Voting is the most crucial element of democracy. Through the election, we elect the president and congressman who represent the nation. And they serve the country to make the national goal. Like this, University also has a student council to represent students. But now the student council has suffered from indifference from students. In Seoul National University started to recruit the president of the 2021 student council candidate, but they failed to find applicants for the first time since the opening of the school. Then, let`s find out what is the meaning of student council and why students are indifferent to the student council. Finally, find out how to overcome indifference.
The student council
The student council is an apparatus which represent student that serves a role as a bridge to connect students and the school. For this reason, most universities concede the student council as an official opinion of students. The student council`s role can divide into three main categories.
First, they offer educational activities and main policy in school to protect student`s rights as a representative apparatus. On April 22, 2019, Yonsei University`s board of directors of the foundation notified the president elections procedure to a committee of professors. About this case, Flow, Yonsei university`s student council, criticized the peremptory election procedure by the board of directors. The student council said that their stance is the same as the board of directors declare that try to exclude the opinion of school staff and students voice in election procedure. They carried out various activities that installing a large size banner in the front, holding a press conference to request a direct presidential election, and visiting the university headquarters to complain. As a result, they could stop the confirmation of undemocratic presidential election procedure without consulting with students. Also, they made and executed the procedure that students participate in the whole presidential election substantially.
Second, the student council performs the political apparatus that announce the student`s opinion outside of the school about social issues. One of the biggest issues in 2020 was untacting class because of the COVID-19. Accordingly, there were voices by university students who can`t receive a proper education that demands tuition refunds. On June 15, 2020, the Univnet(Network of Nationwide student council) which 32 universities participated marched from the Ministry of Education office building in Sejong City to the National Assembly building in Yeouido while demanding tuition refunds. KimJunyeon, the president student of Chosun University, conveyed the inconvenience students felt and said that “Untacting class has a lower quality of education and students hardly use school facilities.”, “Students suffer a considerable loss in rights of education.” As a result of hard work, On September 22, 2020, The Education Committee decided the amendment of the higher education act and the private school act make tuition refunds possible when proper university classes are not held because of the spread of infectious diseases like COVID-19.
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The student council also performs the role of promoting cultural activities and the welfare of students. They supervise typical cultural activities like the university festival which is called the flower of the university. And they endeavor to enhance the quality of a student's life through welfare activities. In 2019, the Seoul National University student council promoted the joint purchase of air pollution masks so that students could purchase them at a low price of 700 won each. The joint purchasing was closed successfully early in 11 hours sold all 20000 units. According to Chosun Daily, LeeGeonHwi, director of student welfare, Seoul National University student council, said that “Nowadays, student council should care not only political issues in school but also real-life problems like air pollution.” University students like this change because they could be saving money on living expenses. KimYuntae, department of a sociology professor at Korea University, analyzed this phenomenon. He said, “Students are turning away from the political agenda of the university, such as democratization and liberation of the class, and they are turning their attention to welfare issues, like air pollution and saving from living expenses.”
The problem of the student council
However, despite the variety of activities, as of 2020 students disregard most university student councils. Then let`s find out the reasons why student councils are disregarded. There is a joke that once someone works as president of the student council, can buy a luxury car. But this joke hard to overlook because many related issues occur. According to the Facebook page of the student council of Seokyeong University on October 20, 2020, the director of the secretary, who was managing student council office books and bank accounts, was revealed that he embezzled about 20 million won for the purpose of illegal private gambling and communication fees 38 times from July 22 to October 18.
The student council said, “After updating the bankbook on October 19 at the request of a schoolmate, we discovered several unidentified withdrawals.” and “Immediately we contacted the director of the secretary and checked whether it was true or not.” Soon he admitted his embezzlement about student association fees. Seokyeong University student council followed up on the embezzlement such as requested a committee to prevent of recurrence of embezzlement and opened a punishment committee about him. After the punishment committee, he was suspended from school indefinitely. Apart from this, the school accused him to Seongbuk police station. On Facebook, comment related to this case criticized “It doesn`t make sense that the president of the student council didn`t know about the incident” and called dereliction of duty into question “if he didn`t know about it, he wouldn`t even check the bankbook about student association fees.” Also, another case was confirmed that executive members of the Honam University student council using the subsidy to travel abroad four times during the five years of 2014-2018. We can easily touch with news about corruption in the student council. Through this, we can find corruption of student council is not a deviation of some student council but show that student council in Korea how badly expose this kind of corruption.
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Unlike in the past, students can`t afford to care about other things because they are too busy to solve personal problems such as employment, livelihood, and credit. Mr.Kim, a student of Jeju University, mentioned “My biggest concern is finding a job” and “I have little interest in student council and don`t feel much meaning when I see a pamphlet on a pledge in an interview with Jeju Daily. Korea Higher Education Institution researcher, ImEunhee analyzed “Voter turnout in the election for president of the student council in university is low nationwide as students are busy preparing for employment. Some universities even have no candidate for the president of the student council.”
