Kaist’s chief stays, but alters tough policies

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Kaist’s chief stays, but alters tough policies

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Suh Nam-pyo

Despite a rising chorus of demands that President Suh Nam-pyo take responsibility for a string of suicides this year at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (Kaist) and resign, Suh insisted he was staying on the job yesterday.

“I will accept criticism,” Suh said at National Assembly’s Education, Science and Technology Committee. “But I don’t have any intention to resign.”

Suh said he will abolish the scholarship policy he launched in 2007 that rescinds scholarships for students whose grade point average dips below 3.0, which some analysts and students said was behind the four student suicides this year.

“I will repeal the scholarship policy,” Suh said. “And as president of the university, who should take responsibility for protecting the safety of students, I apologize for the tragedies to all people in Korea, regardless of the reasons for the suicides.”

Suh said he would also boost counseling services on campus for depressed students. “And I am also mulling the policy of conducting lectures in English only,” Suh said.

Lawmakers from both the ruling and opposition parties barraged Suh with questions yesterday, such as whether his policies actually raised standards at the elite university.

Kwon Young-jin of the Grand National Party said, “I have recently phoned a student counseling center at Kaist, but the official contact number was wrong. Suh should regret neglecting the emotions of his students and take steps immediately.”

Kim Sang-hee of the Democratic Party said, “Suh should end his competition-oriented reforms and step down to allow a new start for Kaist.”

Meanwhile, Kaist’s student council convened an emergency meeting on the campus in Daejeon yesterday and collected opinions from students about Suh’s policies. The professors’ association at Kaist will also hold a meeting tomorrow to discuss a call for Suh’s resignation.

“If Suh changes his management style, we accept it,” Gyeong Jong-min, president of the association, said, “but if he continues his current ways, we will hold a meeting in the future and make decisions stronger than today’s.”

In January, a 19-year-old freshman died on the school’s campus after taking an overdose of sleeping pills. On March 20, a 19-year-old sophomore was found dead in a flower garden in front of an apartment in Suwon, Gyeonggi, after leaving a suicide note. Nine days later, a 25-year-old senior jumped from the 12th story of an apartment building in southern Seoul. On April 7, a 19-year-old sophomore was found dead in front of an apartment in Incheon.

And on Sunday, a 52-year-old professor hanged himself in his apartment in Daejeon, leaving behind a note. His note did not link his suicide with those of the students before him.

After Suh took office in 2006, he instituted ambitious plans in 2007 to raise the competitiveness of the university’s faculty and students, including the controversial scholarship policy.


By Kim Hee-jin [heejin@joongang.co.kr]

한글 관련 기사 [연합]
서남표 "지금은 사퇴할 생각 없어"
'이유 불문 국민께 사과..징벌적 등록금제 없애겠다'
'전공과목 100% 영어강의는 제도개선'

한국과학기술원(KAIST) 서남표 총장은 12일 최근 잇따른 학내 자살 사태의 배경으로 지적된 '징벌적 등록금제'와 관련, "최근 학생들에게 얘기한대로 해당 제도는 폐지하기로 했다"고 말했다.

서 총장은 이날 국회 교육과학기술위 전체회의에 출석해 "학생의 안전을 지켜야 할 총장으로서 이유를 불문하고 안타까운 일이 발생한 데 대해 국민 여러분께 깊은 사과를 드린다"며 이같이 말했다.

서 총장은 "지금까지 학사 운영이 전체적으로는 잘 되고 있다고 생각하지만 고칠 부분은 고칠 것"이라며 "학생들을 위한 정신상담을 강화하고 '100% 영어수업'도 완화하려고 한다"고 설명했다.

여야 교과위원들은 "학생 4명과 교수 1명이 목숨을 끊은 사태는 잘못된 학사운영에서 비롯됐다"며 서 총장을 질타했고 민주당 의원들은 서 총장 사퇴를 요구했다.

한나라당 권영진 의원은 "KAIST에서 운영하고 있다는 정신상담 센터 전화번호마저 결번으로 나오더라"며 "감성교육에 소홀한 점을 인정하고 개선책을 마련해야 한다"고 지적했다.

민주당 김유정 의원은 "자살 사태의 원인이 된 각종 학제를 도입·운영한 총장이 1차적 책임을 져야 한다"고 했고, 김상희 의원도 "경쟁주의적인 '서남표식 개혁'을 끝내고 새로운 발전을 위해 물러나야 한다"고 압박했다.

서 총장은 이에 대해 "여러 지적 사항을 수용해 개선하겠다"면서도 "지금은 사퇴할 뜻이 없다"고 답했다.

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