2020-05-28 20:43 (Thu)
Sleeping on the Job? Dormitory Scandal Hits KAIST
Sleeping on the Job? Dormitory Scandal Hits KAIST
  • Kun-Woo Song Staff Reporter
  • Approved 2017.05.03 22:14
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On March 26, during the undergraduate student representative meeting, KAIST’s Undergraduate Student Council Auditing Committee submitted a job inspection report on the Undergraduate Student Dormitory Council (USDC). The report revealed a series of actions by the USDC that shocked the KAIST community.

Through the report, the auditing committee drew five main malfeasances by the USDC: misuse of power given by the position of the members despite the lack of representation; failure to inform fellow students about the Student Life Committee and the decisions made by that certain committee; one-way communication on the topic of the dormitory fee hike; lack of transparency in the USDC’s budget use; and pay raises for the members along with several uninformed benefits such as trips to foreign universities, rewards, and retreats. On the first point, the auditing committee outlined the USDC’s method of choosing its members and executives; members are chosen through interviews with the executives chosen by the existing members. The auditing committee claimed that the closed and undemocratic system did not allow for an adequate representation of the students’ interests. Because of such an absence, there was no clear communication between the student body and the USDC and no relaying of students’ opinions to the Student Life Committee, which ultimately resulted in an abrupt one-way announcement from USDC to the students on the 10,000 KRW dormitory fee rise. On the other hand, within the council, the lack of transparency in budget use resulted in substantial amount used for purposes that seemed unnecessary and improper. The pay for the members doubled from that of 2015. A trip to Singapore was organized in January to visit two universities and their dormitories. However, out of the six days, only eight hours was used for that actual purpose. Also, executives and members received rewards for being outstanding members; the nominations for the rewards were made exclusively and secretively within the council.

The day after the report, USDC released an apology statement addressing the main wrongdoings by the council such as its misuse of budget, the Singapore trip, rewards, and its passive response to the dormitory fee raise. With regards to the budget, the USDC claimed that it was unaware that its budget was from the fees paid by students. As for the trip, the USDC clarified how its plan was changed abruptly after it could not contact one of the universities. On these four problems, the USDC apologized for its negligence and lack of awareness. Nonetheless, the apology, which was posted on Facebook, was met with harsh criticisms pointing out how the statement did not read as an apology but rather as a list of excuses and a restatement of well-established facts.

Meanwhile, the Undergraduate Student Council (USC), PUUM, proceeded to interview the dean of student policy to request disclosure of the full use of the dormitory management budget. However, through the intervention of the Graduate Student Dormitory Council (GSDC), the Graduate Student Council President, and the previous and current student welfare services team leader in the interview, PUUM reported that the topic of the interview strayed away from its original intent into other topics such as collateral damage to the GSDC and the accuracy of the audit committee’s report. Unable to request the records of budget usage, PUUM directly contacted the Student Welfare Services Team for the budget plans and records, but to no avail. However, it did manage to receive a seat at the Student Life Committee, enabling the students to be represented more accurately. In April 1, the undergraduate student council established a special investigation committee for dormitory management in response to the school adamantly refusing to release the budget records. A team of 16 people, the committee pledged to rid of any corruption within dormitory management and to take an active stance on the investigation.

Due to this situation’s uncanny resemblance to the current Korean political turmoil, the scandal sparked large amounts of debate on the KAIST Facebook bamboo grove with people scrutinizing members of the USDC and a few arguing that the system itself was at fault; not the members. However as of now, the school administration still has no response despite requests for the exact budget usage history and no official progress has been reported by the special investigation committee after a week into its founding. Some worry that with the approach of KAIST Art and Music Festival (KAMF) and midterm exams, people may start to forget about the severity of the incident — a mistake that will cost the whole student body the justice that it longs for and deserves.

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