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[Editorial] Universities Want Their Freedom Back

Posted July. 19, 2005 03:22,   


Universities are voicing their demands for the return of their autonomy. Universities’ rights to autonomy and freedom to learn are enshrined in clauses 31 and 22 of the Constitution, respectively. But autonomy is not realized in universities. Now that the government is attempting to strip universities of autonomy to give essay tests for admission, universities are venting their anger in despair.

The Korean association of national and public university professors, which consists of professors from 45 national and public universities nationwide, pointed out at an extraordinary general meeting yesterday that “the government’s education policy infringes on university autonomy and the freedom to study.” The Seoul National University professors’ association criticized the government harshly in its statement yesterday, saying, “Taking autonomy away from universities, the autonomy or the spirit of ivory towers which is enshrined in the Constitution, means the destruction of universities and learning.”

Their statement clearly demonstrates their strong determination that they would no longer wait and see regarding a series of government attempts to control universities such as intervening in Seoul National University’s admissions policy. Chung Un-chan, the president of SNU, reconfirmed at a meeting yesterday that he stood firm on his admission policy and condemned what he called the government’s attempt to standardize universities as it did with high schools.

The Korean association of national and public university professors announced that it would react strongly against government intervention, calling the recent controversy over SNU admission policy “an attempt to politicize the university’s genuine educational reform measures and infringe on its autonomy.” The association is also opposed to the government’s plan to commission the election of presidents of national and public universities to the National Election Committee, condemning it as another infringement on university autonomy. Depriving universities of the right to elect their presidents is equivalent to denying their self-rule and democratic spirit.

It is remarkable that professors stood up to call the government’s attempts a “violation of the constitution” or “unconstitutional.” The SNU professors’ association called some education policies unconstitutional. And the Korean association of national and public university professors announced that it would bring its case against the government before the constitutional court over the government’s plan about the election of university presidents. They intend to create a forum to review whether the government’s control over universities and its monopoly on education are constitutional. It believes that the trend has become stronger under president Roh’s watch.

It is understood that professors are resorting to the Constitution to defend universities, education and their intellectual endeavors from the government’s attack. The government and some ideological educational civic groups should realize that it is fair to give universities the freedom and autonomy they deserve.