International students received an email that they could not comprehend. They were told that they would be charged with student fees starting from May. Collecting student fees has been a controversial and sensitive issue among international students because they were rarely informed of the services the Undergraduate Student Council (USC) provides; now they are being forced to pay. Starting from May, the USC claims to provide opportunities to international students to join the student council for representation, give them the right to be informed and allow them to participate in events held by the USC. The international students, however, are not fully convinced by the promises of the USC. The USC currently lacks information on the specific details on the policies. To fully justify the collection of student fees, the USC should collect fees after combining all the different organizations that provide services for the international students such as the KAIST International Students Association (KISA) and the International Students and Scholars Services (ISSS).
KAIST needs a unified student body that represents both international and Korean students. While the Korean students are represented by only the USC, international students receive aid and are represented by a variety of organizations such as KISA, ISSS, and the International Students and Scholars Academic Council (ISSAC). In the long-term, having a single representative organization allows Korean and international students to be represented under consistent policies. But currently, no student body represents both international and Korean students. What the USC is doing is currently in the wrong order. Equal representation is a prerequisite before collecting fees, but no foreigner belongs to the USC even as international students are due to start paying next month. Taxation without representation is what fueled the rage and dissent behind unrests like the American Revolution. Combining with the already functioning student body, KISA, should allow an efficient means to represent all of the student body rather than recruiting new inexperienced students. International students feel as if that they do not gain enough benefits for them to pay while some Korean students see international students were enjoying the benefits while being exempt from the fees from the USC. International students actually do receive services from the USC, but in reality all the funding comes from the Korean students’ fees. The cafeteria and the dorms are administered by the USC. School events such as the annual Strawberry Parties and the KAIST Art and Music Festival (KAMF) are also a part of the USC’s service. The problem is that the USC horribly fails at informing the international students of their countless efforts and projects. USC Facebook posts are liked rarely by foreigners and most of the posts are written only in Korean like most of the polls that address the direction of future policies . If the USC wants to collect fees from international students, they will have to make sure to provide all the materials and services they provide in English as well. But in reality, the amount of text to translate is beyond what the current USC can handle. Recruiting a few international students will not be sufficient either. The scale of the USC needs to grow significantly for them to represent all students. Absorbing the other international student bodies like KISA or ISSS that already work to alert the international students is required.
Communication is always an issue when combining two groups of people. The USC should focus on providing clear policies and transparent use of the student fees to convince both Koreans and foreigners. Collecting money and then thinking up policies and means to gather representation does not seem like a logical thought from the brightest minds of Korea. Promises and visions should be given before exploitation.