[EDITORIALS]Professors abusing a privilegeCollege and university deans nationwide attending a Korea Council for University Education seminar intended, but failed, to adopt a resolution restricting the automatic reinstatement of professors. The deans were going to propose that the National Assembly revise the existing law, under which professors who take time off to serve in public posts can be automatically reinstated. But they were impelled by heavy opposition to drop the issue from their final resolution.
It is not that college professors should be prevented from participating in government administration. In an age when authoritarianism has died, scholars can contribute to the progress of society with the application of scholarly theory and research in real politics. Likewise, the return of professors to the classroom after getting government experience can make them better teachers. By connecting theory and reality, the professors can give deeper and more honest lectures to their students.
However, the professors need to practice moderation in their political participation. A total of 103 professors ran in the recent legislative election, and 34 were elected. To make time for their campaigns, many were repeatedly absent from lectures and some gave students assignments requiring more than a month’s work. As these professors held onto their teaching jobs in case they lost in the election, the students and universities suffered damage. There are also several cases of professors quitting with a day’s notice after getting a call from central or local governments.
The holding of multiple jobs by professors or college deans is another issue to consider. Professors must be especially careful in accepting posts in political parties or committees with strong partisan affiliations. Professors’ participation in politics is guaranteed by law, but professors should practice moderation lest they are censured for taking sides and compromising the political neutrality of the institutions of higher education.
Professors should uphold certain principles when they participate in politics and when they are reinstated. These principles can be summarized in one sentence: Do not do damage to the students or the school. If you want to leave, turn in your resignation. If you want to be reinstated, go through the usual procedures.