[EDITORIALS]Trouble in the ivory tower

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[EDITORIALS]Trouble in the ivory tower

Lee Ki-jun, president of Seoul National University, stepped down Thursday, six moths before his term expired. All four presidents of the university since 1991 were selected by a vote by professors, and none has finished out his term. Mr. Lee, like his predecessor Sonu Jung-ho, had to resign under a cloud. We are deeply concerned about Seoul National University; it seems to be wobbling constantly because of internal dissention.

The student association protested against tuition hikes in March. They also demanded changes to the admission practices for the university's departments. At one point they occupied Mr. Lee's office to demand his resignation.

During that turmoil, we learned that Mr. Lee had worked as an outside director of a company, violating the university's regulations. He was also accused of taking large sums of money for bogus research, and some critics objected to the amount of money he was using as his personal expense account. Finally, the faculty council demanded that Mr. Lee defend himself against those accusations, and he resigned.

Mr. Lee's personal blunders forced him, the symbol of Korea's best intellect, to resign as head of the country's flagship university.

Some say the attacks were personally motivated. That tells us that there are some bad side effects of the direct election system. Before the elections are held, professors tend to ally themselves with candidates and to the victors belong the spoils ?the winner's supporters get the best jobs at the school. More turmoil is likely as the school selects a new head.

Universities all over the world are reforming themselves. A sixth of Japan's national universities will merge after a year of agonizing reflection; they are doing so to survive. Two years ago we decided to recruit university presidents through open competition to develop our national universities. But only one university among our 44 has abolished faculty elections for president, and there has been no progress at all in privatization or mergers at our schools.

We want SNU to become a world-class, research-oriented university. We have a long way to go.
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