Lost Gym, Students' Lost Right to Learning
Lost Gym, Students' Lost Right to Learning
  • Ju Kim Jiyeong ,Lee Gayun
  • 승인 2022.10.05 09:52
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Noonsong, majoring in physical education, went to the Multicomplex Hall to take a basketball class, one of the major classes. However, in the hall, rainwater was falling from the ceiling to the floor due to heavy rain. Noonsong had no choice but to catch the rainwater in a bucket and take the class. While taking the class on the slippery floor due to rain, she bumped into another student and sprained her ankle. Feeling uncomfortable with the narrow space and poor facilities of the Multicomplex Hall, she hoped to have a large and pleasant gym.

The interior of the multi-purpose hall


A conflict due to the absence of a gym

The gym of Sookmyung Women's University was located in the area between the Students Union Building and Queen Sunheon building on the first campus before 2010. However, the 2010 typhoon 'Kompasu' caused fatal damage to the gym. Therefore, the school demolished the existing gym and established a Multicomplex Hall to be used temporarily for sports activities until the new gym was built. The Multicomplex Hall is 15 meters wide and 28 meters long and is not even as large as the standard size of a basketball court. However, this has been the only place for students to take practical physical classes until now. For track and field hurdling, students can jump two hurdles at most, and even when using two hurdles, they are likely to get hurt because they cannot slow down fast enough. The problem is not only that the size of the Multicomplex Hall is narrow, but also that there are problems with the internal materials and their durability. When students take a handball class, the flooring lifts up with the shock, and students are bound to experience inconvenience in the next class. Also, currently one of the two basketball courts in the hall is not level, and the air conditioner and heating systems are not working properly. So, students suffer from heat and cold when they take classes in summer and winter.
One of the biggest concerns of students, however, is the water leak from the ceiling in the rainy season. Due to the rainy season that occurred in August this year, there was a clear water leak in the gym, which hindered students from using the hall. When students came to exercise in the leaky Multicomplex Hall, they either had to wipe away the water from the floor or give up and go home. For these reasons, students and professors of the Department of Physical Education have been arguing for the construction of a new gym for about 10 years, criticizing the Multicomplex Hall as being an inconvenient space. The Department of Physical Education has held meetings with the president of SMWU every year to inform them of this situation. They also protested in front of the president's office and put up hand-written posters to demand the construction of the gym. However, the school has remained silent and inactive on this issue. Last year, President Chang Yunkeum promised to start construction of the "master plan" in March 2022, but it has not been carried out so far. This plan involves constructing a large building containing not only a gym but also various other facilities in the location of the former auditorium, which is currently being used as a parking lot. The construction had not even begun yet, and the school stated that it was unable to proceed due to the lack of school budget in the meeting with the student council in May 2022. The Department of Physical Education proposed the construction of a thrifty gym as an alternative to the master plan, but an agreement has still not been reached.


Catching the rainwater in the bucket


The voices about the need for a facility

SMT reporters conducted a survey with students majoring in the Department of Physical Education to find out about the problems of the Multicomplex Hall and their thoughts on the establishment of a gym. The survey included questions about how often students use the hall, whether they have experienced inconvenience when using it, the need to improve it and building a new gym. SMT allowed multiple responses to reflect the diverse opinions of the students. According to the survey, 16 out of 25 (64%) said they use the hall three to four times a week during the semester. Students who used it once or twice a week followed with 6 out of 25 (24%).1) When asked if they had ever felt uncomfortable using the hall, 23 out of 25 (92%) answered "completely agree." Also, when asked why they felt like that (allowing multiple responses), all of the respondents said that they felt uncomfortable doing sports activities in the hall. It indicates that even students who use the Multicomplex Hall feel uncomfortable. After that, 24 out of 25 (96%) said the inconvenience was due to the frequent leaks during the rainy season. This shows that there are a lot of concerns about the water leakage problem. In addition, regarding the need to improve the hall, 23 out of 25 (92%) expressed their opinion that "it is very necessary." 24 out of 25 (96%) who answered the previous question, selected for the following reasons: 'high risk of injury due to narrow space,' 'limited participation in classes,' and 'difficulty in having classes in case of leakage.' Asked about the need for schools to make efforts to build a new gym, all of the students in the Department of Physical Education (96%) said yes. 24 out of 25 people said it was necessary to establish a new gym because it was difficult to use the hall for diverse activities (92%), and 21 out of 25 (84%) said it was a "temporary" gymnasium. According to the survey results, the majority opinion was that the best solution between the two options of repairing the Multicomplex Halll or building a new gym was the latter option. Many students also said in the survey that a new gym should be built first, a complex master plan is unnecessary, and that exercising without worrying about an injury is strongly desired.
When the water leaked into the hall due to the recent heavy rain, the student president of the Department of Physical Education contacted various people, including the Facility Management Center, but could not find a suitable solution. Woo Yeongyeong, the student president of the Department of Physical Education, said, "We called various departments of the school about 20 times in three days, but they brushed us off, saying they did not know who to ask about the renovation work. No one took responsibility for the leakage problem, and it was not resolved. If water leaks from the ceiling, the risk of injury to students increases by as little as twice and as much as 10 times." She criticized the school's poor response and pointed out the dangers from water leakage. After the Multicomplex Hall was built, repair work was carried out several times to solve the water leakage, but the exact cause has not been found and the solution remains insufficient. An anonymous student of the Department of Physical Education said, "I hope the school will no longer stand by or ignore the poor conditions provided for the Department of Physical Education. A new gym should be built as soon as possible." She urged the school to take an interest in the issue of a gym. Currently, SMWU is the only school without a gym among all schools with a four-year physical education department in Seoul. The Multicomplex Hall, which is used as a temporary gym, is not only used for physical education but also central club activities and various other events are held there. Therefore, it cannot be said that the Multicomplex Hall is a space only for students of the Department of Physical Education. Shin Hyeongun, a chair at the Department of Physical Education, said, "The absence of a gym in a school with a department of physical education seriously violates students' right to study. This is similar to the department of computer engineering studying without a computer lab. SMWU keeps handing off the responsibility for the construction of the gym to someone else. As a result, our professors are now feeling defeated." They claim that the students' right to study is seriously violated and that the university has the right to guarantee it.



