It is time to set the alarm, get a haircut, and start going to sleep early. With a new semester dawning at Korea University (KU) in 2014, students are expected to meet a new period of studying, drinking, and working on and near campus. Especially with the recent amendments to the school’s academic regulations, campus life is sure to be different. However, contrary to students’ hopes of several months, the proposed revisions are far from promising.
▲ A student reads off the critical poster posted by the 44th College of Education Management Committee. (Photographed by Park Jiwon)
With the ending of 2013 and starting of 2014, Korea University (KU) has decided to amend its current school policies for the first semester of the year. These changes span over many issues that drastically involve students and their campus life. While the amendments have yet to take actual effect, there is much dissent amongst students on their validity and rationale.
The official announcement, posted on the official Korea University website and Korea University Portal to Information Depository (KUPID), includes detailed information on the current problems of particular regulations, their amendments, and the date of their enforcement.
The KU Dean of Academic Affairs, the main writer of the amendments, stated in his letter of announcement that the content matter of the campus regulation should reflect on the university’s prestige and reputation as an institution with a high quality education system. He lamented the prior policy’s inadequacy in doing so and added that the new amendments would address this issue. Indeed, a glimpse at the chart of amendments reveals that they seem to revolve around improving the school’s current grading system and curriculum.
One of the most thoroughly described policies has to do with retaking courses. As a noteworthy fact, this is also one of the most widely and commonly debated amendments among students. The Department of Academic Affairs calls upon the fact that students are now abusing course retakes, which were originally intended to enhance the educational experience for students, as a way to improve their school records and heighten their chances of employment.
All the while students are intentionally dropping classes for a retake, grades are inflated as a majority of the students are able to acquire high letter grades by retaking courses. As a response to these proposed problems, student records will now indicate whether a course was retaken or not, and students who retake courses will have a upper boundary on the grades they can receive in these courses.
Meanwhile, other parts of the amendments reveal similar messages. The university is planning to prohibit students from dropping enrolled classes and giving up acquired credits under the reason that dropping enrolled classes unjustly deprive other students the opportunity to take the course, while erasing past credit histories is seen as an action that ignores the students’ process of learning and interaction with the professor and thus goes against the school philosophy. KU will also begin to mark courses that students have received an F on with the words “NA (Not Applicable)” due to accusations that the university is eliminating such grades from records to raise the mean Grade Point Average (GPA) of students.
Students have expressed concerns about the newly proposed regulations. The sentiments expressed by the 44th College of Education Management Committee, the first party to propose an official opinion, to these changes remain, at best, unsupportive. The party expresses concern and distaste that the new regulations do not reflect the opinions of students.
According to a poster put up on the walls of the KU gates, the regulation amendments were announced on December 10, 2013, and were to be finished by December 17. In other words, the amendments were made during the final exam periods. “This was an intentional move on the school’s part to overlook the opinions of students, who would be busy with their exams,” states the poster. Shin Inmo (’13, Business), upon reading on this, mentioned, “I am glad the Management Committee pointed this out. Otherwise I would not have known that regulations were not student-approved.”
The party also pointed out the flaws of the proposed regulations. While the university mentions that dropping classes steals the opportunity from students wanting to take certain courses, the 44th College of Education Management Committee claimed that the fundamental problem is that the school has not made sufficient efforts to address the problems on providing more Core General Education courses and the cancelling of small classes.
It also asserted that the school regulations on retaking courses, failed courses, and limiting the years a student could be enrolled at the school were missing the bigger picture. The reason grades are inflated and students are repeatedly taking courses is due to the fact that companies are constantly requiring students to have better grades, better resumes. Hence, students are forced to neglect the joy and passion of studies and to focus more on earning credits as mere tools for employment. According to the 44th College of Education Management Committee, “the school is placing the weight of a social epidemic on individual students.”
Meanwhile, the Central Management Committee and Korea University Student Association (KUSA) has followed this lead to further question KU’s regulations and demand proper treatment of students. The Central Management Committee accused the school of having deprived the rights of students to choose the courses they wish to enroll in. In addition, it pointed out the vagueness of the school’s declaration to “try to provide support for student-organized clubs,” which was, prior to the change, written as “will provide support for student-organized clubs,” claiming that this indicated the school’s intention to stop provision.
The written complaints escalated into a public protest when, on January 28, 2014, the KUSA and Central Management Committee held a press conference to demand three objectives from the school. First, to postpone the enforcement of the new policies. Second, to provide representing students an official opportunity to discuss the policies. Third, to sincerely carry out these demands to their fullest. Meanwhile, the parties are also organizing a picketing rally to express their sentiments.
Clearly, students are disapproving of the amended regulations. Students feel as if the regulations, which are meant to protect student rights and improve the education environment, are intruding on their opportunities to learn and enjoy school facilities to their maximum. Viewing the issue from a bigger picture, it seems that the recent conflict reflects on a general lack of communication between students and school.