Chung-Ang University establishes 1st human rights center among colleges
By Yun Suh-young
Chung-Ang University has established a human rights center for the first time among local colleges to tackle discrimination, abuses and other rights issues.
The Center for Human Rights, which began operating on Feb. 1, counsels students on a broad range of issues including discrimination based on race or nationality, disadvantages inflicted due to disabilities, discrimination based on appearance, and violence.
“We initially had a counseling center for gender equality but we decided to expand the center to incorporate comprehensive human rights issues. The gender equality center could not reach a wider pool of students because the name made students think they only had to talk about gender issues,” said an official from the school. “But we can now reach a wider range of students because human rights encompass everything.”
On issues that need to be officially dealt with, the center will call a meeting and send the issue to the disciplinary committee.
“When we were operating the gender equality center, about one third of petitions had little to do with gender or sex,” said Lee Na-young, director of the center at the school. Lee is also a professor of sociology. “We’ve had cases of foreign students being discriminated against, verbally abused, and assaulted, as well as local students being verbally abused and assaulted by their seniors.”
Lee said that there were even cases of professors using abusive language to students. “We felt the need to build a center which could deal with these comprehensive issues,” Lee said. “Until now, mostly female students visited the center. The name made it difficult for male students to come. The percentage of foreign students was also low. Now all students can come to receive counseling on various issues regarding human rights violations.”
Lee said the center offers counseling first before reporting the case to the school to take appropriate measures.
“The victims need someone to hear them out. They simply want the perpetrators to apologize instead of getting them punished,” she said.
For foreign students, there are staffers who speak English, Chinese, Japanese and a few other languages who can interpret for the students.
“For English-speaking students, I do the counseling myself. For those who speak other languages, there are employees at the international exchange center who speak several languages. These employees, or sometimes local students who speak the language, help out,” said Lee.
The center also provides education and conducts campaigns on enhancing human rights as well as researching the human rights condition within the school.
“Our school puts much effort into educating teachers and staff about human rights issues. The professors and school employees receive human rights education twice a year. Freshmen receive them when they enter the school,” said Lee.
The school also holds human rights campaigns twice a year with different themes, she said.
“I think this is because the level of awareness on human rights has significantly risen over the past few years,” said Lee.