[EDITORIALS]Academic reforms

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[EDITORIALS]Academic reforms

Remarks made by Chung Un-chan, after his inauguration as the new president of Seoul National University, give us hope of reforms at Korea's most prestigious university. Taking the helm as talk of a crisis at the university grows and problems in higher education have multiplied, Mr. Chung's ideas for reform will be under scrutiny.

He made the painful reflection that Seoul National University has enjoyed privileges but has failed to fulfill its responsibilities and meet the expectations of society. Mr. Chung is entrusted with the mission to carry out changes that will help overcome the crisis. He said that reform is "turning things unusual back to normal." He seems to have made a point, considering his predecessors' resignations under clouds of shame and the incessant wave of inter-university confrontation.

With arbitrary decision making by his predecessors concerning campus management being blamed for the failure of reform, it is desirable to consider plans for enhancing transparency by creating a council of faculty members or strengthening the role of professor associations.

His pledge to provide a new proposal for electing the university president in six months is also noteworthy. A consensus is forming that the bad effects of the direct election of a president are as bad as political campaigns and that the system should be reformed. We expect a drastic change since Mr. Chung promised to consider various alternatives, including cancellation of the direct vote.

The reform tasks Mr. Chung faces are not easy. Reforms, such as changing the present faculty system, introducing specialized graduate schools and an annual salary system for faculty members, are likely to bring conflict with the Education Ministry. Within the university, some schools, departments and professors might raise objection to his plans. To expand support for studies in basic sciences, financial resources should be secured. His plan to build rental housing units on the property where the official residence of the president stands demonstrates his reform mind. Without being biased by reform and self-righteousness, we hope he would accomplish resolute reform by "normalization of an abnormal situation."

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