|President-elect Jaeseok Lee and Vice President-elect Jinung An of BADCHIM discuss their pledges
On November 25, the results for the 2018 KAIST Undergraduate Student Council General Election were revealed, announcing the new Undergraduate Student Council (USC) for 2018, BADCHIM. Having won with 1585 votes (78.58%), candidates Jaeseok Lee (Matriculating Class of 2015) and Jinung An (Matriculating Class of 2016) will be the USC President and Vice President, respectively, starting in March.
BADCHIM detailed their mission and agenda a week before the elections at the Conference for Candidates hosted by the KAIST USC Central Election Commission and run by the KAIST Times, held at the Creative Learning Building (E11) on November 15.
The candidates launched the conference with an overarching mission: “BADCHIM will be here for your happiness.” The theme of happiness interwove strongly throughout their pledges, with an intent focus on individual and minority rights, mental health, and open communication. To address the most contentious matters first, the candidates scrutinized President Shin’s policies on the English Only Zone (EOZ) and the proposed Transdisciplinary Major (refer to Volume 158 of The KAIST Herald). Though the EOZ proposal has been delayed indefinitely, Lee stated that they will assess the requirements and the budget put forth by the school and hold a hearing to effectively deliver the students’ opinions to the administration. Also, they promised to hold at minimum three hearings on the Transdisciplinary track, which many students vocally stated was an irresponsibly rushed plan.
Continuing in PUUM’s footsteps, BADCHIM ascertained a campus for all, with ensured rights for individual happiness. Lee and An projected numerous proposals: conducting the Mental Health Awareness Campaign, improving infrastructure, increasing the number of professional counselors, extending the Counseling Assistant (CA) position to undergraduates, and facilitating the Stress Clinic reservation system. The newly established KAIST Student & Minority Human Rights Committee (SMHRC), which belongs to the USC, attended as a main panelist and was also the keystone of such human rights policies. It demanded that the USC dig deeper into the rather nebulous idea of “happiness” and to take a more active role in cracking the specific disadvantages faced by minorities every day.
The candidates highlighted the active steps that the USC will take for structural human rights improvement with stipulation of dynamic collaboration with the SMHRC. The committee suggested providing Halal/ vegan options during official USC events and ensuring easier accessibility for the disabled during the KAIST Art and Music Festival (KAMF) through the formation of a task force. According to their proposal, they would also mandate the inclusion of human rights education in Freshmen Programs and would dedicate roughly 7,000,000 KRW to monitoring illegal hidden cameras in bathrooms to protect student privacy. BADCHIM aspired for engaged discussions involving all parties related to minority rights to find a compromise that protects the voices of the minorities without diminishing those of the majority.
The main objective of BADCHIM, however, lied in mental health support. They pursued the extension of the CA program, which connects students with those of similar ages, to “lower the hurdle on the topic of mental health”. They revealed that the budget will be provided by the Counseling Center. According to BADCHIM, the center’s seven counselors are bogged down by workload; the candidates hoped to resolve the overload by hiring more professionals, which will also allow a dedicated employee in charge of the CA program. For dynamic cooperation for all such pursuits, BADCHIM stated that a representative for the SMHRC, a role previously assumed by the current vice president Sungjin Han, with the authority of a USC head will be included in the Central Executive Committee.
In regards to cultural events, the candidates wished to reinforce the annual KAIST-POSTECH Science War by holding discussions with students about the meager participation during the competition. Implementations of the solutions for complaints regarding visitors disturbing the academic environment during such events, such as creating temporary parking spaces, are still in deadlock since their inception during PUUM’s term.
As previous Heads of Student Welfare and Communication respectively, Lee and An suggested several ventures to improve student welfare. After the Undergraduate Dormitory Council (UDC) disbanded after a misappropriation scandal, the upkeep of dormitories faltered. They proposed placing more amenities such as printers and dryers by reestablishing UDC with transparent spending. Also, the renewal of the abandoned USC website was mentioned, to not only centralize the flow of information, but also set up an online checking system for services at places such as the Undergraduate Branch Library (N10) that have to be checked manually. They wished to revive the website by the end of winter break earliest. They stated that the website and the checking system will create a positive feedback loop for a greater dissemination of information among the students.
BADCHIM’s Election Pledge dedicated a section for international student issues, especially regarding the translation of official documents and announcements. The candidates have decided to officially mention the recently founded Translation Monitoring Committee in the USC Constitution and to create the Communication Internationalization Committee to iron out the translation process. However, some students criticized that the pledge itself and the amended USC Constitution lacked proper translation, and that the decision to translate only the title for “international-irrelevant articles” forecast a subjective determination of information distribution. An replied that with limited resources, title-limited translation was inevitable for efficiency’s sake, and that it was a necessary, albeit still insufficient, step for assimilating the international community. In addition, they promised to fully translate the constitution before the spring semester begins.
But the more fundamental issue of international representation — currently absent in the USC — dominated the floor. The failed merger between KISA and the USC resulted in international students paying the student fees but lacking direct representation. Lee and An asserted that voting rights and accessibility will be key for international participation, and stated that they will promote an environment that welcomes international students’ contributions.
As for the increased budget from the collected fees, Lee vowed that the upsurge will be reflected in their policies. The emphasis, they stated, “should be on assuring that the international students enjoy the cultural events and receive important announcements at the same level as that of the Korean students.” They offered the inclusion of international students on the KAMF stage as one of the examples towards international participation in USC events, but ended the response regarding the budget with, “We will have to discuss more in depth about the specifics of the budget increase and allocation.”
Finally, the necessity and the lack of two-way, responsive communication between the USC and the international community stood out as a prolonging dilemma. An admitted that current communication was much wanting, and stated that the problem has to be solved one step at a time. When asked whether they consulted with any international students when drafting the pledge, they answered that they met with the USC’s International Secretariat, which has no international students, and conferred with feedback from members of the Language Exchange Program.
As PUUM draws to a close, Lee and An now prepare for a long marathon of important policy decisions and equal student representation. BADCHIM has many existing complications to untangle, especially with the recent conflicts between the student body and the president concerning his policies. The students now must wait and see how the specific blueprints to improve the community will effectively reflect their belief — that each and every KAISTian deserves to be happy.