Clamp down on ‘polifessors’Eighty Seoul National University professors recently asked the school put rules in place restricting professors’ irresponsible attempts to run in political elections. The university has begun devising such a measure. The Education Ministry, as well as some private universities, is also considering putting such a restriction in place on teachers.
Every four years before and after the legislative elections, universities have been troubled by “polifessors,” a coined word referring to a professor who runs for political office while maintaining his or her teaching job. Although it is a little bit belated, we support the universities’ decision to devise such restrictions. We believe that when professors become politicians, they should obey strict regulations.
We cannot criticize professors for holding public posts. They have the right to participate in politics and they can help the country if they use their expertise in political decision-making.
The problem is that they want to put their feet in both fields. It is not right for a professor to return to school like nothing happened when he or she loses an election. What about the pride of fellow professors who devoted themselves to research and lectures during that time? The students’ rights to a good education are also damaged when a professor or an adviser is replaced during the semester.
According to the National Election Commission, 55, 72 and 46 professors, respectively, ran for the National Assembly in the past three elections. During the last presidential election, more than 1,000 professors worked for presidential candidates. One politician has been on temporary leave from his university for the past 11 years.
U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama quit his job as a professor at the University of Chicago before he ran for Senate. Former U.S. President Bill Clinton also quit his post as a professor when he began his career as a politician. Top-notch universities in developed countries allow professors to take a temporary leave for up to two years to take a public post. If they want to go back to work, of course they can apply for a job again.
The law which allows professors to take a temporary leave when they are elected as public officials should be revised.
There should be strict and specific regulations governing the temporary leave or resignation of a professor if he or she takes a public post. We should put an end to the trend in which professors take a peep into politics then go back to their university when they cannot make it.