Time to leave, Mr. SuhThe Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology is embroiled in an unprecedented crisis over the future of its president, Suh Nam-pyo. As Suh completes the first half of his four-year second term as president of Kaist, the board of trustees plans to discuss a revocation of his employment contract with the school on Friday. A professors’ association and members of the student body have demanded that he immediately step down to take full responsibility for a series of student suicides and other problems in the school administration. This is the first time since being established in 1971 that the nation’s first graduate school specializing in science and engineering has faced such questions.
The situation is indeed quite grave. Suh’s leadership has been discredited to the extent that a majority of professors cast votes for his early resignation and a large number of students joined forces to demand his departure.
Initially, the public praised his enthusiastic reform drive, aimed at enhancing the school’s academic reputation and toughening the standards for professors’ promotion. Many thought that harmonious leadership would accommodate expected resistance from professors and would convince them to join a reform drive to make the school a top player in the ever competitive global world of education. We believe that good leaders must know how to smoothly manage sharp internal discord.
However, Suh’s campaign to revitalize the school seems to have hit a roadblock as a result of internal and external conflicts over his radical approaches. In the environment he aims to create, many top students feel as if they cannot devote themselves to study and research anymore. In a competitive environment, professors and students alike must study energetically while inspiring each other and sharing new ideas. But the disgraceful reality - where professors and other faculty are all caught in confusion and making accusations against each other - cannot but be attributed to the fall of leadership.
Kaist must quickly return to normalcy. As long as Suh tries to hold onto his position, the school will remain in its chaotic state. Whatever happens at the university, the responsibility for incompetence to address a debilitating crisis should ultimately be borne by the president.
It is time for Suh to make a final decision, especially if he wants his reform drive to move forward. We are looking forward to his wise judgment.