No one can deny the respect given to the leader of a group. The group head holds a special place on all scales, from as big the national scale to as small as a study group. Thus, 2016 is an important year at Sookmyung Women’s University. This is the final year of Hwang Seonhye’s presidency, and the time when Sookmyung Women’s University elects a new president. In order to get to this stage, there have been a lot of ups and downs such as discord between the school and its students. In the end, Sookmyung elected Ms. Kang Jeong-ae as its new president. Sookmyung Times investigated the ups and downs that lead to the choice in president along with the voices of students on the newly elected president.
The Voice of Representative Kang
Sookmyung Women’s University recently elected Kang Jeong-ae as its 19th president. She will serve for the next 4 years starting from September 1st. President Kang has worked a professor in the Department of Administration at Sookmyung Women’s University since 1998, and from 2002 to 2008 she held the title of Head of IPP Center, the center for employment and career. As head of the center, she established the ‘Mentoring Program’. The program invites mentors, well-established persons in their respective fields, to guide Sookmyung Women’s University students. The program has gone on to become a benchmark upon which other universities strive to achieve.
During her bid to be president of Sookmyung Women’s University, Ms. Kang’s campaign platform detailed three promises: develop the value of Sookmyung based on participation and communication, establish a stable financial structure, and improved club service and IT infra structures. President Kang said she’d found a ‘smart’ Sookmyung Women’s University by establishing platforms moved by systems, and reinforce capacity of all members to raise the employability value of Sookmyungians. To do this, she presented her plan during her campaign. She will ensure all members of the Sookmyung’s community are given the opportunity to participate and communicate their opinions based on trust and honesty. Next, she will strengthen the capacity of Sookmyung Women’s University by providing stronger incentives for research and decentralization of the school’s colleges. Financially, President Kang plans to work on stabilizing profits and doing more fundraising. Lastly, she promised to continue pushing for great education by teachers and nurturing high achievers, just as the university has done over the last 100 years. Moreover, she has promised to create more partnerships and cooperate with businesses.
At the inaugural ceremony on September 1st at the Samsung Convention Hall, Kang asked for donations of rice instead of the traditional flower arrangements. She will have all the donated rice delivered to the Yongsan-gu Office. President Kang said, “I will accomplish a Sookmyung Renaissance that realizes an even higher excellence of education among its students and professors in order to nurture women leaders who contribute to nation.”
The Voice of Students
From September 24th to 27th, the Sookmyung Times asked Sookmyungians to complete an anonymous survey that probed ideas about the new president. 66 students participated in the survey. Firstly, students were asked about the electoral process and whether they attended speech by candidates. More than half of respondents (56.1%) said they understood the electoral process, but only 6.1% said they had attended the candidates’ speeches. Among the 93.9% who did not attend campaign speeches, 59.7% said they didn’t know that the candidates had even given a presentation. Another 32.3% said they couldn’t schedule in the time to attend the speeches. 8% said they think there was no reason to attend the speeches. However, when asked whether there is a need to change the electoral process, 95.5% of respondents said changes are necessary. Most of these respondents said, “Because the university exists because of us—the students—, we should be given a larger role in the election.” One student wrote, “Because policies carried out by the president directly affect students.” However, one respondent among the 4.5% who do not agree with giving students more say in the election wrote, “Because students are unable to make clear decisions during elections. They don’t know exactly about the current state of the school or running candidates.”
On the survey, students were asked to write some questions they would like to answer for President Kang Jeong-ae. Most questions were related to how she would carry out her campaign promises. Respondents wished to know how she plans to better communications with students, specifics on the plan to stabilize Sookmyung’s finances, and how she plans to improve operation efficiently. One student wrote, “If President Kang wishes to better communications and get more students and school authorities involved in talks together, she will need to be directly involved herself, rather than appoint another communicator.” Other respondents wished to know about her ideas on creating a healthier financial structure. In particular, student respondents asked about raising tuition costs, decreasing scholarships, and the like. One respondent asked how she would distribute new sources of revenue by PRIME among the areas of liberal arts and natural sciences. There were also a lot of enquires on the new direction in public relations. With all these concerns, the greatest is instilling interest in and encouraging participation by students in school politics.
The Voice of the Emergency Planning Committee
The Emergency Planning Committee at Sookmyung Women’s University engages in plenty of work and has a lot of roles it is responsible for. SMT asked the Emergency Planning Committee about policies proposed by President Kang and the electoral process. Committee spokesperson said, “The Emergency Planning Committee, at the moment, has faith in the new president, but will carefully observe upcoming speeches and seminars on her policies and promises. The Committee also judiciously monitored election procedures.” The spokesperson went on to say, “As the election of our university president affects the entire school body, all members were invited to participate in the election. Regrettably, it was difficult to ensure all members of the school body were highly informed during the Sookmyung Women’s University election. At present, only professors may suggest changes to the election system, but all members such as professors, teaching staff, teaching assistants, and students should be free to vote in the election. Moreover, the Committee recognized the need to work harder to guarantee all candidates’ policies and platforms were clearly detailed to the voting community, so this election was better than those in the past.”
Currently, students may not cast a vote in the president election, but a preparatory committee was established to handle the situation. It consisted of 5 distinct parts, namely students, professors, human resource personnel, alumni, and school board representatives. In other words, all students knew about the candidates and their campaign platforms easily than the past. However, on the 19th of September ballots were cast, but prior to voting, there was a presentation on the electoral policy, and though authorities believe the school body was well-informed, according to the SMT survey, only 6.1% of respondents were able to attend campaign speeches, and over half of respondents, 59.7%, did not even know about speeches were being held. In other words, more promotion would have resulted in more participation in election voting
Sookmyung, A New Era Begins
The movie ‘Good Morning, President’ starts with following prologue: ‘People consider presidents to be unique individuals. While this may not be entirely wrong, we sometimes forget that they too feel pleasure and happiness and suffer from sadness and depression. If you happen to meet the President one early morning and she turns to you and says “good morning”, kindly reply back with “Yes, indeed, and a good morning to you too.”’ Like the movie, Sookmyungians desire a president who genuinely wants to communicate with students, but to get that kind of president, students need to become more politically active in the school. If Sookmyungians do not show an interest in the school, no one will listen to their unified voice when they want to be heard. Thus, The Sookmyung Times calls on Sookmyungians to show interest in and keep an eye on the school!