On July 30, another disgraceful incident happened at Korea University (KU). A KU student was found guilty of sexually harassing 19 students over the two years he has been enrolled in KU. Although KU is trying to solve the issue as quickly and with as little disturbance as possible, the damage from this case seems to have affected the entire KU campus. It is imperative for the KU administration to meticulously investigate the incident and prevent such incidents from occurring in the future.
▲ Building in which Institute of Gender Equality Promotion is located.Provided by casillas.egloo.com
The recent unpleasant incident, unfortunately, does not seem to be an unfamiliar experience of KU. In 2011, a similar event occurred in which three medical students sexually molested a female student during the department membership training. Many KU students and faculty members were rather traumatized by this unexpected crime, and many people outside KU were also upset, questioning the morality of students in so-called SKY universities.
Even before the shock from the 2011 event had vanished from the memories of the KU community, other obnoxious, if not criminal, cases were disturbing many KU faculty members and students. Recent scandals are not just limited to students. A professor from the Business School was caught taking photos of certain body parts of female students, and another professor from the Department of Health Science was caught mistreating his students sexually outside of class. Many media are criticizing KU and damaging its reputation by using unsavory monikers to describe KU as a sex-obsessed community.
After the 2011 case, KU put forth much effort to prevent such a humiliation from arising on campus and to soothe the disturbed minds of the victims. One major policy it implemented was to broaden the range of Institute for Gender Equality Promotion (IGEP). IGEP started to encourage students to visit their office to receive counseling regarding any sex-related cases. One result of this increased investment in this organization was that KU decided to conduct mandatory freshman seminars starting from 2013 to teach freshman students about the diverse aspects of KU, ranging from the university’s history to recent problems. In particular, all freshmen were required to take a gender sensitivity seminar, which reflects KU’s continuing efforts to protect its students.
Another two striking changes were the abolition of drinking alcohol on campus and hosting anti-sexual violence conferences to make KU a safer haven of education. KU officials believe that most of the problems, especially sexual assaults, were associated with drinking alcohol one way or another. Some students have taken the opportunity when female students are drunk to sexually abuse them.
So unlike the past, when students were permitted to drink whenever they wanted to on campus, they are now no longer allowed to drink, except for during the festival season. Along with the ban on alcohol, KU streamlined process for punishing assailants and strengthened the security system to protect the personal information of victims.
Despite these endeavors, KU failed to thwart ignominy from taking place on campus. While we cannot deny that KU did try to improve its means of prevention, the actions taken were not enough to create a crime-free environment for students. There are many flaws in terms of practicality of the policies implemented.
For example, not many students are taking the freshmen seminars seriously because the course does not evaluate students by letter grade. It is a simple pass or fail (P/F) class, and hence many students either fall asleep or engage with their smart phones during the seminar. Kim Beom Jun (’13, Business) said, “I found freshmen seminars very unconstructive, if not irritating, to my future career. Even though the issues consulted were serious and had some significance, the overall structure of the seminar disappointed me a lot. The content of the lecture was too obvious and tedious and the atmosphere of the classroom was also disturbing.”
This blunder extends to other policies. In the case of the drinking ban, many students are disobeying the rule by stealthily drinking indoors or even outdoors near the central plaza when campus police are not watching. Even if the police catch students drinking on campus, they simply give them an admonition to quit drinking instead of fining or punishing them in some way. This indicates that the safeguards are unaware of the newly implemented policy and the punishments that should follow. Unsurprisingly, the complete execution of the rule does not guarantee the prevention of sexual crimes from happening. Off campus, students can drink in restaurants or bars; thus, the likelihood of sexual misconduct occurring will not be eradicated.
Other universities are not exempted from sexual crimes. At Yonsei University (YU), some students were caught mistreating female students. The attitude of YU toward this issue was very stern. In fact, they decided to make the names of the suspects public by posting them on the school website. This is very much different from the attitude of KU, which is attempting to conceal the personal information of both the victims and the assailants. Although YU’s radical decision is causing much disgruntlement from the human rights community, YU is anticipating a drastic reduction of sexual crimes on campus.
Now that another loathsome event has been brought to light, what should KU do as a means of prevention? Noh Jeong-Min (Institute for Gender Equality Promotion) maintained that continuous education that nurtures the human rights sensitivities of students is the key to solving this problem. “We cannot just blame the assailants for their wrongdoing. Instead, we have to denunciate the society itself for all these mischievous events that are happening. In order to build up students’ consciousness, we must provide different programs and systematize freshmen seminars.” Although having stringent standards in terms of punishment is necessary, she thinks that students being able to distinguish good from bad is far more important.
KU has over the years earned its reputation as one of the top universities in Korea. However, its position is being eroded by these recent events. In order for KU to maintain its prestige, KU must take extreme actions just like YU to fully eradicate sexual misdemeanors on campus. Instead of creating passive means such as freshmen seminars, KU should devise an active plan to allow students to feel the pain of the victims. KU should show no mercy to the attackers in any way, and the punishment must extend far beyond expulsion, involving legal penalties like imprisonment. KU can only regain its past glory by enacting zero tolerance policies and must take the recent case as a bitter lesson to improve the safety of students.