The General Assembly was held on Sept. 12 with the presence of 3,286 students, which is about a tenth of enrolled students. The major goal is to realize students’ demands for the resignation of President Choi Kyung-hee and adoption of a more democratized decision system of the school.
This movement has sprung up in response to President Choi’s call for police action against student demonstrators. On July 30, 1,600 police officers intervened to disband the students demonstrating against the establishment of LiFE College and to free the professors and the faculty who were prevented by demonstrators from leaving the conference room in the Main Hall. Since then, students have called President Choi to account for the police intervention. Resignation is what students are suggesting as the only way of taking full responsiblity.
Students have also criticized the unilateral way the school proposed the establishment plan for LiFE College without any prior discussion with students.
The General Assembly dealt with the following two agendas. First, the declaration of “Ewha’s Three Demands,” which consists of the president’s resignation, democratization of the school’s decision process, and prohibition of pressing legal charges against students; and second, specific actions to realize the first item, including protest marches and picket protests during the first week of chapel services.
“When the SGA promoted the Assembly on the school online community, not many students actually replied that they would come, which worried me,” said Kim Eun-soo (alias), a freshman who participated in the Assembly. “However, delightfully, my anxiety turned out to be unnecessary.”
As decided from the Assembly, protest marches were held on Sept. 20, 22, and 27. For the first march, approximately 130 students initially gathered, but the number swelled to approximately 800 by the end, as more students joined during the march.
Each protest march followed the same route: it started at the Main Gate and stopped in front of the Main Hall, the Student Union Building, and the Welch-Ryang Auditorium before returning to the Main Gate. The first march included various performances including the breaking of placards bearing the words “Pavilion” and “CORE project.” The performance symbolized students’ dissatisfaction with past projects led by the president that were carried out without prior and sufficient communication with students. During the marches, participants also chanted slogans such as “Students are owners of the school” and “The school should protect its students.”
“One of the most impressive features of the march was the sense of comradeship,” said a participant of the first march who wished to remain anonymous. “When we stopped in front of the Main Hall, the participants of the overnight sit-in protest waved at us and called down several words of encouragement through the windows. We returned their friendly gestures by calling out our own words of encouragement. It was a heart-warming scene.”
Another form of protest to realize the second agenda of the Assembly was picket protests during chapel services from Sept. 19 to 23. During the services, students held up cards given out by the SGA that read, “The president should resign,” “Democratize the decision process of the school,” and “Do not press legal charges against students.” At the end of the services, students chanted the slogans. Meanwhile, there have been two discussion meetings between students and professors regarding the matter of the president’s resignation, on Sept. 9 and 21. During each meeting, approximately 50 student representatives participated, wearing masks to conceal their faces for security reasons. There was an open debate between the student representatives, professors and faculty members. The topics included whether the students “confined” professors and faculty members or merely “confronted” them. They also discussed whether the school provided a lawyer and alumna with personal information about student demonstrators so that she could press legal charges against them.
During the second meeting on Sept. 21, a faculty member asked if the students would be willing to withdraw their demand for the president’s resignation in exchange for the school’s acceptance of the word “confrontation” as opposed to “confinement.” The student representatives replied that they would not accept the proposal.
“We hope that the president will take full responsibility for all her actions by resigning,” said a student representative.