Following the amendment of the Private School Act in 2005, setting up a university council became mandatory for all private universities. This May, as seven universities still had not created a university council, the Ministry of Education announced that unless the schools appoint open member of board of directors, it will not approve of any new director. Four universities including Ewha have established university councils since then, and currently, only three out of 154 private universities and graduate schools remain without the school’s official university council: Yonsei University, Korea University and Sungkyunkwan University.
To demand their schools’ establishment of a university council, the Student Union of Yonsei University and Korea University held a joint press conference in front of the Government Complex-Seoul on Oct. 4.
“We are demanding for the school to establish a university council in order to solve the information asymmetry between the school and the students, and to fulfill democracy through gathering ideas of each member,” said Koh Eun-chun (Yonsei University, 3), the president of the Yonsei University Student Union. “It is disappointing that some prestigious private universities are neglecting this essential issue. I think that many students should speak up more for the establishment of university councils.”
The officials from these universities could not state clear reasons for not yet having found a university council, given the delicacy of the matter.
“It is a very complicated and political issue which is dealt within the university president’s jurisdiction,” said an official from Korea University who wishes to remain anonymous. “I think for the time being, we should wait and see.”
Ewha launched the 1st University Council on Sept. 24, over eight years after the Private School Act revision.
“The rules surrounding the university council may be based on the public interest of private education but also have a tendency to disregard its independence,” an official from the Office of University Planning and Coordination said.
“There has even been an unconstitutionality suit about this matter, which has been in the process for six years. Ewha has been getting ready for the foundation of a university council with both of the positive and negative aspects in mind.”
Even after the delayed establishment of the university council, there has been conflict between the school and the Ewha Faculty Council concerning the election process of professor representatives. According to the Ewha Faculty Council, the process of election had been unfair because the notice was made only four days prior to the selection of candidates, and the election method did not reflect the individual professors’ opinions enough. Moreover, there has been a dispute over the fact that three out of four professor representatives are members of the academic council.
“This has clearly been a shameful act from the university’s executive branch that damages the dignity of Ewha and the respect toward Ewha professors,” said professor Jhon Gil-ja (Chemistry & Nano Science), the president of the Ewha Faculty Council. “The status and image of Ewha has been plunging publicly, and the Ewha Faculty Council will continuously put in every effort for the democratization inside the school, the improvement of Ewha’s competitiveness and the organization of a rational management system.”
The school, on the other hand, asserts that the professor representatives had been elected following normal procedures based on the Private School Act, and that there is no problem regarding their legality and legitimacy.
However, complaints from the Ewha Faculty Council do not seem to have died down.
“We are demanding for the school to organize the professor council as an independent professor organization based on school regulations, where all professors can actively participate,” professor Jhon said.