[EDITORIALS]Trouble in the ivory tower

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[EDITORIALS]Trouble in the ivory tower

Trouble in the ivory tower has engulfed all three of the universities that are regarded as Korea's most prestigious.

President Kim Ki-jun of Seoul National University stepped down last week before his term ended, amid charges of improprieties in his activities as a corporate director and lavish spending of discretionary funds. Now Korea University is about to have two presidents, one installed by the school's trustees and the other by the faculty association. And at Yonsei University, economics and applied statistics professors have occupied the president's office to protest a proposed split of the department of business administration from the College of Business and Economics.

The Korea University conflict is a clash of the direct and indirect methods of electing the president. Faculty election of the president was introduced in 1984 and scrapped in 1997, replaced by a process of trustee approval of a nomination committee's candidate. The faculty association nevertheless nominated a candidate in 1998, whom the trustees duly installed. This time, the trustees chose to give the incumbent, Kim Jung-bae, another term, over two faculty nominees. Hence the confrontation.

Faculty election of university presidents, once adopted at almost every university, has proved to have problems of its own. Korea University's confrontation is the result of returning to the indirect way of picking the president. The faculty's attempt to hold on to its electoral power shows widespread distrust of the trustees' management of the school.

Yonsei University's is a simple fight for money and clout. The strong department of business administration wants more independence, and the departments of economics and applied statistics are worried about becoming weaker. On and off standoff has prevailed since last year. The issue of greater specialization at the university has finally driven the professors in force to the president's office.

Universities ought to be at the forefront of reform and innovation. We question their potential for development when they are preoccupied by politics and power. Earnest cooperation toward the higher goal of raising the schools' competitiveness is desperately needed.

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