[LETTERS to the editor]Honor worth paying for
I am writing in response to Mr. Richard Thompson’s letter, “Who should pay for ‘honor’?” (Sept. 25).
It is no secret that a single word could have different meanings, depending on various situations. However, I do not think that “regaining honor” is such a complex vocabulary with multiple meanings; to most people, it means clearing your name from false accusation, and I guess that’s why officials at Dongguk University refused the offer of Yale University in exchange for withdrawal of Dongguk’s lawsuit.
It seems to me that Mr. Thompson might have underestimated the scale of damage Dongguk University had suffered, initially caused by the “administrative error” of Yale University. In Korea, where education is the be-all and end-all, a good reputation is the lifeline of an academic institution. Given that, it would not be surprising if parents across Korea would cross out Dongguk University from the list of colleges their children would apply to for many years to come, eventually drying up the endowment of the university-thanks to Yale’s administrative error.
Simultaneously, Mr. Thompson argued, why did Dongguk University not seek compensation from Kansas State University as well, from which the disgraced Shin Jeong-ah had claimed to graduate with a B.A. and an M.B.A.
Dongguk contacted Yale first, for it would be commonly assumed that Yale must have verified Shin’s earlier academic qualification before they admitted her into their doctoral degree program. Had Dongguk received a negative confirmation from Yale in the initial stage of verification, the whole fiasco could have been avoided.
After reading Mr. Thompson’s suggestion (”Perhaps Swenson & Co. could help Dongguk with its portfolio management during some part of fiscal 2009”), I cannot help feeling that Mr. Thompson’s perception of Dongguk is a sort of gold-digger seeking an outrageous amount of compensation, seizing a windfall opportunity to squeeze one of the richest universities in the U.S.
Apparently, Dongguk University refused the plea bargain by Yale, so that they could win their suit in the court, and thus lawfully and rightfully clear their reputation of the taint of being a sleazy institution, hiring an unqualified instructor with a fake degree. Only after that would monetary compensation matter.
Besides, I do not think that asking for $50 million for such a disastrous blow is exorbitant, compared to many cases in the U.S. where millions of dollars were often awarded for sometimes trivial, personal causes.
It is too early to speculate about the outcome of the trial but if Yale loses this lawsuit, I think it will be a good example which proves that no matter how prestigious or rich, no institution is immune to error-just like the investment banks on Wall Street that believed the sun would never set on them.
freelance translator, Seoul
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