Protests at SNU are irrational

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Protests at SNU are irrational

The internal feud over a government-led plan to make Seoul National University an independent entity is quickly turning into a fiasco. Students stormed the president’s office on Monday and staged a sit-in against the incorporation scheme.

It was just two months ago that the university’s unionized staff barricaded SNU President Oh Yeon-cheon in his office overnight.

The student council held a meeting earlier this week that drew 2,000 students and voted in favor of acting to dismantle SNU’s incorporation steering committee. Of those present, 300 students raided the president’s office late at night.

The students oppose to the plan to make independent the state-run school, one of the country’s most prestigious universities, fearing tuition hikes. But they are totally misguided. The government has repeatedly said that the school will continue to be subsidized even after it becomes a private entity, which would not justify a sudden rise in tuition fees.

Moreover, the government has already set a cap on college tuition, forbidding increases to go beyond 1.5 times the inflation rate. Considering what the government has come up with, it is unreasonable for the SNU students to oppose the plan. Their reasons are groundless.

The law to make the university independent was passed by the National Assembly last December - albeit unilaterally by the ruling Grand National Party - more than two decades after the issue was first brought up and debated by academics and the government.

There is no doubt that reform is necessary in order to increase competitiveness in the globalized world of higher education. But SNU students should regard the incorporation plan in a broader context.

Once independent, the school would be free from state interference, allowing it instead to operate with the freedom to increase its competitiveness and offer education services that meet global standards.

The incorporation process should reflect the diverse opinions of students and faculty. In fact, the university organized a student rights subcommittee within the main committee overseeing the incorporation and invited students to participate in committee meetings.

But the students snubbed such official methods and are instead resorting to extreme protests. They would be wise to end their demonstrations immediately and join the committee meetings to speak their minds. Taxpayers do not want their money wasted on violent protests.
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