A school is complete when students attend. Therefore, schools and students are inseparable. However, sometimes schools feel bigger than students. Students get frustrated and angry because their opinions are not being heard. When that happens, the Student Council speaks on their behalf to the school. They present to the school issues that are difficult to discuss by individuals in person, and make demands from the school proudly. SMT reporters interviewed the president of the 52nd Student Council 'Modu', who works hard to ensure students’ rights and voices during COVID-19 pandemic.
Before we start the interview, please introduce the 52nd Student Council 'Modu' and yourself to our readers.
I'm Lim Jihye. I'm a student in the Division of Law '16 and president of the 52nd Student Council 'Modu'. Modu tries its best to create a Sookmyung that embraces all Sookmyungians and to guarantee the student rights for Sookmyungians. We endeavor to keep our slogan 'A Sookmyung for Everyone'. Modu is the Student Council that every Sookmyungian can look up to as it embraces everyone at Sookmyung without excluding anyone.
You've done a lot under the name of Modu. What kinds of activities do you mostly focus on?
Although we perform all projects diligently, Modu places special emphasis on the school's COVID-19 response. We focus on the infringement of class rights and tuition refund demands. In the first half of the year, we were active in getting students to participate in the 20th Sookmyung presidential election. This second half of the year, our main activities include the Cheongpa Festival and the Human Rights Week.
At the 20th Sookmyung presidential election, students' right to vote was reflected for the first time. What effort has Modu made since this huge accomplishment, and what do you think should be addressed in the future?
Earlier this year, I was part of a task force team that joined discussions on presidential election rules as representative of Sookmyung students. I made sure students' right to vote was guaranteed, after learning about students' opinions. During the election, the Student Council informed students of the significance and importance of participating in the presidential election. We told Sookmyungians about the legitimacy of the direct election and encouraged them to participate. Currently, the student vote only counts for 7.5% of the final result. 7.5%, while it is a first, does not an accurate reflection of students' opinions. Therefore, I would like to see the rate percentage increase to 25% on par with professors, employees, and alumnae.
You have been an active participant in activities related to tuition refunds and admission fees, but no refunds have been offered or paid at first. Could we know what your plans are regarding this?
Modu is a member of UNIV NET, and I am currently co-chair of UNIV NET. A 'Tuition Return Movement' spread by UNIV NET was done during the first semester. We created a movement calling for tuition refunds from various universities. Unlike other universities, no refund has been made at Sookmyung. Throughout the summer vacation and even now throughout the beginning of the second semester, we have called for interviews with administration to discuss tuition refunds and disclosure of the budget usage for the first semester. As of yet, there has been no exact confirmation from the school administration. We will continue to push for detailed discussions with the school on the tuition refunds. If our continued talks are met with an uncooperative attitude, we would take a firmer stance.
Cheongpa Festival was held online for the first time ever. What do you recall most about the festival in terms of preparation and process?
It was a great success. There were more than a thousand Sookmyungians watching the online Cheongpa Festival. It ended well. Along with MC Keyoon, I hosted the event on the stage for roughly four to five hours. Throughout the period, I was constantly checking my cue sheet and script, so I couldn't eat a meal all day long. I was worried that my stomach would rumble when I was on the stage, and it did. The sound was quite loud, but fortunately, it didn't get picked up on air.
COVID-19 surely made your workload heavier. Please tell us how you have dealt with the pandemic situation.
In the first semester, there were delays in transition from offline to online by the school, so face-to-face classes suffered, and there were also problems with face-to-face and non-face-to-face exams. We investigated the online class educational environment and cases of educational rights infringement from Sookmyungians to draw up a request that would be presented by the Student Council to the school. We delivered it to the school headquarters and asked the school to establish guidelines related to online classes and distribute them to professors. We also have completely transformed the way we work offline to online.
You've engaged in a lot of real-time communication broadcasts such as Instagram Live this year. What made you start communicating online to students?
Originally, Modu was planning to strengthen offline communications with Sookmyungians. We wanted to have lots of direct contact with them, but it became impossible to communicate face-to-face with the spread of COVID-19. Instead, we decided to interact with Sookmyungians a lot through online communications methods. The most memorable episode was 'Saemo Camp' in March. It was conducted with first-year students, and it was also the first live broadcast we did. We felt immature and awkward talking in front of a camera. However, we adapted gradually as our use of online platforms has increased.
What has been your most worthwhile moment working in Modu?
It may sound obvious, but it was really rewarding to see 45% of the student body come out to vote in the 20th presidential election. To reach this number, more than 4,000 students voted. However, online voting was not allowed. Tests were also being held completely non-face-to-face, so I was continuously worrying whether we would reach 40%. For nearly two months, I thought a lot about how to lead Sookmyungians to school to vote. Despite my worries, Sookmyungians came to school. I was grateful Sookmyungians for visiting the school even during the pandemic and midterm testing period. When the student vote reached 40%, I even shed tears.
The Student Council represents students' opinions. Do you feel the weight of your position?
The school holds several conferences, and I attend these conferences on behalf of students and express students' opinions. I represent 10,000 Sookmyungians, so I feel the burden with each word I say. I feel the same when I have to represent students' opinions at press conferences and interviews in UNIV NET. Especially in the early days of my term, I felt the greatest weight while on the tuition deliberation committee because it was the first time for me to attend a conference since starting my term in office as president of the Student Council.
There might be conflicts between some opinions of Sookmyungians and those of the Student Council. How do you react to comments from these students?
It's absolutely possible that some Sookmyungians will not agree with our direction because everyone has different ideas. We listen to various opinions, reflect on them, and revise our direction. We try to persuade those who oppose us that we are working for them, and to understand our actions. Usually, Sookmyungians send us their opinions through e-mail, our official window. We are answering each of them. This process enables the student society at Sookmyung to grow and develop.
What does 2020 mean for Modu?
Uncertainty is the word I would use to define 2020. I have no foresight. Everything did not go according to plan, so we had to work as if it was our first time. Despite the pandemic situation, I was happy and thankful for the chance to work for Sookmyungians. I hope that we will be remembered as the Student Council that worked and ran hard for Sookmyungians.
Please say a final goodbye to Sookmyungians.
Most of all, stay safe. I hope that Modu has been a little force in Sookmyungians' daily lives. I will continue to try hard till the end of my term with the same mindset that I had at the start of my term. I hope all Sookmyungians enjoy a healthy and happy end to the year.
- Division of Law '16
- Member of the 51st Student Council 'Oneul' (2019)
- President of the 52nd Student Council 'Modu' (2020)
- Co-Chair of UNIV NET (National University Student Council Network) (2020)
Kim Lee Hyunmin / Editor-in-Chief
Ahn Ha Yura / Culture Section Editor