Ongoing demonstrations against the commercialization of the Ewha Campus Complex (ECC) were held during March. With expensive shops opening up in the ECC, students’ are expressing fears about both the cost involved and the effect those shops will have on Ewha’s lounge.
“The commercialization of the campus will not only raise the price of products that students have to pay for, but also can be a threat to own school’s reputation, which is already in danger due to the large number of stores around the campus,” said Han Ji yeon (Law, 4).
Shops that are being mentioned as inappropriate for the campus include Kyobo Book Center, Linko (a stationary store), Canon POD center (a copying store), GS 25 (a convenience store), Richemont (a bakery), Starbucks (a coffee chain), Dr. Robbin (an organic food cafe), SK T-World (a mobile phone store), Soho and Noho (a flower shop) and a movie theater.
However, the Student Government Association (SGA) disagrees. “The School is a place for students to study and it is unnecessary to have these facilities, since there are a lot of alternative facilities like Ewha Sarang (a cafe in the Posco building) that can offer students with same services at a lower price, ” said Kang Jung-ju (Korean Literature, 4), the president of the SGA.
“Using the term ‘commercialization’ to describe the campus is not appropriate, since the school does not launch facilities for commercial purposes on campus. These facilities rather should be considered as conveniences for the students,” said Shin Kyung-shik, the chief director of the Office of Financial Affairs (OFA).
Throughout March, the SGA held numerous events to promote its opinion to the school administration and to Ewha students. On March 6, the SGA held a black day, recommending students wear black to express their dissatisfaction with the facilities in the ECC. On the same day, the SGA held a petition, collecting signatures from about 1,100 students. Additionally from March 3 to 8, there were several bulletin boards with stickers posted around the campus asking students to choose the worst facility residing in the ECC.
“I chose Starbucks as the worst facility because there is another Starbucks just five minutes’ walk form the front gate. I don’t see the point of launching another one on campus. Rather, the school should increase the now?insufficient number of classrooms,” said Lee Hye-won (Christian Studies, 2), a student who participated in the bulletin-board activity
During chapel services in the week of March 10 to 14, the SGA assembled flash mobs and asked participants to raise red cards toward the president of Ewha after the last prayer. “We organized this event because chapel is be the only place where many Ewha students and the school president can meet. I think this simple act can show the president the students’ wishes,” said Kang.
So far, the SGA’s actions have not changed the views of the school administration. “Unlike what the SGA insists, the facilities were chosen to be used by students. Ewha fully considered students’ convenience and needs, ,” said Shin.
According to Shin, the school have made beneficial agreements with the facilities in the ECC. “Profits from the most controversial facilities will be used for the welfare of the students. For example, Starbucks agreed to pay certain percent of its profits as rent, and 100 percent of that rent will be used to fund scholarships,” said Shin. The OFA also notes that Starbucks was also initially intended to provide services for the school’s 1,500 faculty members, who also need services.
However, the SGA is not convinced of the benefits the ECC stores claim to bring. “We object to school’s plan. Deciding to use Starbucks’ rent money as a scholarship is not a fundamental solution to this controversy. The bottom line is that the funds for this scholarship come from the money students have spent. But students should not have to pay such high prices since they already pay high tuition,” said Kang.
Shin says that other ECC facilities will provide students with further benefits. “Canon, the copying store, agreed to replace all the self-service copiers around campus and also will provide ‘U-printing’ service, a system enabling students to reserve printing online with only their student ID. Likewise, SK T-World will provide a ‘U-Campus’ service, a mobile system giving useful information, such as whether there are empty seats in the library,” said Shin.
Students, too, seem to be varying as to the degrees of dissatisfaction they have regarding the ECC facilities. “Although there are several unnecessary facilities, I welcome the
As its next step, the SGA plans to stage a boycott to the stores. “Although the school administration insists that the facilities will provide benefits to Ewha, launching these facilities isn’t a fundamental solution. The boycott will not finish with petitions but will continue with real action, which will be based on ideas from students,” said Kang.