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Grad students present professors refreshment gifts to curry favor in thesis review

Grad students present professors refreshment gifts to curry favor in thesis review

Posted June. 19, 2017 07:12,   

Updated June. 19, 2017 07:40

The anti-graft act is already in effect but the practice in which students present gifts to reviewers of their degree theses is still rampant. Of course, providing expensive entertainment service such as dining at a luxury hotel is impossible to find. Instead, students are giving professors refreshment giftsets en masse during the thesis review period. Professors who give students grade points or review dissertations for academic degrees are not allowed by law to receive a gift, regardless of its value, from the students.

The price of refreshments giftsets designed for thesis reviewers, which a company in Seoul’s Songpa district is selling, ranges from 10,500 won (9.26 U.S. dollars) to 35,000 won (31 dollars) apiece. The set is comprised of sandwiches, fruits, macaron, and high-end beverages. A company in Gwangmyeong, Gyeonggi Province, is also selling a refreshments giftset that contains rice cake, almond and muffin. These gifts are ordered en masse during thesis review season, and students have to place order two to three weeks in advance. Up until last year, it was widely considered norm that a box of refreshments marked with a professor’s name was delivered to the professor. However, since the effectuation of the anti-graft act, the professor’s name has all but disappeared from the box of refreshments. “A box of refreshments costing 30,000 won (26 dollars) is most popular. Since we have received all orders that we can deliver, we cannot take more orders through June 23,” a source at a company said.

Graduate students who cannot afford have to prepare gifts by themselves by visiting different places, rather than placing order through a professional agency. Some of them place order to make desert specifically catering to professor’s taste, or buy grocery and prepare a box of handmade refreshments by themselves. Except for several schools that pay students the refreshment expense, most students pay the expense out of their own pocket. If a student has to have his or her thesis paper reviewed by a team of professors, he or she ends up paying 100,000 won (88 dollars) singlehandedly. “I asked my department office for refreshment expense, only to get disappointed upon hearing that students will have to pay by themselves," a 27-year-old graduate student said.  

Graduate students are highly keen on preparing quality refreshments for professors because whether their theses will pass or fail is fully determined by professors. If a student’s thesis fails to pass, his or her graduation and employment will inevitably be delayed in tandem, and hence graduate students have no choice but to be wary of professors’ taste. In the past, graduate students would spend hundreds of dollars on meals, refreshments, and gifts for professors during the thesis review period. For this reason, the Education Ministry instructed 240 universities nationwide to ban entertainment or gift for thesis review since the effectuation of the anti-graft act in September last year. “It is the reality even today that when we visit professor’s office to get advice on thesis, we cannot visit emptyhanded without any gift,” a graduate student said. 

The Anti-corruption and Civil Rights Commission concluded that even awarding a canned coffee or carnation flower to a teacher constitutes violation of the anti-graft act. “The mentor professor and graduate students are highly related in terms of business, and they are in relationship that entails constant eval‎uation, and presenting refreshments to the professor is violation of the anti-graft act,” a source at the commission said.