On February 23, 2017, the Student Representative Council at Dankook University (DKU) Choenan campus, hung a celebration banner for graduation that was blatantly sexist. As a result, most Dankookians (students of DKU) were offended and the association faced criticism for its decision to use this offensive material. Sexual harassment, molestation and even gender biases are common occurrences at most colleges and there is no sign this will end soon. During membership training or campus festivals, there are often complaints of sexual violence and explicit content. Nevertheless, there still aren’t any rules in place to prevent such problems from arising. Furthermore, when there is a complaint, such as the offensive graduation banner, there is no system of reprimand for the guilty parties. With no deterrent in place, one can only wonder if the problem isn’t actually with DKU’s gender perceptions.
|▲ The 32th Student Representative Council hung the congratulation banner for the graduation that implies pornography.|
To explore this idea further, the Dankook Herald (DKH) conducted an anonymous group interview at both the Jukjeon and Cheonan campus. All participants were female. Three of them were from Jukjeon Campus: A (23, College of Music), B (23, Dept. of British and American Humanities) and C (21, Dept. of Law). The others were from Cheonan Campus: D (22, Dept. of English), E (21, Dept. of Russian) and F (22, Dept. of Public Administration). Here are some of their experiences at DKU.
Case1: The Sexism and Homophobia in Classes
A: Last semester, I took a class called ‘Comprehending Western Art History’ taught by Professor Lim Du-bin. He often made hate speeches towards the LGBTQ community in class. He said things like, “Homosexuality generates sexual diseases and it has been proven by some friends of mine who are doctors.” Moreover, he implied that the leader of the country should be a man. I couldn’t report this, because I worried I might be disadvantage in class.
E: There was one professor who said to a female student, “You’d better put some makeup on because women have to put on makeup on every day.”
Case2: Twisted Entertainment Using the Feminine Image
A&B&C: There are some university events, such as membership training, where senior students force their juniors to do things such as boys dressing up like girls and having to perform a dance for their seniors, and female students having to do sexy dances, even if they didn’t want to do any of this. Apparently, these seniors find this type of hazing behavior entertaining.
Case3: Neglecting Gender Issues
A: If you try to talk about gender issues at school, others around you are more often likely to accuse you of being oversensitive. There are only few people willing to speak out about gender problems.
B: There is a huge gap between students who are not afraid to talk about gender issues and those who prefer to ignore the problems. I once took a class where we had a discussion about gender issues. It was surprising that there were a lot of students who knew very little about prejudices based on gender in the real world. Also, many of them believe feminism is a woman’s issue only.
The DKH learned the problem of sexual harassment towards female students is far greater than we think, especially when there is peer pressure and alcohol involved.
To find out the cause and see if there are any solutions, the DKH interviewed Professor Yu Hyeon-sil in the Gender Equality Counseling Center. She said the essential problem is a lack of appropriate gender cognition. Most assailants are less likely to empathize with their victim, regardless of how serious the crimes are. She believes that most of them consider sexual abuse, entertainment. Furthermore, she mentioned that people generally do not take sexual harassment or violence seriously.
The professor, therefore, argued that the solution is in education. Since, students and professors are guilty of causing these problems, sexual harassment prevention education should be done for all faculty members, university workers and students. This is a fundamental way to solve the problem.
However, according to an annual report about the gender cognition of Dankook students from 2014 to 2015; its was found that while students have less conservative ideas regarding sex and are more conscious about their sexuality, the rates of sexual harassment and violence at DKU have not declined. Furthermore, most students aren’t aware of how they should deal with sexual violence, such as seeking out the aid of the counseling center. This shows that DKU needs to build specific guidelines for handling sexual violence and harassment and develop a meaningful education system designed to prevent and protect students from it.
As one can clearly see, gender issues on university campuses have become a serious problem and universities have an important role in solving the problem. Some universities are trying to address the problems by providing information about gender equality and have established educational programs to help students be better informed of appropriate behavior. Korea University has already introduced classes in gender equality and those who register earn scholarship opportunities and chances to study abroad. Konkuk University launched a gender equality commission to inform freshmen during orientation training that gender equality classes are compulsory. Furthermore, Hanyang University is going to modify its class evaluation system, adding questions related to students being exposed to gender violence or discrimination during the class to the survey. According to their anti-gender discrimination student association known as ‘Woldam’, students evaluate classes after the score is already fixed, so they are less likely to feel disadvantaged from sharing their complaints about professors.
Compared to other universities, DKU is lagging behind when it comes to gender equity education classes. Less than 5% of Dankookians have shown any interest towards the classes on offer. As a result, DKU is planning further measures to encourage students to register. Education, however, is not the master-key for curbing the cases the DKH highlighted. Since there are, or will be, victims of many different forms of harassment or abuse on campus, DKU desperately needs more practical solutions such as, specific guidelines or stronger policies to address these issues with enough strength to deter them from happening again in the future.
Sexual harassment, discrimination and violence around DKU is producing a long line of victims. Although improving positive gender cognitions is clearly a fundamental resolution for the gender biased environment of the university, it will be quite a long time before students feel protected. Instead of focusing only on sex education, DKU needs to rebuild the system of gender education and the system of protection for Dankookians to put an end to these issues, once and for all.
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