|▲ photo by S.G.B.S.|
At the end of October, the meeting of Academic Affairs and the Center Operating Student Committee (COSC) was held covertly to argue about the integration of two departments–the School of Integrated Knowledge and the School of Communication– and Graduate School of Media Communications. It was only after Nov. 20 that the reorganization of the two departments was disclosed to the public when the Undergraduate Student Council shared the details of the previous conference held on Nov. 7 through their Facebook page. And then the 6th student body council of the School of Integrated Knowledge “Galaxy” immediately uploaded a card news related to this agenda on their Facebook page. Since there has been no official notices from the school before, students were bewildered and expressed their dissent to the abrupt integration on Sogang online community sites, Sogang Bamboo Groove and Ssodam. In order to alleviate those complaints, the conference with the professors of the School of Integrated Knowledge and the School of Communication was held on Nov. 21 and Dec. 5. This hidden and premature integration of two departments reveals once again the school’s obstinacy to a lack of communication with students when conversation is truly essential.
Process of the Integration
According to an interview with Won Yong-jin (Prof., Dept of Communication), since Aug. 31, Executive Vice President Park Jong-gou and the former Vice President Lim Sang-woo asked for opinions of all professors in the three departments on the integration and showed consent on that issue. Officially, the Preparatory Committee for Reorganizing the Expansion of the School of Integrated Knowledge (지식융합학부확대개편준비위원회) composed of the former Vice President Lim Sang-woo, the dean of each departments, Kim Kyun and Prof. Won, and head of each departments was established on Sep. 26 to discuss the merge of the two departments by making an amendment. This committee proposed three agendas to the Academic Board (교학위원회):
1. Unify the School of Integrated Knowledge and the School of Communication and add the curriculum of Graduate School of Media Communications.
2. The new department has a total of four courses: two from the four tracks of the School of Communication and the other two from Art & Technology and Global Korean Studies each.
3. Unite the unit of admissions of three majors into one, and professors be affiliated to departments from their original majors.
To pass this amendment through the Academic Affairs Board (교무위원회) on Jan. 15, the Preparatory Committee for the Integration (융합학부설치준비위원회) which the Prof. Won is the head of was settled lately. For about a month, it has revised most of the details for the integration including the name for new department and its four courses. The amendment is planned to be introduced to the senate of Sogang before to the board in February. Afterwards, it is submitted to the Ministry of Education for permission. In accordance with the school’s plan, reorganization of the two departments is said to operate from 2018 and be applied to the freshmen entering in 2019. On Jan. 8, Academic Affairs announced that it is the School of Integrated Knowledge Media which has four majors: Journalism and Broadcasting, Digital Media & Entertainment, Global Korean, Art & Technology. The new name of the department is not confirmed yet and is prone to change through feedbacks from the students, staffs, and others.
What the Integration Aims for
The school explained that the merge of the two departments was proposed to prepare for “The 4th industrial revolution” and to solve the shortage of professors. They say that to respond to the rapidly changing society, the efforts to prepare for the era of fusion and convergence are indispensable in Sogang. In an interview with Prof. Won, as the digital media track of the School of communication is strongly related to the fundamental purpose of Art & Technology, the integration can achieve an education in response to the new era by sharing the classes such as data science or data journalism and professors of two departments. Moreover, it will reinforce Global Korean Studies’ comparatively weaker specialty in Korean culture through classes and professors in the School of Communication. Considering the Graduate School of Media Communications where the image and image engineering major are, four professors of engineering will be able to teach the Art & Technology students continually although it is abolished after the reorganization. That is, the integration helps each department find their own identities in unity as well as harmonize the differences between them. At the same time, it means the integration will make-up for insufficient teaching resources and complement a deficient infrastructure too.
Issues Derived from the Sudden Integration
•Absence of Communication Between the School and Students
Students of both departments were not provided with enough information about integration until it was revealed through the post on the Facebook page of Undergraduate Student Council and the 6th student body council of the School of Integrated Knowledge. Students said that there was little chance to speak out their opinions and obtain information about the reorganization, even in the following conferences on Nov. 21 and Dec. 5 and other small meetings. Furthermore, a conference for all students of the two departments was promised to be held within 2017, yet it was replaced by a representative meeting on Dec. 21-22, which ended up being canceled by the school. Only after two years, will the new integrated department be launched despite the prevailing disagreements toward the integration at present state. Given the rapid pace of the procedure, school’s failure to communicate with students will bring serious problems to Sogang after the integration.
•No Certain Answers from the School
As explained by a student in Art & Technology, the main concern of the students in relevant departments is whether their curriculum would be guaranteed as scheduled upon their admissions. It is obvious that the new curriculum will be complicated and remain tentative when combining the curriculum of the two departments. Once the integration is completed, all undergraduates of the new department will attend a common course in their freshman and sophomore years and then choose their major in their junior year. But students still have not been informed of what will be included or shared during common courses. Yet the school is going to settle the admission policy first before deciding the curriculum, filling students with worry. Students in Art & Technology were concerned of the possibility that the number of the elective courses would be reduced after integration. Hence they will lose the classes they had planned to take. The situation for Global Korean Studies is worse. It barely shares similarities with the other two faculties–the School of Communication and Art & Technology–, so there is not much for Global Korean Studies students to learn for their major. When Japanese Culture was abolished in 2013, the school promised to assure the curriculum, but it was not followed. At that time, this was also handled unilaterally by the school without sufficient discussion with students. As the present situation is similar to what happened to the department of Japanese Culture, students must become alert and firmly oppose to the integration to keep their major intact. In addition to the curriculum-related issues, some problems are left unsolved: How is the school going to gather the tuition fee? How are they going to arrange classrooms of two departments?
As the Joint Student Council of the School of Integrated Knowledge was created on Dec. 7, the former Task Force Team (TFT) was dismantled and the new TFT was reformed, followed by the establishment of the same TFT for the School of Communication. TFT is a specialized agency of Student Body Council which has autonomy to have an in-depth discussion and research about the merge. According to the heads of the two departments’ TFT, it consists of five teams which take charge of conferences, data, posters, promotion, and budget. They each demand a meeting, investigate the former integration cases of other schools, compile posters, survey the students of two departments and so on while constantly asking for a definite answer to the school. The common stances of two departments’ TFT for the integration are that the school has not actively reflected students’ opinion and that the discussion about the merge advanced too hastily ignoring students’ stances.
The reorganization of the School of Integrated Knowledge, the School of Communication and Graduate School of Media Communications is not a matter of simple pros and cons. With the unexpected integration, Sogangers once more experience the communication breakdown in Sogang. Students cannot stop doubting whether the choice of the school is really for the future of Sogang and Sogangers. If the goal of integration is genuinely to develop the expertise of departments and students for the new revolution, it should proceed after satisfactory dialogue with students takes place. But currently, it is in progress without sufficient conversation with students who are questioning why the merging is necessary. Moreover, because of lack in communication, unreliable rumors spread through Sogang online communities merely contributing to broadening the gap of opinion between the school and students. It seems that the school is also suffering from the damage due to an absence of communication. Consequentially, voices of Sogangers crying out for a delay of integration to allow enough time for rearrangement fill the school now. From now on, the school should listen attentively to the students’ voices to move on to a better Sogang.
By Kim Da-hyoun (Campus Reporter)