|To show resistance towards the board of directors regarding the establishment of Sogang University's Namyangju campus, presidents of the Student Government Association and the School of Integrated Knowledge staged a hunger strike in front of the school's main building on Sept. 22. Photo provided by SGA of Sogang.
Conflict revolving around the establishment of a second campus is occurring at Sogang University for over a month. Sogang has been under a protracted conflict between its students and the board of directors. Amid strong opposition from the board of directors, students and the school president, who are in support of the new campus at Namyangju City.
Yoo Ki-pung, a former president of Sogang University, has prepared the construction of a second campus in Namyangju City since 2009. He proposed that the new campus, including a new college of Division of Convergence, will open in 2020. However, the plan was stalled because of the board’s disapproval based on the school’s already faltering finances.
On Sept. 29, Yoo announced his resignation at an urgent press conference, stating his inability to resolve the conflict. During the conference, he criticized the board of directors, where 6 out of 12 members are former priests of the Society of Jesus. Yoo argued that the monopolized board is preventing the school from making progress.
Like the former president, students are protesting against the board of directors and criticizing their dictatorial decisions. Though many have heard of the new campus before, they came to know the troubles between the school and the board only after the start of the second semester of 2016. Many students are deeply concerned of the consequences that are likely to occur if the plans get cancelled.
“Not only will the school be entangled in legal conflict, but it will also have to pay a large amount of compensation costs,” said Jun Han-bin, a freshman of Sogang University. “I’m afraid the school might really go bankrupt.”
For over a month, students have shown opposition to the board in various ways from staging hunger strikes to holding general assemblies.
According to a sophomore at Sogang University, about 1,000 students participated in the board meeting on Sept. 12, which lasted for over six hours. However, many students commented that communicating with the board seemed impossible because the directors cared only about their own interests.
“Since then, students have been protesting to reduce the number of directors associated with Society of Jesus to four or less members to prevent the group from dominating the school,” she said. “We are going to continue our protest until such changes are made.”
Similarly, another university is going through conflicts concerning the establishment of a new campus; this time, students are against it. The plan to establish its second campus in Siheung City in Gyeonggi Province, has stirred uproar among students at Seoul National University (SNU).
It was originally planned to open in 2018, with a residential college and new research departments. Due to strong student opposition, however, the president of the university promised to abolish the mandatory dormitory and not to transfer any existing colleges to the new campus. Nevertheless, students are still on protest for the cancellation of the second campus.
“The school had already entered into an agreement with Siheung City behind our backs, so we are demanding the school withdraw, its plans” explained a freshman of SNU. “We are still protesting in the sit-in tents, and we held a general assembly on Oct. 10 where more than 1,000 students participated. The school must know that they cannot get away with such decisions without students’ approval .”