Things are changing on campus due to constantly evolving polices at Dankook University (DKU). Students are increasingly expressing their frustration to the changes being dropped on them, particularly when it comes to rate of scholarships awarded each year. During this past vacation period, one anonymous student posted a letter on SNS about the decision by DKU to reduce the rate of grade scholarships from 7% to 3%. However, according to Jukjeon Student Council, this dramatic decrease didn’t happen this year alone. In 2014, the university was able to offer 7% of students a scholarship, but this rate was only temporary and has declined steadily ever since. A lot of students were outraged by the content of this letter and Student Councils at both campuses were left having to mitigate the damage through SNS. Managers of both Student Council SNS pages posted the facts about the changes that occurred at DKU.
However, The Dankook Herald (DKH) thought that this may not be enough to calm the already outraged Dankookians, so we decided to ask the Student Affairs Team at DKU about the changes. Jin Gwang-min and Kim Sung-min of the Student Affairs Team answered our questions.
First, the rate of student scholarships is 3% and not 7%. According to the Student Affairs Team, the school has been changing the rate, in order to offer more money to needy households, as is being done at Korea University. While less merit based scholarships are being offered, more students will actually qualify for scholarships, now that it's based on household income. The Cheonan campus Student Affairs Team also explained that the ‘rumor’ of a 7% rate was trumped up by someone manipulating the facts. However, the Jukjeon campus Student Affairs Team explained. There was a time when the rate of Academic Scholarships was 7%, but that was back in 2014. In 2015, the percentage of Academic Scholarships awarded dropped to 5% and by 2016 it fell to a further 3%. 2014’s rate increase to 7% was unprecedented and should not be used as a benchmark for the program. They said, “DKU is seeing the same changes being implemented at other universities such as Korea University.”
The DKH asked if there were other things that are changing on campus, but the Student Affairs Team had no knowledge of anything else planned. They stated that if they had anything to announce to Dankookians, they would provide notices for dissemination to each college.
Students were angered by the on-going decrease in the rate of scholarship which directly applies to their well-being. They wanted to know why they had to find out about the changes on their own. The problem seems to be an absence of communication between the school administration and the student population. To understand the Student Council’s thoughts and opinions on this matter, the DKH interviewed the president of our Jukjeon Student Council, Koo Ye-ji (Junior, Dept. of Korean Language and Literature). First, the DKH asked whether they ever knew about any changes in the scholarship system. “We did not know of it beforehand. We learned about it after it became controversial and have been trying to do our best to solve this problem. As the representative of students, we really apologize for the mistake. We were completely ignorant of it and this is unacceptable as the representative of students,” she said. The DKH asked how they were following up on this matter. She said there were three measures they did. For example, the Student Council asked for a formal apology from the school for their absence of communication with the students on this matter. They also asked for a future commitment to discuss policy changes with students and to take into account their opinion, when formulating any new scholarship policy. They also suggested the school have a clear direction for their scholarship policy.
The DKH asked what they thought was the biggest problem identified as a result of this experience. “Honestly, the problem of late notice and larger reductions in scholarships was not that serious. However, the important lesson here is the absence of communication between the school and our students. If school operation policies are to change, the students who are directly impacted by these changes, have a right to be consulted and given an opportunity to provide feedback,” she said.
The DKH also learned of several methods the university could adopt to ensure they are always reflecting the needs and opinions of the students. She said, “There are a few things they could do. For example, each week we host a Student-Council Steering Committee meeting and a college meeting with the presidents of each department. Through these channels, we can easily deliver the opinions of students. And if there is a great diversity of opinion, we can survey students to see which opinions prevail. Lastly, we can utilize the communication board, one of our campaign promises, to easily listen to student opinions on what matters.”
Finally, the DKH asked how best to improve communication between the school and students. “We don’t have any specific plans now. However, as you can see from our campaign promises, we have face-to-face talks with the president regularly. We are also open to hosting a variety of conventions for the entire student body with student representatives, in order to hear the views of our student body. We also frequently interview the Student Affairs Team which is the department that stimulates the growth of students. Using these ideas, we can try do our best to coordinate the ideas of the university and our student body,” she ended the interview with countermeasures. As a result of this interview, the DKH was confident the Student Council understood the problem well and was on top of the matter. Almost every student receives notices about changes to the university through SNS’s, but some students who do not use SNS should have their own effective measure of communication.
Clearly, the crux of the matter is an absence of communication between the school and our students. The Student Council is attempting to solve this problem by establishing a communication board and make regular announcements on school policy changes through SNS. Also, both Student Council and the School Authority have to ensure the lines of communication are always open and quickly compensate for any possible defects in the process.
There are other recent changes to our DKU campuses that we thought you should know about. First, at the Jukjeon campus, the Student Affairs Team said, the Student Council suggested renewing Sinsegae Food Services contract with DKU, while they demanded changes to the interior design of the cafeteria.
Second, DKU in Cheonan sought out other reasonably priced food service providers because Shinsegae Food Services were reluctant to continue their operations since they were running at a deficit. ‘Danahall’ won the bidding process and will take over operations at the cafeteria from the 2017 semester. The Chinese food restaurant in the Cheonan Student Union building also closed for the same reason, and the school is still undergoing an open tender process in order to continue the service.
Third, the ‘Integrated Security System’ called ‘ADT Caps’ was installed in the offices of the Cheonan Student Union building. This is expected to reduce school security expenses over the long-term. The Jukjeon campus already installed this security system after the move from Hannam-dong in 2007. Most security guards belonging to DKU were widely integrated into ‘ADT Caps’ in an ethical manner.
During the winter vacation, questions arose about ad hc changes at DKU as several policies were seemingly being adopted without notice to students. DKU is constantly evolving for the benefit of its students, however, Dankookians don’t know how the decisions, that bring about these changes, are made. In the case of reducing the rate of merit based scholarships, DKU simply increased means based scholarships while decreasing merit based scholarships. This intent and purpose was to promote general welfare of the students and there was no reduction in the total number of scholarships which will be given to Dankookians. The only problem was, without any notice and explanation for the new policy direction, misinformation was easy to spread and students had genuine concerns for the future of the scholarship program. If proposed changes are discussed and accepted by Dankookians, they can’t later complain about them. DKU should take the time to explain new policy directions to their student body and offer them a chance to provide feedback before any permanent changes are made, so that all those impacted will see the best plans put into action.
유상현, 홍석준 email@example.com