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University to discipline 4 professors

Chung-Ang University held a committee hearing yesterday to discuss disciplinary action against four of its professors who received a C, the lowest grade, on their annual evaluations for five consecutive years, from 2009 to 2013. The final decision will be made at the end of this month.

It is common practice for schools to assign research grants or base salaries on such assessments, though this marks the first instance in which a university has officially penalized its professors based on the evaluations.

The university’s disciplinary committee may give out an official reprimand to those who have been referred to the panel, reduce their salaries, dismiss or expel them.

Chung-Ang University said the four professors were tenured until their retirement age of 65 and were each affiliated with different departments.

“According to evaluation standards, receiving the lowest grade for five years in a row means that they have not completed any thesis work for at least three years,” an official with the university explained. “We decided to send them to the disciplinary committee because they have not put in the minimum effort when students are paying expensive tuition fees to study here.”

Following a revision to a Chung-Ang University bylaw at the end of last year, a professor may be punished based on his or her annual evaluation.

The revision was driven by the board of directors of the university’s foundation, who argued that teachers should be subject to intense scrutiny, casting away the notion that professorships were secure.

Revisions to professorial regulations were anticipated after Doosan Corporation, the holding company for Korea’s 12th-largest conglomerate Doosan, joined the university’s foundation in 2008, when Chairman of the Board Park Yong-seong vowed that he would see to an overall restructuring of the university, except for its name. Park is also the chairman of Doosan Heavy Industries and Construction.

The professorial evaluation is a part of the renovation plan. Each year, instructors are given grades of S, A, B or C based on their research, lectures and volunteer work. The highest grade, S, is given only to the top 5 percent, with A’s given to next top 20 percent. The rest receive B or C grades, although those who meet minimum research requirements receive a B grade.

For humanities professors, the minimum research requirement states that they must submit at least one thesis per year to the National Research Foundation. For engineering professors, it is one thesis every two years to the Science Citation Index, and for medical professors, it is one thesis every three years to the Science Citation Index.

According to the data released by Chung-Ang University, nine professors have received C grades for four consecutive years and 24 have received C grades for two consecutive years. The university has offered differing salaries based on the evaluation, and even warned professors with the lowest scores about potential penalties.

The disciplinary action at Chung-Ang University is unprecedented. Currently, no other universities punish their tenured professors based on their annual evaluations.

Seoul National University restricts promotions and bonuses according to evaluation results, and Yonsei University and Korea University view them only as a reference and do not hand out any reprimands based on that data.

“In some fields, it takes two to three years to complete a thesis,” said a professor at Chung-Ang University who requested anonymity. “Implementing disciplinary action regardless of the characteristics of each field of study is just applying a corporate personnel system to a university, and it can be very dangerous.”

BY LEE SANG-HWA [bongmoon@joongang.co.kr]





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