[CAMPUS COMMENTARY]Universities must not give stars a free pass

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[CAMPUS COMMENTARY]Universities must not give stars a free pass

In a recent broadcast, the program “MBC News Who” reported that Korean film stars are admitted to universities and receive grades according to special school regulations. The report alleged that these regulations allow stars to receive grades of C+ or higher without actually attending classes and taking exams if they make some donations and appear in school events or school advertisements. More outrageously, the report alleged, schools make these arrangements before matriculation and even if professors give the stars failing grades ― school administrators change them to passing grades.
A university is a place for learning. It’s where students gain knowledge and develop their academic and professional interests. It is a step that will lead them to the next phase in their personal growth. If they are allowed to graduate without learning anything, these celebrity students would not be prepared to pursue anything further. They would likely learn only how to get something without much effort, capitalizing on their fame.
Also, these stars can come, as probably hoped, to represent their schools. If schools allow them to enter and graduate without any academic achievement, what would prospective students and the public think of the schools not only morally but also in terms of academic standards? Do the schools really need publicity of this kind?
I don’t object to celebrities going to college. Ultimately, they may want to change careers sometime in their future, and studying would help them find another career. Also, learning more would help them in their profession.
Also, by having celebrities around them, students can be freed from the mystique of stardom. Among other things, they will understand that effort is important for everyone.
In other countries, many celebrities go to university. It is widely known that Natalie Portman, an actress noted for her role in “Leon” and “Closer,” and Han-na Chang, a famous Korean cellist, were admitted to Harvard University. Although their fame might have played a role in their admission, academic achievement was not neglected and they had to follow the same admission procedures. They interrupted their career while they went to school.
Harvard admits these famed students because it thinks that students learn from each other and the various backgrounds of students, including those of celebrities, help them better understand today’s complex world. They think that learning takes place through human interaction not only during classes but also outside of the classroom .
However, this kind of justification cannot be said of most Korean universities that admit celebrity students; No learning from interaction can take place whether inside or outside classes when they don’t come to the classroom at all.
Stars who want to study in the university should not be encouraged to get around the requirements. Universities should strictly use the same admission and graduation standards used for ordinary students. If they don’t, those schools would not only compromise their academic integrity; their students would also question how fame and power compromise university education.

*The writer is a reporter for The News at UOS, the English newspaper at the University of Seoul.

by Kong Jun-wan
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