example.com
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