Standing up against sexual assaultSeoul National University’s (SNU) Student Council President Ju Mu-yeol explained on Tuesday the decision to establish a student and minorities’ human rights committee. “When sexual violence cases occur, students will launch investigations and research related cases to prevent further incidents,” he said.
SNU has been disgraced by a series of sex scandals involving professors. A professor in the department of vocal music was dismissed May last year on sexual assault charges. Another in the dental school was investigated by the police for forcibly kissing a student. A business school professor was found to have sexually harassed a student on a habitual basis. On May 14, a math science professor was sentenced to two and a half years in prison. Most were sexual violence cases in which the power dynamic between teachers and students was capitalized on by the professors.
A recent internal survey showed serious outcomes. A total of 33 students out of the 200 surveyed, or 16.5 percent, said they had experienced sexual violence. It is hard to describe the prestigious university as a hall of intelligence as a result.
“My mother called me from my hometown and asked me if I was doing alright at school,” said Ms. Choi, a business major senior. “She sounded very worried. I didn’t know what the school had been doing until then.”
Critics say the school administration’s delayed response aggravated the situation. The investigation was slow to begin after incidents were filed, and the aggressors were reprimanded later on. Even though the SNU human rights center is in operation, students are reluctant to report incidents there. The executives and review committee members of the center are mostly professors, so the students are not comfortable reporting sexual violence they suffered at the hands of other teachers. In fact, the victims of the Kang Seok-jin case reported the sexual abuse to the department student council, not the human rights center. The most that the university student council could do was demand the dismissal of the professors with allegations. That is why the students have gathered to defend their own rights.
The revision of the regulation to establish the human rights committee will be processed at the general student representatives meeting on May 28. It will be passed with the approval of two thirds of the representatives in attendance. The student council expects it to be passed smoothly.
It is a shame that college students who will lead the future of the nation suffer from sexual crimes by teachers even before they move on to society. Hopefully, the efforts of the SNU students will be able to get past the sexual abuse scandals.
The author is a national news reporter
of the JoongAng Ilbo.
JoongAng Ilbo, May 27, Page 33
by SOHN GUK-HEE