“We want a safe school environment where we can study freely as much as we want.” This is not the desire of just one student. It is the voice of all Sookmyungians and women’s university students. As most students already know, students often feel threatened and afraid due to the presence of outsiders on campus. The feeling is not only felt by Sookmyunians, but also by numerous other women's universities. However, the reality is that schools are not safe, and as a result, students are calling for the locking of school buildings for their safety. Are they trying to separate themselves from the rest of the community? No, they merely wish to study in a safe environment.
No, It Isn’t
Women’s universities were established for the purpose of educating women, and they were founded at a time when women had few opportunities to learn. Thus, the founding idea was that women should have the same opportunity or access to education as men. Now, it is possible to see male students on women’s university campuses except at Ewha Women’s University, which has not yet permitted males to register for courses there. Over the years, universities have acted as public institutions for the local population, not just places of higher learning, which made possible for the public to walk about the campuses. However, in recent years, safety problems on campus have emerged, and women’s university students demand stricter rules regarding the access granted to outsiders. What makes them feel afraid?
An incident in the last year October threw universities into confusion. A man released a controversial video-clip of himself walking naked in a classroom at Dongduk Women's University on SNS. This incident highlights the lack of enforced security at the university and prompted students to demand heightened security on the campus. Dongduk Women's University is not the only university with this kind of incident. Last September, a man entered the building of Ewha Women’s University's Social Science College and touched the body of a female student sleeping on a hall chair. In addition, a man posing as a woman entered the campus of Seoul Women’s University, and another man wearing a black mask sneaked past security and slipped into a classroom at Seoul Women’s University. Like the incidents at other women’s universities, unpleasant scenes have also occurred at Sookmyung Women's University. In April of last year, a male student from Dongguk University was arrested on charges of molesting a female student from Sookmyung Women's University. More recently, on March 18, 2019, an unknown male broke into the bathroom on the fourth floor of the Student Union Building. After the incident, students noticed that he was a drug addict wanted by the police. With incidents like this increasing, especially at women’s universities, it has become necessary to reflect on security issues on college campuses.
What Do Sookmyungians Think?
Students at Sookmyung Women's University are concerned about issues related to campus safety. Together with a number of school clubs, the 50th Student Council ‘RE:bound’ had, therefore, started a petition and collected student signatures. The purpose of this petition was to unite Sookmyungians on the issue of campus security system so that the Student Council would have more voice when calling for security reforms. In this year, the 51st Student Council ‘Oneul’ conducted a survey that investigated campus safety. It was done in partnership with ‘Mannyeonseol’, student union representing temporary employees at Sookmyung Women's University, which was featured in SMT’s ALUMNAE section in the 344th magazine. Oneul and Mannyeonseol explained the rationale for the survey like this: “With the number of unpleasant or criminal incidents occurring on women’s university campus by outsiders who come onto the campus, it is necessary to gather students’ opinion and address the issue. Discussions have been held at other schools on how to control outsider access. Some of the mandates include strengthening security by installing additional CCTVs and making it mandatory for students to scan their student identification card when entering a building. Unlike other schools, Sookmyung has yet to start discussions or initiatives. The survey is the first step to deepening the understanding of the urgency to address the problem at Sookmyung Women's University.” Sookmyung has yet to establish any firm follow-up measures after the occurrence of the incidents on campus, which is the reason for the meeting based on the result of the survey.
170 Sookmyungians responded to the survey jointly conducted by the Student Council Oneul and Mannyeonseol. According to survey results, 85.9% of respondents said they feel uncomfortable with outsiders wandering around the campus. With a large majority of respondents claiming discomforts, the need to address the issue is clear. To learn more about their fears, the survey asked participants what made them feel uncomfortable. Among the 85.9% who said they felt afraid, 65.8% said they felt their life was being threatened or other criminal activity, 13.7% feared thievery, 60.3% propagation, 59.6% feared the outsider would take illegal photos or film them, and the other 10% claimed etc. Results show students fear for their lives to be in danger or some other forms of crime. Taken together, all fears center on school security, so Sookmyung needs to revise its regulations on outsider access to the campus.
What Can Be Done?
Currently, schools have a number of regulations regarding outsider access. For instance, if an outsider enters a campus building for a club or external activity, the person must leave their ID card to the officer at the security office located at the front gate. In addition, to confirm the purpose of the visit, a Sookmyung Women’s University student must accompany the person. Regulation such as these is controlled and enforced by security guards. However, guards are not posted at all entrances on campus, so there are other routes an outsider can take to get on campus. Moreover, despite a large number of students studying on campus until late night hours, the security office is often empty when guards go on ground patrol because the number of night guards is less than the number of day guards. Therefore, Sookmyung needs an immediate solution for these problems and one that includes a tightened security system and has security guards posted all over campus.
The Student Council prepared for four-way talks on strengthening campus security. It was to make strong demands and presented a plan for the school, security companies, and security workers. SMT met with the 51st Student Council Oneul to listen, understand, and learn about security issues at Sookmyung.
Q1. What specific role will the Student Council play in talks on school security?
A Student Council is the collective voice of students on campus, so we will present their opinions regarding safety at the talks. As representatives of the students, we aim to work with the school to find solutions that best fit the needs and wants of students. Especially, we would like Sookmyung Women’s University to better identify and address underlying causes so that the students can feel safe on campus.
Q2. With the recent incident by an outsider on campus, what fundamental changes do you think are needed?
I think a variety of circumstances overlapped to cause the incident. We are fully aware of the lack of guards operating the school’s security system and an unsuitable security manual for managing the incidents. In addition, there is also the laxity in the manner outsiders are monitored on campus. So, we hope to explore a variety of alternatives to solve safety problems through in-depth discussions.
The Student Council's quick response to campus safety was applauded by Sookmyungians. Since March 18, it has kept students informed of its progress on regulating the controlled entry of outsiders on school grounds on the bulletin board of its EVERYTIME app. In addition, after the recent March 18 incident, the Student Council announced the processes such as media’s excessive interview, aggressive reporting of the incidents, and providing free counseling for students who witnessed the incidents. On March 23, three school offices: Student Affairs, Management & Information Technology, and External Affairs, announced they would jointly address the incident. As a result, in-depth discussions on campus security took place. The Student Council promises to keep students apprised of the progress. SMT also pledged to establish regulations that would be strengthening security.
This Is What We Have to Do
Peter Drucker said, “The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.” One of the biggest problems at school is the communication between students and school administration, and the fundamental solution has not solved completely. So, what can we, as students, do? The answer lies with Drucker’s comment. Each side must make an effort to listen to what is unsaid. Only then can each side better satisfy one another. So, this reporter hopes Sookmyung becomes a safe haven for all Sookmyungians studying on campus.