This past spring, a victim of sexual assault posted a hand-written poster at the Autonomous Library in Humanities Building in Seoul Campus. The victim allegedly wanted incident to be made public, along with a series of sexual harassment chats uncovered in a group chat room shortly thereafter. However, the alleged assailant of sexual assault finished his last semester without any in-school punishment while the victim grew tired of waiting for disciplinary action to take place and found off-school facilities to seek alternative help. Feeling a grave sense of responsibility, The Argus sought to take positive steps for the betterment of its school and people.
Problems that HUFSans face
Heavy workload and the delay of the OGSI
The Office of Gender & Sexuality Issues (OGSI) is a school-based counseling facility for HUFSans. However, it is not an independent consulting office but a subordinate facility of the Student Counseling Center. The office has to function in both fields under a heavy workload as a gender consulting office and as a branch of the center at the same time.
Hence, the OGSI has to take up consulting activities for not only regular HUFS personnel, but also graduates, part-time instructors and even professors. Moreover, the additional workload from the center, like campus violence prevention for freshmen, sex education, and basic safety drills has been pushed upon the office.
Officers and consultants of the OGSI have to manage responsibilities from two fields, suffering from a heavy workload, when an on-campus sexual assault occurs. This produces an unacceptable delay in sexual assault management procedures. While it absolutely is a top priority for the OGSI to deal with investigations, these delays cause both the victim and potential disciplinary actions to be subjugated to an uncertain fate.
According to a report from Hankook Ilbo, a local newspaper which covered the sexual assault case, consultants of the OGSI had to participate in a “Sex Crime Probe Committee” as an assistant administrator. Hence, the consultant did not have sufficient time to take care of the victim, which ultimately led the victim to seek alternative help off-campus.
Repeated on-campus sex crimes
Sexual assault is a chronic disease for universities. Nevertheless, it is also true that sexual assaults are not rooted out at the same time.
During the last presidency, the Ministry of Education published “Sex Crimes in Universities from 2009 to 2013,” in which the index indicates that sex crimes are chronically increasing in researched universities.
Although members of universities may wean their attention away from sexual assaults, the passage of time makes things even worse, and the amount of attention about whether the assailant-nominee was punished or graduated without disciplinary actions decreases.
For instance, the hand-written poster which was uploaded in the Autonomous Library of HUFS Facebook account got roughly 1,400 likes and reactions in a single day, a significant number by any measure; however their attention began to fizzle out over time.
According to self-led survey of The Argus, 29 responders out of 30 said, “The attention of HUFS members, including regular HUFSans, wear off with the passage of time.”
“I wish we had an independent, student-led field of debate like the ancient Greek Agora, in which we can unite and make our voices heard because diminishing attention results from the non-existence of such places,” said Goh Eun-yul, Business Administration ‘16.
Possibility of Secondary Harm
In most on-campus sexual assaults, there is a very high possibility that the victim and assailant are acquaintances, or even closer.
Secondary Harm means re-victimization of the primary victim who is already suffering from physical/mental damage and having trouble in daily life, academic activities, business, and interpersonal relationships. Most Secondary Harm comes from the spreading of rumors.
Luckily, there is no confirmed Secondary Harm this year on campus. However, if the harm took place at HUFS, as was the case at other universities, the primary victims are exposed to the harm without any protection.
For instance, there was a re-victimization case confirmed at Sogang University in April, 2016. Constant and deliberate retaliation toward the victim was found; thus, the assailant’s profile was made public partially to protect the victim. If an identical incident took place in HUFS, there is a horrible possibility that the victim would not receive any pre-emptive protection.
Causes of problems
Shortage of Consultants
Each campus has four staffs in their Student Counseling Center. Among these employees, only one of them is a gender consultant.
It is a common trait of universities, including HUFS, that they do not have enough gender consultants, taking the number of overall student enrollment into account.
The Gyeonggido Family and Women Research Institute released a report “Research on Universities’ Sex Crime Prevention and Responses,” in which details indicate that out of 52 universities in Gyeonggi Province, only eight of them have gender-expertise consultants.
The other 44 universities have regular consultants, include sex and gender issues in their roles, and sometimes even administrative employees are responsible for gender consultation.
No organizations specializing in sexual assaults
HUFS does not have student-led gender and sexuality institutions. It is for certain that the idea of “Agora,” to exchange free discussions and opinions, could be an essential measure to both engage and keep members’ eyes on these issues.
According to HUFS Regulations for On-campus Sex Crime Prevention and Procedure, the Sex Crime Probe Committee gets convened when a sex crime is confirmed. However, only two out of the 11 committee members are affiliated with HUFS: the president of General Student Council (GSC) and a female representative of women.
The Autonomous Library under GSC or an online anonymous message deliverer “HUFS Bamboo” could function as the aforementioned Agora solution at present. However, the library does not have campaigns covering the full-scale unity of all HUFS students. Moreover, HUFS Bamboo has its own innate drawbacks, like administrator censorship, since it is a website with anonymity which can lead to irresponsible expressions and public discontent.
A student-centered, sex crime-expertise institution would tremendously help to maintain constant vigilance on understated or forgotten issues.
