Collegians protest campus expansion
By Kang Shin-who
A number of Seoul-based universities are trying to expand their horizons outside the capital with second or third campuses normally located in Gyeonggi Province. However, students are up in arms about the move, criticizing that their schools are unilaterally investing tuition money for nothing without discussing with students.
Currently, some 10 universities in Seoul have plans to build campuses in Gyeonggi or Incheon ― Ewha Womans University in Paju, Chung-Ang in Hanam, Seoul National University (SNU) in Sihueng, Yonsei and Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in Songdo, Sungkyunkwan in Pyeongtaek, Sogang in Namyangju, Konkuk in Uijeongbu and Dongguk in Goyang.
The Association of Korean University Student Councils is calling for the universities to provide them with concrete information about school expansion and form a consensus with students over the plans.
"Most universities ignored students' opinions and have decided to move some departments to other cities. Student councils are joining forces to fight against such arbitrary decisions," said a representative of the association.
Ewha student council stands in the front line of the protests. "Our school should come up with clear and transparent plans for the Paju campus as a large amount of tuition money will be invested into the project," said Chung Yoon-ji, president of the student council at the women-only university.
Ewha initially planned to establish an education and research complex in the city, which is about 30 minutes away from the school's Seoul campus by 2010. Under the plan, it has invested some 80 billion won ($70.6 million) and aims to build industrial and academic research centers, dormitories for foreign professors, and life-long education facilities for the school's alumnae along with foreign language immersion facilities.
However, the plan has been delayed due to disputes over land ownership between the school and the residents in the region. Since then, the project over how to use the campus and when to complete the construction has been changed several times.
Yonsei also plans to establish Songdo Global Academic Complex in the Incheon Free Economic Zone by 2013. The new campus is scheduled to accommodate the Underwood International College (UIC), the College of Pharmacy, pre-medical and pre-dentistry courses, graduate courses for interdisciplinary majors in engineering and life science, and a language center. In addition, 10 percent of the school freshmen are supposed to study at the new campus due to school capacity regulations.
"We are basically opposing the plans as our school made a decision without consulting us over the campus plan. It would be very troublesome for students who have to attend the new campus, which is far from Seoul," said Kim Young-min, a director of the student council at the university.
Councils at other universities with expansion plans are also unhappy with the new campus projects, although they have yet to stage rallies. They are calling for the schools to invest money into education and student welfare instead of "ambiguous" expansion. Also, some of them are raising suspicions that their schools are trying to buy land for the new campuses for speculation purposes.