On December 1, the KAIST Times hosted a conference with Yeong Deuk Cho and Sungjin Han, the candidates for the next Undergraduate Student Council (USC) president and vice president positions respectively, to hold a platform for discussion on their policies. All students were invited to participate in this conference, whether to ask questions or to simply listen to the candidates’ stances and thoughts on how to improve the school. The KAIST Herald also attended the event, and was part of an official three-person panel that focused on asking specific questions about the details of their plans. This article delves into the questions we personally asked, which revolved around how PUUM, the new USC administration, will cater to the minorities of the campus, especially the international students.
PUUM, as explained on its official Facebook page, is a pun on two different definitions — to embrace and to solve — of the same Korean word. With the vice president hopeful coming out as a sexual minority on his personal Facebook profile last month, PUUM has pushed for an inclusive campaign with their slogan “embrace all, embrace happiness”. In their campaign booklet, the candidates outlined the nine main aspects of their platform: “cultural projects”, “desirable campus”, “creating a pleasant environment”, “communication projects”, “respect for student rights and diversity”, “social participation”, “improvement of undergraduate policy”, “improvement of student society”, and improvement of “international student society”. Many of these policies correctly address issues that the student population has had these past few years: limiting non-KAISTians access to the campus, creating a mobile version of student IDs, more cultural events, more transparency, changes to credit policies for undergraduate students, and more openness to the minorities and diversity of the KAIST community.
However, one cannot help but notice the difference between the attention given to some minorities and that given to the international community. The candidates cited K’loud’s English translation program — which is just a new Facebook page translating some of the original USC posts — to be a progressive step towards integrating the international community throughout the panel. However, when there are still posts tagged with announcements such as “This announcement is not translated because there are no international student winners,” and the page itself has had no significant outreach with only 73 likes, all progress is rendered meaningless. A lack of specific policies to help the international students was also evident with their answers to our panel questions.
What will the new Undergraduate Student Council do to ensure it embraces international students on Orientation Night and other welcoming events for the freshmen class?
Han: The freshmen events we usually talk about are mostly for the spring admission students, and it is unfortunately true that we have not been able to give a lot of our attention to the fall admission students. However, I feel we have started to embrace the fall admission students with our English translation program, and we will work closely with the Freshmen Student Committee to make further steps to include them.
During the controversy with the School of Humanities and Social Science’s decision to limit the size of Korean- taught classes, was there any effort to survey the opinions of the international students on K’loud’s disapproval of the decision?
Han: Unfortunately, it is true there was not. This is why I feel we must take steps to fully integrate the international students into our society.
If you thought that integration was important, may we know why there was no such effort?
Han: I believe we must cooperate and work together. I do not think there should be tension between the Korean and international students because of a lack of humanities classes. We will try our best to work together with the department to increase the number of professors and diversify the classes we have currently to meet the expectations of the students.
There are many international students that end up disappointed after coming to KAIST, falsely led by its claims of its “international atmosphere” and “100% English-taught classes”, which could not be further from the truth. It seems there must be serious changes to KAIST’s atmosphere and marketing to solve this issue. What are your thoughts on this?
Cho: I think the advertising should be realistic. Therefore, phrases such as “100% English-taught classes” should be removed until there are long-term efforts to make it true.
One can only hope that the two candidates, if elected, keep their promise to collaborate with KISA and remember to come up with some actual solutions to further integrate the international community into the KAIST society.