This winter vacation, someone from Sookmyung posted Talk to the Hand on the Sookmyung Women's University’s Facebook page. According to the student who made the posting, with only one semester left before graduating, she never imagined she’d encounter so many difficulties enrolling in courses. It turns out she failed to be admitted to 2 out of 3 classes. Therefore, she made a desperate outcry complaining about the situation, saying that it didn’t look like she’d be able to graduate this semester. Like her, many students are upset at the lack of lectures being offered.
Recently, Sookmyung Women’s University is consistently disappointing students with its attempt to coeducationalize Sookmyung Women's University's Graduate School and the controversy over the treatment of cleaning ladies and security guards, and now it has furthered students’ frustration on top by slashing the number of opened lectures. According to a survey by the Sookmyung Times of 445 from second to fourth year students on difficulties encountered registering for Spring 2016 classes compared to previous semesters about 95.7% students (426 students) said they had a hard time. A number of students uploaded complaints on the Snowe, Snowrose, and Everytime. With the huge protest from students, the university’s Office of Academic Affairs posted a reply from Park Donggon on the school community website Snowe asking for students’ understanding regarding course admissions. Basically, the reply said the school was doing its best to match the needs of students and that it is impossible to resolve every single individual’s issue, so it asked for students’ understanding.
In 2015, Sookmyung Women’s University ranked only at the B level in terms of the national University Restructuring Evaluation, so it had to reduce its student enrollment quota by 4% (92 students). The evaluation, along with other indicators used in the assessment, found that Sookmyung Women's University had one of the worst full-time professor rates among universities in Korea. Full-time professors at Kookmin, Hongik, and Seoul Women’s University account for 60% of the lecturing on those campuses and Sangmyung University had its full-time professors covering 70% of all lectures. However, Sookmyung Women’s University has only 48.5% of its lectures being covered by full-time professors. Therefore, in order not to avoid a B grade next year and be forced to reduce student admissions again, Sookmyung must increase its rate of full-time professor lectures. By increasing the number of courses taught by full-time professors, the university inevitably reduces the number of lectures covered by part-time lecturers. The evaluation hurt the hearts and minds of students who see Sookmyung Women's University as a very prestigious institution.
Before Sookmyungians start each new semester, there is one thing they all must do: register for courses. This year registration was done between February 12th and 16th. Sookmyungians were able to receive confirmation of their final schedules on February 19th on the Sookmyung portal site. New from 2016 was the abolition of cultural study courses and credit limitations. These new changes, however, did not stop the criticism and dissatisfaction as shown on Everytime, the Sookmyung community site. In order to investigate student opinion regarding course registration, the Sookmyung Times surveyed students on the issue using Facebook, Everytime and Kakaotalk.
SMT asked students only 4 questions, and 452 students responded. The first question about whether students felt any difficulties registering for courses during the winter break. Surprisingly, 95.7% answered ‘Yes.’ This finding confirms that students have had difficulties registering for courses even in past semesters. The second question investigated the reason for feeling difficulties registering for courses. 316 of 438 (72.1%) students said they were most frustrated with the maximum enrollment cutoff number, and 294 students of 438 (67.1%) said they were upset at the lack of classes. Over 50% of polled students said they wish there were more various lectures opened in each department. These results show that the main issues for Sookmyungians are the maximum course enrollment number, the limited number of classes, and lack of course variety. In short, focusing on these issues is the key to resolving students’ complaints. The third question on the survey asked respondents if they had read the reply from the university regarding registration, which was posted on Snowe. While 93.7% of students said they had read it, only 6.3% of students said they had not. In short, most Sookmyungians read postings on Snowe. The final question we asked respondents was about how the university could overcome the problem. 410 out of 446 respondents said merely asking students for understanding will not resolve the issue. Another 169 of 446 said the school should offer concrete guidance regarding the rationale behind changes to courses, not just background information on the situation.
Through this survey, SMT noticed that Sookmyungians are indeed suffering from anxiety during course registration. There is a big demand for increasing the cutoff enrollment number, the number of courses offered, and the diversity of courses offered, and there should be more alternative methods of registration offered to students by the Office of Admissions, which would lessen the number of student complaints. Moreover, the most important thing is to focus not on the why, but the how to overcome the problem.
We Feel You, Let's Talk Numbers
The problem with the 2016 registration period, besides trying to register for department courses, students must consider policy changes to core electives, which has changed dramatically and made it much more difficult for students to retake a course. Especially, the most noticeable change is in the curriculum core elective area 4 requirements. This area deals with courses related to culture and languages. However, compared to March of 2015, all language learning courses are now relocated under general electives, so this area saw 31 of its courses eliminated. For instance, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Russian, and Spanish were all removed from this area, causing a huge inconvenience for students who wish to retake the course in order to achieve a better grade. Since the course is now allocated as general elective, students cannot get credit for the course as a core elective. Students must enroll in another core elective class in 2016 in order to graduate. In case you didn’t know, all Sookmyungians must take at least 1 class from each of the 5 core elective areas to graduate. Since announcing the curriculum policy change, questions have been popping up continuously asking for confirmation on what it means for retaking a course on Everytime’s bulletin board and Snowe website.
With this year’s change, the number of courses required to graduate has been reduced drastically. Available core elective classes, compared to the previous year, have been reduced to just 40 classes: area 1 now only offers 2 classes, area 2 has only 9 courses, area 3 has been reduced to 3, area 4 has 31, and area 5 how only offers 1 course. Considering only the number of courses offered does not show the big problem, which is that in those courses enrollment is capped at 40-200 students. Having the number of courses reduced to 40 means that many students will be unable to enroll in graduation required courses. Also, reducing the number of courses offered means that total classes available for students will be reduced. Besides this change, from 2016 there is an increase in the number of core elective courses students must take to graduate. Students are still required to take core elective courses, but there is a reduction of 12 offered courses compared to 2015, reducing students’ choice flexibility when creating their timetables. As core electives are graduation requisites, there is a need for more of these types of courses.
Lastly, the biggest problem students now face is the number of students allowed to register for a course. With the reduction to only 40 offered courses this semester, the number of students allowed to enroll in each course has increased, but it still does not meet demands. In 2015, the number of courses with more than 100 students was just 57, but now in 2016 the number has increased. 46 classes with enrollments of 50-300 students per class were either canceled or had their status changed to general electives. As this indicates, enrolling in a needed course is proving to be almost impossible. Because students need certain courses, students are complaining more often than before about the situation and asking their professors to increase the capped enrollment number. Unfortunately, few professors have agreed to increase the capped number. For students in the Department of English, this year proved to be even more stressful as students were unsuccessful in registering for even their required major course due to limit settings.
Hope to Make Solution
Registration for classes is of utmost importance to students because it not only impacts their entire semester but also their graduation date plans. In other words, students should not take the changes lightly. The university should have given students advanced notice before the registration period or discussed the planned changes beforehand with students. Most students are now very disappointed with Sookmyung Women’s University, especially with its response to the issue with “be understanding”. It's unwarranted to expect students to be happy with the new Sookmyung Women’s University policy. Students are now unable to take certain courses even after paying the high cost of tuition. As a representative of the student body at Sookmyung Women's University, the Sookmyung Times sincerely hopes the shortage of courses is solved by next semester and the university makes a wiser solution to the situation.