Why the problem is not easily resolved

Based on the results of the survey, SMT shared the students' opinions with the SMWU Facility Management Center and the Office of Strategic Planning and interviewed them. First of all, SMT asked why the master plan construction that had been promised to begin in March 2022 has not yet been started. Kim Kyuyang, a head of the Office of Strategic Planning, replied, "We need approval from the Korea Asset Management Corporation (KAMCO) to build a permanent facility on the site of the former auditorium. However, it was delayed because KAMCO took a negative stance and checked the legal aspects." This is because in order for the construction to proceed, all aspects, including legal, administrative, and economic problems, must be complexly discussed. Asked about the progress of the master plan, he said, "From January to April, meetings of the Building Advisory Committee and the SMWU Board of Directors were held seven times. Since then, in July this year, the regulations of the Master Plan Special Committee were enacted, and the Master Plan Special Committee, which included external experts, was established." He also said, "We are currently working on a plan to examine the basics of the master plan by signing a service contract with an architectural office. We are examining the size of the developable site, administrative procedures for permission, design guidelines, and the entire duration of the project." However, SMT could not get an exact answer as to when construction would begin. The Office of Strategic Planning also has to check the size of the construction budget that SMWU should contribute. He said that there are many tasks left to be solved, such as the difficulty of analyzing the university's financial situation and the burden of construction costs that have risen significantly. The university headquarters are trying to get approval for the development of the vacant land and develop a future-oriented campus.
SMT also asked about the water leakage problem in the Multicomplex Hall, which is causing many students to suffer. Han Sangwook, deputy manager of the Facility Management Center, explained that the reason for the leakage from the hall roof is the removal of the joints of the metal finish. He said, "However, in the case of a Multicomplex Hall, it is difficult to solve the leak because the removal or damage of the joints has not been visually identified." The Facility Management Center said that they installed boards twice to allow rainwater to flow along the roof in the ceiling area where the leak occurred in March and April 2022. SMT finally asked about the solution to the leakage problem that occurred during the last heavy rain. He explained the center is currently checking the cost estimate and it will be resolved in September. He said "To solve the problems that continue to arise, we have to do waterproofing on the entire roof, which is expensive to install. This is a matter that can only proceed in consideration of the budget situation of the university." Then there is the opinion that it is necessary for schools to provide sufficient funding to fundamentally solve this problem. Few four-year universities with a department of physical education do not own gyms. For example, Konkuk University owns not only an indoor gymnasium, but also a large playground, basketball court, tennis court, foot volleyball court, futsal court, and fitness center. In addition, several schools, including Soongsil University, Hanyang University, and Ewha Womans University, provide playgrounds, gyms, and fitness center facilities for students. As a result, active support from the school is required for physical education students to take practical classes comfortably and utilize more space.

Raindrops on the ceiling














When the school has to take action

The students in the Department of Physical Education have been taking most practical classes at the Multicomplex Hall since the gym collapsed. However, the small size and poor structure of the Hall is uncomfortable for students. Students and professors in the Department of Physical Education have proposed the construction of a gym to the school several times, but the school has kept rejecting it. The Office of Strategic Planning is currently making a special committee for the master plan, checking various issues, and making a move toward carrying out that plan. It is not known when the master plan will be completed, but it is clear that the first step has been taken. It is time for the school to support its students in being able to take classes without inconvenience, and for students to show their potential in a pleasant and spacious gym.




1) The total number of students majoring the department of physical education enrolled is 113, with a survey participation rate of about 22.1%


Ju Kim Jiyeong / Reporter
Lee Gayun / Reporter


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