Korea University (KU) is eluding democratization on campus. According to Godam Gonggamdae, the school is postponing the installment of a board of trustees. However, according to the school itself, nothing is decided yet. Despite constant protests, the school’s reply is, “We have no clear answer to that.” Among one of the 11 universities that do not have a board of trustees, there is no guarantee of transparency within the school.
KU is one of the few universities in Korea that does not have a board of trustees. The board of trustees is composed of representatives of the faculty staff and student body. They take care of the school’s budget, accounts and policy revision and appoints trustees of the school.
▲ Students from different universities, including KU, protesting in front of the Ministry of Education. Provided by KUSA
The student body urged the government to impose sanctions in universities, including KU, which did not form a board of trustees. However, the Ministry of Education is at the center of the problem by turning a blind eye to universities that do not have a board. They have only ambiguously stated in meetings that universities should put more effort in building boards.
Change is much needed at KU. With recent bouts with the student body, not having a board of trustees causes numerous problems. Without a board of trustees, the school has free reign to decide upon important issues such as combining departments or choosing students’ major for them. The student body’s power is relatively weaker at KU than in other universities. Hence, such harmful
consequences happened without democratic discussion with KU students.
The 46th student body has actively taken part in this issue by holding meetings with the school and striving to announce to KU students what is happening. They have said, “We are always sensitive about this issue, and we believe it is our responsibility to let the situation be known to KU students.”
▲ Signature campaign by the student body. Provided by KUSA
Godae Gonggamdae started movements to form a board of trustees starting from the first semester of 2013. They have gone through meetings with other universities that 2 do not have a board of trustees along with the Ministry of Education. Also, they met with Kim Sang Min, a member of the National Assembly, to form a sanction for universities that do not have a board of trustees yet.
To earn support from KU students, a signature campaign was carried out in the second semester. The student body was able to gather more than 2,300 signatures from the students. After the signature campaign, placards were put up all over the school which protested against KU’s firm stance in not installing a board of trustees.
In the students’ point of view, many were mostly ambivalent. After seeing the placards, Yoon Ji Yong (’12, Russian Language and Literature) said, “I did not know about what was going on until I saw the placards. Maybe it is something important. The school did not do much to advertise it.” They usually first came into contact with the issue when they saw the placards set up around the school.
Even with all these efforts, the school remains unchanging in its stance of not forming a board of trustees. They have not given any firm opinion on this issue and only said, “It is a sensitive issue and nothing has been decided. A board of trustees cannot be made overnight. There are no specific plans for a board of trustees to emerge this year.”
The student body was exhausted by such uncertain statements made by the school faculty. “According to the KU Constitution and the Private School Law, a board of trustees is the main way of communication between students and faculty,” said Director of Education Welfare of Godae Gonggamdae Lee Na Young (’10, Division of International Studies). She added, “However, KU does not feel the necessity of a board of trustees. I find it truly unfortunate.”
Establishing a clean board of trustees is another dilemma KU will face even after the board is built. In the case of Ewha Woman’s University (EWU), the university finally formed a board of trustees after eight years of fervent demands from its students. However the school unilaterally notified the student body to elect candidates for each college. The board thus had to rush elections. This was met with criticism from EWU professors. They have claimed that the school’s process in forming a board of trustees was done in an undemocratic and illegal way. Indeed, the school has composed the board of existing faculty members and school administrators.
The board of trustees is elected to monitor the university civil authority. Therefore, faculty members should not be elected as its members. However, choosing deans for the board is simply nonsense. This goes against the basis of establishing a board of trustees in the first place.
Even if KU manages to form a board of trustees, the transparency of KU will be constantly questioned. Lim Ju Hyuk (’13, Mechanical Engineering) has stated that, “I have no idea where the school’s money ends up. A problem for KU is its lack of transparency, which I doubt will completely disappear with the emergence of a board of trustees.”
A clean board of trustees is an important assignment for KU to confront. Avoiding the issue is not a solution. “We have no clear answer to that,” is not an answer the school should provide to students.