The student general assembly demanded that Ewha protect the victims of sexual harassment at a meeting on March 28 at the school’s Welch-Ryang Auditorium. The assembly, which was titled the 2018 Ewha Olympics, also made general policy requests to boost students’ satisfaction.
First, students requested 10 changes to Ewha policy related to tuition and the school’s public image. These were both areas on which students had voiced dissatisfaction in the school’s 2017 student survey.
More than 2,000 students attended the general assembly showing high interest in the event that requires 1,500 students ‒ one tenth of the total Ewha population ‒ to open.
“I went to the assembly because it is one of the most direct ways to show the school student’s demands and wants,” said Lee Hee-ju, a sophomore majoring in English. “The proposals of students especially on tuition and public image were important issues that should be discussed, and the agenda on professors’ sexual harassment was also very significant.”
The 10 proposals on the agenda were approved by 2,105 students. They demanded that the administration take action on their suggestions to improve the school. In its report on 2017 student satisfaction survey results, issued at the beginning of the semester, the school had briefly outlined its 2018 plans to improve policies on tuition and public image. The report stated that tuition fees would be the top priority. Recording just 35.52 satisfaction points out of 100, the survey showed that students view tuition as too expensive and not value for money when compared to the quality of education. The issue of improving Ewha’s public image was also listed as a top priority. Almost 23 percent of students’ suggestions to the school were about public image, making this the highest area for reform.
The school is set to announce more specific plans through an open meeting on school policy held by Ewha President Kim Hei-sook to be held in May in response to the assembly.
The second agenda was aimed at addressing some professors’ sexual violence toward students. The student government association (SGA) had incorporated the recent #MeToo movement on campus, after two Ewha professors were accused of sexual harassment on March 19 and 22 by multiple students. Professor K, of Sculpture in the College of Art and Design, and Professor S, of the Department of Orchestral Instruments in the College of music were accused of harassing students, leading to the creation of Emergency Committee on sexual violence in the Sculpture Major and Emergency Committee on sexual harassments in Orchestral Music Major. These student-led committees were created to support and represent the alleged victims.
The student general assembly made a total of eight short and longterm proposals on how the school should address such issues. Students called on the school to dismiss the accused professors while protecting the students who had made the allegations. They also called on the Ewha administration to create a structure through which professors cannot abuse their power and students feel secure and protected when reporting such cases. Two requests on preventing further victimization of the accuser and for the dismissal Professor K and S were added to reflect students’ stance on the issue as events had progressed.
Many students expressed passion over the second agenda, with many voicing their support during the assembly. Students actively asked questions and voiced their support for the agenda. Although many students expressed concern on the effectiveness and sustainability of the policy requests, this agenda was passed by 2,034 in agreement out of 2,042 student votes.
Following an investigation by the school, Ewha’s Sexual Harassment Deliberation Council announced on April 4 that Professor K’s actions were classified as sexual harassment and called on the school to dismiss him. The investigation into Professor S’s case is ongoing.
“Though the council can only recommend, I believe the school will follow through and dismiss Professor K,” commented a junior student who wished to remain anonymous. “I do wonder if such fast measures would have been taken if only a single student had privately made an accusation in a period before the #MeToo movement.”
In the case of Professor S, statements and other recordings from both sides were being collected until March 30, and Ewha’s Sexual Harassment Deliberation Council will now consider this evidence.
The March for You and Us
On March 29, the day after student general assembly, around 3,000 students gathered at Ewha main gate to join “The March for You and Us,” taking collective action to call for both an end to sexual harassment and better protection for those raising such claims on campus. The #MeToo movement aims to help survivors of sexual violence. Many joined the march from on and off campus, donning purple and black clothes, purple being the c o l o r f o r t h e m a r c h t o represent women’s rights and black being the color of the #MeToo movement.