For instance, the Autonomous Library played a key role in making the sex assault incident come to light on campus at first. However, the hand-written poster does not get as much attention nowadays as it used to, even though it was posted in one of the most frequented hallways at HUFS.
Twenty-one respondents out of 30 agreed that “Attention diminishes over time because there is no pivotal figure to make HUFS members constantly vigilant on issues in the past.”
“I absolutely think we need a student-majority institution which can serve HUFS members by functioning as a central institution especially when it comes to on-campus sex crimes,” said Chae Seung-hee, Department of Malay-Indonesian ‘16.
Solutions that HUFSans need
Procure more gender consultants and an independent counseling center
HUFS consultants fail to match the student population at a proper ratio and further have to take up additional work hours from the Student Counseling Center concurrently. It is therefore necessary for the school to hire more gender consultants.
Most of the universities in Seoul have gender-expertise facilities independent from general consultation offices, with a larger workforce pairing allocated.
For example, Seoul National University has its Sexual Harassment and Violence Counseling Department independent from the general Human Rights Counseling Department. The gender counseling department has the same status as the general counseling department, having four consultants.
Also, Sogang University, with a student population similar to that of HUFS, has its Counseling Center for Gender Equality independent from general counseling services with three consultants in it.
“Since the separation of gender counseling and general counseling signifies the importance of gender issue experts, there are possible benefits when it comes to budgeting and workload separation,” said an assistant who required anonymity at Counseling Center for Gender Equality of Sogang University.
Gender issue consultants at HUFS are heavily outnumbered when compared to other universities; hence additional procurement of gender consultants is crucial.
Student-majority, gender expertise institution
HUFS desperately needs larger infrastructure in which student-led institutions could help the victim of sexual assault, systematically and psychologically at the same time.
A student-centered figure which is capable of providing an Agora-like opinion exchange and students’ unity is required, like Yonsei University’s Female Council.
The council was initially formed to protect female students’ rights. It now engages in the prevention of sexual assault and the protection of sexual assault victims, by issuing its own Response Manuals for Student Representatives and systematic, psychological support for victims.
School institutions are always under certain regulations and protocols, which can delay the entire procedure. Hence, student-centered, gender expertise facilities are expected to provide effective and efficient support without red tape.
“I hope a Female Students’ Committee rises again. It was an organization that worked to counsel victims of sexual assault and to make a university where both genders are equal,” said Lee Sang-hyun, a member of HUFS feminist club “Judi” in the previous interview with The Argus.
Like other student councils of universities in Korea, HUFS also had the Female Students’ Committee under the GSC in the past. She, however, said that it was not managed well and disappeared around the year 2010.
“There is no organization that helps and supports to eradicate sexual violence as a student council as of now. I strongly support its revival,” she added.
After-settlement support for victims and assailant handling
Universities share a fair amount of responsibility for actions taking place within them; thus additional support for victims and assailant handling after settlement need to be reinforced.
Hanyang University’s “Regulations for the Prevention and Handling Procedures of Sex Crimes” says in its Article 9 that, “The provision of prevention policies and victim protection is a duty for a relevant conciliation committee.”
However, the HUFS regulation defines the responsibilities of the OGSI as follows: Receive reports and provide counseling services, protection of victims of primary harm, report to relevant institutions if necessary, investigation of assailant-nominees, public relations for sex education campaigns and research sex crime cases. The HUFS regulation does not specify “After-settlement support for victims” as its role.
“Systematic infrastructure which is capable of providing physical, psychological support has to be available on campus,” the Korean Women’s Development Institute wrote in its research report “Research for the Betterment of Systems for Universities’ Sex Crimes.”
“It is important not to consider everything as being settled with punishment. Minimum punishment has to be set, while giving the assailant-nominee a chance to reduce or lighten his or her disciplinary actions,” it added. Hence, both the rehabilitation of victims and correction of assailants has to be established.
The report also stressed that, assailant handling after the primary settlement has to be reinforced.
Yonsei University has its own regulations which enables the university to take pre-emptive action in order to protect victims from secondary harm. “Detailed Regulations for the Prevention and Handling Procedures of Sex Crimes” says in its Article 13 Section 4, “Student Welfare Center can make a sex crime incident open to the public with the assailant-nominee in anonymity, to raise awareness of sex crimes to its members if necessary.”
“Considering the multiple conviction rate of sex crimes, assailant-nominees’ after-settlement management criteria has to be reinforced, and I also want HUFS regulations to follow the aforementioned research report,” said Chae.
Universities are often called an “ivory tower of knowledge” in Korean society. “Ivory” means that parents have to pay a great amount of money for this higher education and exposure to higher thinking, by selling their priceless livestock. After seeing what has and is still happening on campus, values and moral codes that a university diploma carries are losing their meaning.
Of course, sexual assault has never been rooted out in any part of the globe, and a university can never be exempt from it. However, the ivory tower of knowledge which grows the future of a country has a heavy moral responsibility to at least make the utmost effort to sever itself from chronic diseases. In order to not be trapped in vice, every member of HUFS, including staff and administrators, has to take part in making the collegiate environment better for all.
Reporter of Campus Section