After waking up each morning, Noonsong, a freshman living in Sookmyung Residence Hall (Myeongjaekwan), heads to the common room lounge to find something to eat for breakfast. After getting a bowl of cereal, she readies herself for the day of lectures and leaves her room 20 minutes before class begins. Once the lectures end, she heads back to her room. At 7 p.m, she goes to the weight room on the 1st floor of the dormitory for the pilates class. Doing pilates, she talks and exercises with other department students. The next day is Friday, and since she has no classes on Friday, she decides to visit her home. After booking a ticket, she signs onto the Sookmyung Portal System to complete a “night away” form. At night, over chitchats with roommates, she falls quietly asleep.
All About Sookmyung Residence Hall
The dormitory is a great residential place for students who are from far off rural areas or who want to live near the school. At Sookmyung Women’s University, there are various dormitories including Sookmyung Residence Hall, Twin City, Dasom Share House, and International House. In this article, SMT reporters will focus on Sookmyung Residence Hall. The dormitory first opened in 1906, the same year Sookmyung Women’s University was established. It was first called ‘Chung Hwa Ryo’ in 1940, but after 30 years, it changed its name to ‘Sook Hall’. This dormitory was destroyed in a fire, and the current ‘Sookmyung Residence Hall’ opened its doors to students in September 2008. It is also called ‘Myeongjaekwan’, which incorporates the word ‘Myeong Jae’ meaning a talented person at Sookmyung. Like its meaning, Myeongjaegkwan promotes not only convenience but also cooperation with other students living there.
Sookmyung Residence Hall is an 8-story tall building. It reserves 3 rooms for disabled students out of its 278 rooms. The rooms are designed to hold 553 people. On the first floor, every resident has access to vending machines, toasters, microwaves, washing machines, and sofas. There are also a weight room and a study room, which all residents may use. All floors except the first floor are equipped with a lounge, and there residents can watch television, have a meal, and use computers. Sookmyung Residence Hall uses a card key system, so residents must show this card to security guards in order to enter. Besides the guards, other workers at the dormitory including dormitory representatives help students live better days. The dormitory also operates a penalty system in which different offenses have different punishments. For example, 2 points are allotted to residents who return past curfew and 5 points are given for poor cleanliness. Any resident who reaches more than 20 penalty points during a semester must move out of the dormitory and is prohibited from reentering Sookmyung Residence Hall the next semester.
For a Better Life
As previously mentioned, all dormitories are like homes to Sookmyungians. However, since students are far from their real homes, it is not easy to find close friends who can form a community similar to that of a family or with whom to enjoy leisure activities. For those who feel homesick or left out, the dormitory offers residents a variety of programs that work towards forming small communities among students. The most popular community is ‘KisookKisook’, which is the bulletin board of Everytime App. It gathers students who wish to buy or sell items or order delivery items as a group to avoid the extra cost of paying the delivery fee for an order alone. The board also gathers ideas for making dormitory life better. In addition to the bulletin board, there is also a Plus Friend on KakaoTalk, which is operated by dormitory student representatives. Representatives use this account to post notices and learn of inconveniences from students. Like this, the students including the representatives communicate in various ways and form a strong closeness that helps with convenience.
Apart from communities, the dormitory hosts cultural activities like calligraphy, pilates workouts, and sign language lessons for students in the evenings. The activities are for first-come-first-served applicants. While calligraphy classes cost 20,000 won per semester, other classes are offered free-of-charge. Through these programs, students enjoy a variety of activities throughout their stay in the dormitory. Second, the dormitory holds two big events each semester, namely the ‘Myeongjaein’s Night’ and ‘Open-House Party’. Myeongjaein’s Night is a day allocated for when the next representatives are elected, and a time for students living in the dormitory to win products through games and quizzes, enjoy a barbecue meal, and socialize with other dormitory students. The Open-House Party is an “open” house party so even students not residing in the dormitory can join the festivities by purchasing a ticket. The party offers students a variety of things to do such as going on a picnic, going on a treasure hunt, viewing a photo exhibition, and so on. Last year, there was also a 1:1 matching of students living in the International House as a way of a language exchange. In other words, students were exposed to language of interest through interacting with international student friends. All programs are aimed at one thing, having a good quality of life in the dormitory.
All Voices to Change the Dormitory
Many programs and communities provide a better dormitory life for students, but there are still problems to solve. Results of a survey of 119 Sookmyungians living or who have lived in school dormitories on improvements found that 68.1% were unhappy with the provided meals and 48.3% said the lack of capacity. Other responses included dissatisfaction with facilities, the relationship between students and security. Overall, the biggest issue that needs addressing is the meal service. Until last year, the dormitory provided meals to students. However, starting this year, students are no longer provided a meal at the dormitory. According to a survey of Sookmyungians without dormitory living experience, about 32.5% (27 of 83) of respondents said that dormitory needs a meal plan for students. While the absence of a meal plan is important, the fact that this information has not been publicized to students is also alarming. One of the students living in a dormitory, Yoon said, “I was told about the abolishment of the meal plan a week before entering the dormitory. The only option was to opt out of staying in the dormitory if we were dissatisfied with the new policy. However, this option is not really feasible for students like me whose hometowns are far from the school. On weekdays, we can eat in the school cafeterias, but on weekends, we have to eat off campus, and especially on Sunday, many places are closed. Our selections are limited, so most of us choose to eat simple fast food meals like cup-rice.” As Yoon points out, the school provides students with breakfast from its on-campus canteens as an alternative to offering a meal at the dormitory, but it does not provide meals on weekends.
Second, students want the extension of capacity and the length of the dormitory stay extended. At present, students can stay only one school year in the dormitory, and students in Seoul, Incheon, and Gyeonggi Province are ineligible. In addition, only 553 students out of a student body of 12,448 (4.4%) are given a room to rent. 44.5% of the surveyed 83 students without dormitory experience expressed extreme dissatisfaction with this number. Although there are other dormitories off the campus, Sookmyungians insist on the need for Sookmyung to offer its students more places to live. Of course, it is not possible to expect the school to accommodate its entire student body, but Sookmyungians said the school needs to open its ears to students’ voices and discuss living solutions together. For this to happen, there is a need for students to unify their voices. However, the number of students residing in the dormitory is small compared to the total student body, so their voice goes largely unheard. In other words, because the number of dormitory users is small, it is not easy for mere 5% of total Sookmyung students to voice a large cry. That’s why it is important for all students, even if they don’t live in a dormitory, to stand together with dormitory students in these matters.
Many Interests Make a Resolution
Currently, Sookmyung Residence Hall offers residents a variety of programs and facilities aimed at creating a happy healthy life for students. However, there are other aspects that need addressing. As many a mickle makes a muckle, if students collect their voices together, it will be possible to find the solution for a better life. For larger voices, students living in the dormitory need to publicize their problems to the entire campus so that students not living in the dormitory will understand their grievances and become interested in helping resolve the issues. To trigger this interest, SMT recommends joining the Open-House Party next semester to know the dormitory well as the first step.
Oh Kim Youbin / Culture Section Editor
Kim Lee Hyunmin / Cub Reporter