Admissions officers are denied respect
Mr. Kim, 38, is an admissions officer at a private university in Seoul, who has worked until 11 p.m. every day since mid-September, taking no holiday or weekend off. He has been busy grading personal statements and transcripts submitted by rolling admission applicants. When he heard about a teacher who received money from parents in return for fabricating applications, he said, “The admissions officers are also responsible for failing to catch dishonest conduct,” but added that he sometimes has to review more than 500 applications a month during admission season.
He is one of 714 admissions officers working at 133 colleges and universities in Korea. The Korean Council for University Education recommends each officer review 300 applications, but 55 percent of schools have their admissions officers handle more than this. Last year, each officer at Seoul National University reviewed 741 applicants. The average annual salary for these workers, who have master’s or doctoral degrees, was 36.12 million won ($ 33,868), and 65 percent are irregular employees.
Another admissions officer at a regional college, a 36-year-old surnamed Lee, said he is often given tasks that are not in his job description. Kim Kyung-sook, an admissions officer at Konkuk University, said that universities need to realize that the role of the admissions officers becomes more important as admission based on overall transcript reports, including non-academic areas, is expanded.
The teacher and parents who fabricated a college application package for money are primarily responsible for the admission corruption scandal. However, admissions officers are also responsible for failing to spot the fabricated applications, leading to criticism of comprehensive transcripts.
Yangjae High School teacher Kim Jong-wu said it is regrettable that the comprehensive transcript admission method is perceived as an opportunity for corruption, when it actually helps schools properly educate students.
Jacques Steinberg, the education columnist for the New York Times, defined admissions officers as “social engineers” as they select students who fit the society that the college or university hopes to attain. However, admissions officers in Korea cannot become social engineers; their hands are tied as the Ministry of Education’s college admission paperwork reduction policy has reduced supporting documents or interviews. In order for admissions officers to do their job and leave no room for corruption, schools should be given the authority to review supporting documents, as well as the autonomy to select students, and should also put more effort into respecting the professionalism of these workers.
*The author is a national news writer of the JoongAng Ilbo. JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 13, Page 33
by KIM KI-HWAN