[CAMPUS COMMENTARY]Student leaders are not private figures

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[CAMPUS COMMENTARY]Student leaders are not private figures

On Nov. 28, student representatives from 42 universities across the country released a statement endorsing Lee Myung-bak, the Grand National Party’s presidential candidate.
They said Lee is the only aspirant with the ability to revitalize the Korean economy and therefore he should be elected president. The students also said they would actively take part in the election campaign by touring the country’s universities to appeal for votes for Lee.
Among those student leaders were representatives from Korea University (Seochang campus), Dongguk University (Gyeongju campus), Inje University, Cheju University and Chongju University.
Following the announcement, however, the authenticity of the statement has been questioned. Some of the representatives named in the announcement turned out to have been falsely listed and 10 student council presidents withdrew their endorsement. As the names of the student leaders were revealed, however, those on the list have become the focus of criticism in forums both online and off. Needless to say, many students expressed displeasure with their leaders’ actions. Some alumni associations have also strongly condemned their endorsement without any discussion with students on their campuses.
Eventually, Gyeongsang National University’s student council president issued an apology on the school Web site, saying he is sorry for the trouble that he has caused, but he was not supporting candidate Lee as a representative of the school.
With the presidential election just days ahead, we ask ourselves whether the student leaders’ announcement was sound judgment. The biggest problem in this incident lies in whether their action was appropriate as a representative of the school.
Representatives are elected by students to act or make decisions on their behalf. In other words, even though such a leader is an individual, his public actions and statements are made in the capacity of representing the whole student body.
These actions stand as the reflected opinion of the students on that campus. Unfortunately, the student leaders’ endorsement of Lee seems to have been made as the representatives’ personal decision.
It is crucial that students actively participate in politics and cast their votes for the most suitable candidate in the upcoming presidential election, especially since it is the first time that many of the current university students will participate in a presidential election.
But clearly, a student representative’s priorities lie in seeking solutions to the problems of their respective schools and finding ways to improve the welfare of students so that we all can study in a better environment.
Titles may differ, but surely there is no difference in the responsibility and influence that a position of leadership bestows between a student representative and a member of the National Assembly or even the president.
Student government associations say that they are dismayed by the low participation rate of students in school elections and issues, but what the leaders have done clearly would not motivate students, but rather turned them off.

* The writer is a reporter of the Ewha Voice newspaper at Ewha Womans University.

BY Choi Yoon-ji
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