▲Empty library at CUK During COVID-19
COVID-19 has a negative effect on people's lives and the educational environment of students. The Catholic University of Korea has considered students’ hardships by implementing an absolute evaluation system in the first semester and installing cameras in each classroom for the second semester to improve the quality of online education for students. However, despite the university’s efforts, students and CUK are still struggling with CUK’s operating system.
(1) Online-Offline Parallel Classes
▲CUK’s announcement of its operation method for classes (CUK homepage)
Prior to the opening of the second semester, CUK announced that the second semester's classes will be held both online and offline.
Parallel class: Students will take online lectures and offline classes at the same time. In addition, to prevent infections, only classes with less than 30 students will be held on campus.
However, university officials have delayed opening the campus to offline class meetings due to the mass infections connected to the Sarangjeil-church(사랑제일교회) in Seoul on August 13, the Gwanghwamun protests on August 15, and the subsequent spread of the virus throughout the Seoul metropolitan area. In response, CUK students expressed their thoughts about parallel classes on CUK homepage’s sinmungo(신문고), saying holding parallel classes is not safe these days. Due to CUK students’ concerns, the university reflected the serious situation of COVID-19 and decided as follows:
<Modification in teaching method of CUK>
CUK’s Notification on August 21th: The first week of classes of the second semester will be held online. After the first week, parallel class will be conducted, and, then only classes with under ten students can participate in the offline class.
CUK’s Notification on August 27th: Lectures that need to do experiments or practice will be held offline. Theory classes will do the parallel classes after October 5. If social distancing is increased to level 3, all classes will be changed to online lectures.
An anonymous student— (English Literature and Culture department 19)—said she was very fortunate that the school announced the changed date of offline classes earlier. "Even if COVID-19 gets better afterward, I think maintaining online class is the right behavior. Taking the rotation parallel class with only 10 students is not very efficient,” she said. She added that if there is an online class after the offline class, there is no proper space for the students to take the class. Choi Jae-hyuk (English Literature and Culture Department 18) also expressed his concerns, saying “When students have online class right after the offline class, they will gather in cafes or school clubs. Then the school's efforts, limiting the number of students in offline classes to implement social distancing will eventually go down the drain.”
(2) The unresolved issue of tuition return
▼Student council Parang asked students to do the survey about returning of tuition fee
According to CUK student president Parang, most of the students thought they had a low quality of classes in the first semester, and they demanded the return of tuition fees through the student council. The issue had been on-going since the middle of the first semester. For the sake of students’ rights, student council Parang demonstrated with other universities’ student councils and had a meeting with university’s president Won Jong-chul to ask the university to return the tuition fees. However, such efforts did not receive a positive response from the university. Instead, CUK announced on August 24 that it would give 100,000 won in scholarships to students who took classes during the first COVID-19 semester.
Still, several universities across the country have not yet received either scholarships or tuition fees. CUK students thanked the university for paying 100,000 won scholarships. However, since then, Konkuk, Dongguk University and a few more universities had a conversation with students and decided to give back a certain portion of tuition fees, other CUK students expressed dissatisfaction with the decision to provide scholarships that did not reflect students' intentions. Eun-seo, (Department of Consumer & Housing 19), said, “This makes no sense to give students back the same amount of money, while they are paying different levels of tuition fees.”
(3) Dormitory problems
In the first semester, when CUK continuously delayed the offline opening of classes due to COVID-19, CUK dormitory did not immediately announce whether the date of the dormitory will be postponed. Besides, a notice regarding the return of dormitory fees has been delayed too. In response, the students criticized the dormitory for its late work and hoped they would have announced it earlier in the second semester. Despite the wishes of these students, the second semester's dormitory management was no different from the first semester. And this led to more students' complaints.
About the way the dormitory is operated for the second semester, Lee said, "Dormitory announced that students should come to the dorm this Friday, but it's impossible to join the dormitory with hundreds of confirmed students a day.” Also, she said that an infected student came out of Hanyang University's dormitory, adding “I don't think the dormitory is considering students’ safety in COVID-19, since students have to use the room with other roommates.”
In addition, in Everytime, the university online community, students complained about the dormitory system by comparing it to other universities’ dormitory system. According to Ihwa-Women University and the Catholic University of Theology, students, who are about to live in the dorm, were required to do COVID-19 testing. Also, they assigned one student to one room. Hereupon, CUK students said, “Those responses are essential these days, but why is our university not showing consideration for our safety?"
"All university students should be guaranteed the right to safety and education. As CUK’s ideology is "respecting human beings," I hope they will make a better choice, considering students so that all of the CUK students can study safely."
-Interview with Lee Eun-seo-
A changing school system is inevitable as the COVID-19 crisis continues. However, as they have already experienced the situation once in the first semester, students want a more flexible school response. Although CUK has created a better learning environment in response to the COVID-19 situation than they did last semester, it is also true that some of the measures taken by the university are not meeting students’ expectations. The university should communicate with students, including the student council, and put more effort into ensuring a safe second semester for all CUK students.