Another mentioned reason for indifference is low political efficacy. Political efficacy refers to the expectation that individuals will change society through political action, or that political institutions will respond to the demands of people. In 2017, Ohmynews surveyed the electoral recognition of university students. In this survey, conducted by Seoul National University, Yonsei University, and Chonnam University community site, 40% of the respondents said, “Our student council has no power to solve problems that have arisen with students.” 30% answered, "Our school's student council is concentrating only on other activities far from the problem of college students," and 13% answered, "Until now, the student council has not fulfilled its commitments and will not change in the future." This survey indicates distrust of the school council and its political efficacy. Hankyung interviewed Korea University student and he said, “students don`t feel any necessity of student council, and school constitutes the student council constrainedly every year.”
Fail to constitute student council
These problems have led to the failure of the student council elections at major universities in Korea. Three universities including Hankuk University of Foreign Studies failed to constitute the student council among 12 major universities in Seoul in 2017. Hanyang University held an election from November 28th to 30th, 2017. But they failed to constitute the student council because they failed to exceed the majority despite four days extended vote. Other universities, where the student council consisted of voting by the majority, are also not in a good situation. The average voter turnout for the 10 universities that finished the election was 49.86%. Sogang University and Sookmyung Women`s University managed to pass the voting rate formed the student council after the extended vote. Also, there were eight universities, including Chung-Ang University that find only one candidate, ran independently, and didn`t compete for votes. LeeSeungjun, former student president of a Korea university, said that “Nowadays, the difficult lives of young people came out as a declining interest to the student council and it leads low voting rate and emergency measures committee while interviewed with JoongAng Daily.
According to JoongAng Daily, the student council of Yonsei University, Hanyang University, Duksung Women`s University, and Seoul Women`s University run as an emergency measures committee. When the constitution of the student council is Impossible because of the absence of a candidate or lack of votes, the Student council will be converted Emergency measures committee. In this case, the central steering committee that consists of the student council of colleges convert to an emergency measures committee and elect the president of the emergency measures committee through an internal vote. Emergency measures committee assign to existing the college student council task and additional university student council task. For these reasons, they undergo overwork and shortage of manpower.
ChoSungjae, former president of Seoul campus emergency measures committee for the first semester of 2018, said “The burden of concurrent positions interferes with the work of the college student council” with Hanyang University Newspaper. He thought the most important thing to do as a college student president is a volunteer for the college student. But under the work of the emergency measures committee, he couldn`t concentrate on the work of the college student council. Also, since the emergency measures committee is not a student-selected and elected student council, they only have limited authority and perform minimal tasks. Especially, as they don`t have a voting right, they are hard to perform the role of representing student`s opinions. LeeJaeyeol, former emergency measures committee president of Korea university`s college of liberal arts, said “Although I was representative, I couldn`t exercise voting rights at the central steering committee.” And “I was sorry that I couldn`t speak for the voices of more than 4,000 students” with Korea University Newspaper.
The absence of the student council brings the problem of communication between students and the university. In 2018, students of Hankuk University of foreign studies protested resignation demonstration against KimIncheol, president of the university, without a student council. However, the university didn`t recognize the legitimacy and influence of the emergency measures committee as a student council. BaekYujin, former emergency measures committee president of Hankuk University of foreign studies, spoke of the difficulties of the emergency committee. She said, “University told me that give a student`s opinion as elected student president instead of president of the emergency committee.” As of 2020, Inha University has been operating student council as an emergency measures committee for four years due to failing to exceed the majority even candidate applied for the student president.
In Inha University
In 2021, the 41st student council election, JeonSeunghwan(Department of political science and diplomacy, 15) ran for the student president and ParkDongjun(Department of Japanese studies, 13) ran for the vice president. The election was held from December 1st to 3rd. Candidate for the student president said in his declaration that “student society will not avoid the problem no longer; this is the return for students who remaining in our student society and the role of the student community. They pledged to support psychiatric and psychological counseling, improve break room for men, improve volunteer scholarship, and introduce a credit-saving system.
Inha University Central election management committee selected O2WEBS, an online election platform, for the 2021 election for the student president. O2WEBS is an electrical election system used by Incheon National University, Dongguk University, and Korea University.
A public hearing was held at 3 p.m. on November 24, 2020, at the middle auditorium at the main building, hosted by Inha press. Candidate for the student president spoke, “As the student council operates as an emergency measures committee, we forgot the functions of the student society and the things to do,” and “we will rebuild the student community next year” in the opening. When asked what kind of student council he wants to create, he said, "I want a student society that can realize and take responsibility for it, and a strong student society where students can make the voices they need."
Arrangement of the contents of the public hearing
We summarize the contents of the public hearing.
Law support for living
Regarding the law support by the student council, the lawyer only gives a guideline for legal disputes rather than accept the case.
About financial transparency, it is important to disclose the accounts. student council will update the accounts periodically to achieve transparent finances. And to prevent malicious document abolition, the student council will produce a manual.
Enrollment in classes
The student council plans to make vacant for the retaker of the course, but it is not decided by the student council, but by the professor according to the concept of the lecture.
IF unpopular routes are excluded, the student council will contain excluded routes as much as possible in improvement routes.
Some regions are theoretically able to commute to school, but some aren`t, so the student council will reflect this kind of unbalance.
The clearest way to speak out our voices is spoken through the student council. But because of our indifference, the student council, which represents our voices, is losing its place. We have to interest in the student council election for all of us, not for everyone else.
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