Due to the outbreak of COVID-19, many universities have been forced to put off the start of their semester from March 2 to March 16, Dankook University (DKU) included. Despite the aggressive measures taken by the federal government, the number of people infected, continued to rise. While the majority of cases were concentrated in Daegu and Gyeongsangbuk-do Province, there were growing concerns the numbers around the rest of the country would increase if students around the country were allowed to return to class. As a result, DKU opted to postpone the start of the semester and instead launch the first two weeks of classes as an online program. However this response caused confusion amongst students and lecturers and even with the academic timetable.
|▲ Students are protesting for tuition reduction (Photo from Maeil)|
Once the undergraduate schedule changed, there were several problems that followed. The education office advised universities to run cyber lectures in place of practical on-site learning. However, students majoring in the department of arts, music, and physical education, complained cyber lectures would impact their course benefits and demanded a tuition refund. The offline lectures in the department of arts, music, and physical education include a lot of practical work that is necessary for the enhancement of their skills. Students participate in those lectures based on direct feedback from the professor, which is a key difference between them and other departments. Another complaint was the cost of tuition. As the school shut down school buildings due to the COVID-19 outbreak, students complained about a lack of access to reserve practical rooms, a service supposedly included in their tuition fees. The Dankook Herald (DKH) was able to find many other reasons for the need to lower tuition rates this semester on school community pages. On March 16, after the launch of online classes, the complaints worsened. Students who took part in cyber lectures were disappointed because the quality of the lectures was poor and some consisted of an assignment only.
Foreign students and students who live in the dormitory or a rented room also voiced complaints. Originally, foreign students, including Chinese students, were supposed to be able to move-in to the dormitory on March 2, despite the fact that they were only offering online lectures for the first two weeks of the semester. In addition, students living in nearby rented apartments are being forced to pay rent when they could instead take online lectures from the comforts of their own homes. If the number of cases of COVID-19 worsens, their financial burden will only increase as classes will likely be further delayed. However, there are currently no countermeasures in place to help these students and DKU’s response has been much slower than other universities. A notice for the delay for students being able to enter the dormitories was only issued on March 2 leaving students confused about where they were to stay. In addition, on February 28, most universities in Korea decided to run at least two weeks of cyber lectures in place of their planned offline classes. However, DKU’s official notice of cyber lectures was only issued three days later, on March 2.
The DKH interviewed Dankookians (students of DKU) to find out what they think about the school’s handling of their COVID-19 response. Five questions were asked of students from the college of arts, music and physical education. First, the DKH asked about the problem of tuition refunds. All interviewees said that their tuition should be returned because they are unable to take practical training classes. One of the students said, "The tuition includes the use of school facilities, but I can't use them, so I'm renting an external practical room at my own expense." Next, the DKH asked whether the practice program could be replaced with cyber lectures and if so, how? All interviewees said nothing could replace their classes, adding that some refunds of tuition should cover the cyber lectures. When asked about the alternatives to closing the practical rooms during vacation, one interviewee said, "I think the proper alternative would be to disinfect the practice room and the instruments frequently and shorten hours of use rather than the complete closure." Other students said that covering rental fees or returning tuition would be the most appropriate form of action.
Besides the problems with cyber lectures, the DKH also learned more about the inconveniences of moving into the dormitory or rented rooms through our interviews. When asked what the problem was, students answered, "Even though I am not living there yet, I have to pay my monthly rent." "Instead, I paid the cancellation charge of the contract." The last question we posed was about student dissatisfaction with official announcements. Compared with the school community app, the official DKU website announced notices such as changes to the academic calendar and alternatives for practice programs in arts and physical education lectures relatively late. Overall, the late announcements caused inconveniences for the students.
The interviews we conducted indicate that Dankookians are facing huge problems when it comes to tuition refunds and dormitory access. Many Dankookians posted several comments about a need to refund tuition on the school community app, which indicates that these issues need to be resolved quickly. In the meantime, students continue to post comments seeking answers on the school website, but so far DKU has not provided an official solution.
COVID-19 has forced many universities to delay the start of their semester. It was followed by two weeks of online classes and then a last minute further postponement of offline classes until April 10. The correction period for classes was also changed from March 9 to March 24 with the class withdrawal deadline being March 30. The end of the semester was also delayed by two weeks meaning the semester will end on June 26. The goal of postponing the start of semester and implementing a plan for cyber lectures is to ensure the safety of DKU students. However, in the process, the university should be careful not to cause any further anxiety for DKU students by delaying their policy announcements or making further last minute changes. It is clear that this is a difficult time for everyone at DKU, but the primordial duty of the school administrators is to help students enjoy a healthy school life by creating a safe and comfortable school atmosphere. With this in mind, the DKH hopes that resolutions to address these concerns are announced as soon as possible.
|▲ Opinions of Dankookian (Students of Dankook University) on refunding tuition (Photo from Google form)|
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