The long-awaited meeting with the university president took place on Oct. 11 in the Student Union Building. Ewha’s 16th president Kim Hei-sook and the Dean of Student Affairs met with the Central Operation Committee to discuss and specify various students’ demands to the school.
Student representatives first asked about the progress of disciplinary measures of the professors who were accused of sexually harassing students earlier this year and criticized the school for omitting student participation in the process. They especially compared the school to Seoul National University (SNU), where similar cases were handled publicly to all students and faculty.
President Kim answered that both professors were dismissed; the university won the appeal made by the Sculpture Major Professor K, while Professor S of Orchestral Music has not yet appealed. She stated to look into SNU’s way of dealing this matter to seek for further measures.
Inside Ewha, the consultative group in charge of voicing the demands of students shared their opinions and asked the president to answer their questions each from the five-point agenda: Ewha’s governance and finance, living environment, course registration, public image, and human rights.
The governance and finance team demanded the university add observers and outside specialists and allow shorthand to the Tuition Deliberation Committee for a more democratic system. However, the president answered that such measures seem unnecessary, and the Dean of Student Affairs added that inviting an outsider is meaningless, unless the Committee is politically biased.
The president then answered questions on matters regarding the school’s legal costs, which is the expense that private universities should bear to cover the four major public insurance (Teachers Pension, National Health Insurance, National Pension, and unemployment insurance/occupational health and safety insurance) as the corporate body that employs teachers and staff accordingly to the Private School Teachers and Staff Pension Act and National Health Insurance Act. According to the president, Ewha spends 60 to 70 percent of their money on legal costs, which is greater than those of most schools, hovering around only 30 percent.
“Please consider the fact that enterprises are reluctant to sponsor our school after the tragic event back in 2016 (student protests against LiFE College and former president Choi Kyung-hee),” Kim said. “Nevertheless, I will try to slowly but increase the percentage of legal cost to the full as part of another long-term plan.”
President Kim gave an affirmative response to the living environment team regarding campus safety. Kim personally came up with an idea of having female security on campus because she noticed that the security employees were all men.
Also, from 2017 to 2022, the school has aimed to install 400 more Secom, a private security company, and make the signs that ban outsiders from entering campus buildings more explicit. The Dean also added that private spaces like the shower room and dressing room will be handled within this month and asked students to freely suggest ideas to the school how to deal with safety matters.
The course registration team showed discontent towards several majors that are concentrated from high popularity but lack capacity. However, the president firmly reminded the representatives that the school is open to any requests for opening further classes, but the students did not do so before the semester started, which is the official policy. She stated that all requests after last year’s second semester for more classes were carried out and if some requests were not met, the students probably did not make an official request. The course registration team pleaded for students “to apply forehand the start of semester and discuss with the relevant department or major.”
Next, the president expressed her thoughts regarding the malicious posts and comments that speak ill of Ewha students.
“I, too, had a deep concern regarding this topic, and the Office of University Planning and Coordination took legal action against several people on the malicious posts and comments last year,” she said. “However, in that time, the attorneys said that it was quite hard to punish those people legally. Still, we thought that reacting to the matters was meaningful. The school definitely has a will to take legal actions against those malicious posts and care for those students who are suffering. We will continue to protect our students as we did last year.”
The president further added that restoring the public image should focus on the positive side, quoting “Negative to Positive.” She explained that rather than focusing on tracking people and taking legal actions, focusing on promoting the values and visions of Ewha should be more emphasized.
When the Public Image and National Examination team asked about the poor circumstances of the class preparing for national examinations and its insufficient support, the president answered that although it might have looked insufficient for students, the school has given a lot of thought on this and has made additional support with funding the class one hundred million won.
However, at the same time, there is a problem regarding fairness: whether it is right to support the students preparing national examinations while there are more students out there who are not. Kim spoke up about the fairness in the supporting system that “the school still agrees with the idea of increasing support for the class and we are still going in that direction.”
The Dean of Student Affairs added that the president has made fundamental grounds for more support by linking her office directly to the Office of University Planning and Coordination.
When the Human Rights team asked about the problems regarding the Human Rights Center, the president said that it was truly natural to give enough support if there were problems that had to be solved. She further talked about the definition of human rights; she believes there are no absolute values regarding human rights but only relative values. Furthermore, she asked to give some time to the Human Rights Center to make progress, as it was only established recently.
The final request of this meeting was to hold meetings regularly. However, the Dean of Student Affairs responded that holding meetings on the basis of agenda and cases seems more efficient and reasonable regarding the time and effort used to preparing for the meetings.
After stating all the students’ demands, the two parties had a Q&A session. The living environment team asked the president for a solution regarding the current security system, Campus Police, since it was often condemned for its sluggish moves and reactions. The president promised to handle it immediately and strongly demand for immediate moves to Campus Police.
The meeting ended with the president’s words.
“I feel quite sad that we only meet when there are problems to deal with,” the president said. She emphasized that she wants consistent communication with Ewha students. She finished by stressing the importance of human relationships, that both two parties should respect each other with tolerance.