Can you recall the day you received your acceptance into Sookmyung Women’s University? Every student who truly feels like a Sookmyungian will surely recall that moment. Some of you might have even shed tears, reminiscing over all the hard work it took to get there, and other might have jumped for joy and screamed frantically out of pure happiness. This type of enthusiasm for joining thousands of others at Sookmyung has enabled the university to maintain its reputation for 109 years. Interestingly, a shocking revelation has arisen regarding admissions, so the Sookmyung Times interviewed people connected to this issue.
What is Going on?
On September 10th, a disturbing notice was sent out to all Sookmyungians. The Admissions Planning & Management Center uploaded data about Sookmyung’s 2015 admissions, which included admissions past and present situation and applicants’ admission scores. This was an unprecedented happening. Disclosure is usually a good thing, but the problem was that previous admissions scores were tallied along with present admissions scores, so Humanities was found to have a rating of 1.87 while Natural Sciences was at 2.87. The disclosed data sparked much heated debate among Sookmyungians; in particular, students were upset at the method employed by the Admissions Planning & Management Center. One alumnus posted strong criticism about the issue on the school community board, Sookmyungians Bulletin Board, on September 12th and from that initial posting until September 18th, there were roughly 150 other posts criticizing the admissions strategy. Besides the school’s community bulletin board, other community boards such as Everytime were bombarded with similar criticisms.
A problem that goes side by side with this incident is Sookmyung’s structural reform evaluation. From August 31st, Sookmyung Women’s University was required by law to decrease its admissions quota by 4%. Coupled with the coeducation dispute, the disclosure of the new admissions system hit hard Sookyungians’ hearts. The regulations for structural reform vary from university to university, but Sookmyung Women’s University’s subtracted points were because of comparatively low educational restitution rate, and its lower proportion of full-time professors compared to other universities; in other words, Sookmyung offers too many courses by part-time lecturers compared to full-time staff lectures. This fact, however, does not mean the quality of education is low. Even though quality of education was not a determining factor in deciding a university’s ranking, it does leave a negative image on the general public. Many students at Sookmyung were already dissatisfied with the government’s claim that Sookmyung would be considered a lower ranking school, so the disclosure of the admissions scoring system only added fuel to the fire of students’ discontent.
Time for Action
After uploading the issue onto the university homepage, Sookmyungians’ reaction grew. Students started to plaster the front of Myungshin Building with hand-drawn posters. They organized the problem and summarized the Admissions Planning & Management Center’s new admissions system. They also detailed the current unhappiness of Sookmyungians and alumnae with the decision to carry out such a system. Though these information posters, all Sookmyungians became aware of the problem and Sookmyungian interest in the issue grew. In September, Sookmyungians saw an increase in the number of placards on their way to school and all around the campus. The placards contained motivational quotes to encourage high school students to apply to Sookmyung Women’s University and to raise a sense of patriotism among Sookmyungians. Surprisingly, what should have been the work of the Admissions Planning & Management Center was actually being done by students and alumnaes. The incident sparked a fundraising in order to have more placards made. More than 5,000,000 won was raised in order to reverse the damage created by the Admissions Planning & Management Center.
With the strengthening of Sookmyungians voices, a meeting was held on September 16th at 4:30 p.m, in Gemma Hall. During the meeting, the Admissions Planning & Management Center explained the reason behind disclosure of all the admissions scores including the additional passer’s scores. The Admissions Planning & Management Center said it had hoped that the announcement would attract higher quality applicants by increasing admissions competition. However, at the meeting, Sookmyungians claimed the disclosure only brought about anger. It was seen as discriminatory and an invalid admissions strategy, which will only result in more problems. As it did to address students’ hand-drawn posters, the Admissions Planning & Management Center, said in the Center it uploaded average admissions scores because the number of high school students requesting details on the scores was high, which was criticized heavily by Sookmyungians, forcing the Center to retract the uploaded notice.
After the meeting, the Admissions Planning & Management Center uploaded a formal written apology on the Sookmyungian Bulletin Board and has since decided to remove the notice from the university homepage. Regarding the massive criticism voiced by Sookmyungians, the Dean of Admissions Jo Namgi said, “Through this happening, it is clear that the Admissions Planning & Management Center’s decision did not reflect students’ voice, so from now on, the Center will work together with students to raise Sookmyung’s status.” The written apology and meeting somewhat cooled the fire until it resurfaced again in October when on the 13th a second forum was held to address matters at Samsung Convention Hall.
Getting Opinions Straight
At the second meeting, held at SamSung Convention Hall, from 6 p.m, more than one hundred students attended and shared their thoughts. The meeting’s purpose was for the Admissions Planning & Management Center to explain and present solutions to increase current problems about the low admission rate. The solution presented, however, only increased student’s critics, that the solutions were too plain and ineffective. Jo Namgi, dean of the center, presented the solutions to be an enhancement of advertising Sookmyung. However, the advertising plan lacked originality, in other words, no new advertising methods. The dean presented the advertising, to increase the popularity of Sookmyung will be 'enhanced,' which was to 'try' to put more people on the matter. Students criticized that this solutions were still uncertain, unoriginal and vague, which led to many questions but recieved vague answeres.
Students were largely reluctant to disclose admissions scores because over time that would have lowered the status of Sookmyung Women’s University. The Admissions Planning & Management Center’s strategy was to attract more students to apply to Sookmyung; however, by disclosing those low average admissions scores to the public, many potential applicants may think it easy to enter Sookmyung. The strategy might have increased the number of applicants for 1 or 2 years, but eventually, it would result in a negative university image. At the second meeting, the dean explained repeatedly that the disclosing the scores was to have borader range of students to apply to the school. However, this explanations were criticized because the action only caused highschool students to think less of Sookmyung. Students informed the evaluations of the highschool students and the freshmen, because they are the current and the future status of Sookmyung. With this criticism, many students shared how freshmen and highschool students evaluated Sookmyung, and pointed out that the center's action was negative to those evaluations.
Also, the method of disclosure could create a vicious cycle that might eventually lower the general quality of students applying to Sookmyung. By disclosing admissions scores, including the scores of additional passers, people will lower their inner bar and eventually their evaluation of the university. Gradually, year after year, applicants will internalize the low admissions score requirement and the quality of student applications would lower.
Elude a Repeat of This Case
The admissions center has issued an official public apology on the Sookmyungian’s Bulletin Board. Also, it has promised to remove all admissions information previously uploaded on the site. For an entire month, Sookmyung dealt with several huge crises: disclosure of its admissions scores, the idea of becoming coeducational, and the sanitary workers’ declaration to start a labor union. For each crisis, Sookmyungians met the problems face on and did not back down. Students hosted several forums to discuss issues and conducted signature petition campaigns. Also, the fundraising for placards clearly conveys students’ passion for their school. Soomyungians are active; they are not passive. There will always be situations in which Sookmyungians must voice themselves opening and freely, and they will always be up to the task.