- The Two Sides Behind it
A HUFS Presidential election was held at the near end of last month, on Nov. 24. Among the eight highly competitive candidates from various departments, one was chosen to lead our university for four years. The new leader was warmly welcomed, especially by professors, who alone have exclusive voting rights to elect a new president. This indirect voting system in which only professors can vote is nothing new in Korea, and only recently have there been some changes. With Ewha Woman’s University leading the way, national universities are attempting to reflect student opinions in their future university president elections. Ewha Woman’s University switched to a direct election system on May 25, and elected their new leader, Kim. National universities, such as Seoul National University and Jeju National University, also shifted their perspectives toward a direct voting system as well, signing papers to reinforce that it will happen. Similar attempts have been made at HUFS as well. As the university presidential election drew near, the Emergency Planning Committee held a mock ballot at Seoul Campus from Nov. 8 to 14. The participation rate was at 16.9 percent, and The Argus heard students’ opinions on the current election system.
Current HUFS election system
The HUFS presidential election happens in two stages. First, the professors exercise their voting rights and vote for one candidate. After the voting is done, the two candidates with most votes and second most votes are suggested to the directorate. The directorate then chooses one candidate, usually the one with the most votes. Upon voting, the professors can only exercise one vote for one candidate and do so in secret under the Article 10 from the Council of Professors.
Why the EPC held the mock election
The EPC is in favor of direct voting with good reason. They represent the student body, and so they believe that in a democratic university, everyone should have the right to choose their president. In order to change this even a little bit, the EPC has announced that they are commencing a mock election. As with the result of the election, the EPC has revealed that they will share it with the directorate. The election was held on Nov. 7-9 and 13-14 at the main building, library, social science building, humanities building, and business management building.
Four years ago, HUFS still elected its president by an indirect system and there was a similar event that took place to change this system. The General Student Council held an online mock election in 2013 from Nov. 20 to 22. At this time, students’ indifference was a big problem. In 2013 there were approximately 8,900 students at HUFS. However, 1,316 students had registered to the site and only 271 voted.
I am in favor of the current election system. First, it seems that it is meaningless in the present situation to translate directly into the direct election system reflecting the students’ opinion. As of now, the student participation in school events is extremely low. Just by looking at how the Emergency Planning Committee was established for over a year, it is not hard to tell that the students are not interested in school affairs. Thereby, I am skeptical as to whether or not there would be sustainable participation on the student side even if there were an election day specially organized for this event.
Second, I worry that a direct election system could involve mobocracy. There is a danger that the candidate would require strong support from his or her department appealing to emotions and his position. In particular, if students get involved with the head of the department, I believe that the students, especially freshmen will easily be under the candidates’ influence. This would likely cause suspicion of corruption. Also, if the presidential election were carried out, the presidential candidates would be campaigning for their own election, and I believe that this would involve unnecessary costs and make the school too boisterous. I support current system because it keeps the election more efficient and neat.
I am in favor of the current voting system. The current lack of information on the presidential candidate is not sufficient for the students to make accurate evaluations and choose the right leader. I doubt whether their careers are accurate on proving themselves a worthy leader. Since they are not public figures, not much about them is known to students. As of now, I believe that the assessment based on given information is vulnerable to poor choices.
Second, I think a lot of risk is involved in changing the current voting system to a direct one. Currently, students often do not show much attention to school issues as shown by the EPC and low student trip attendance. In order to attract students to the polling stations, lot of investment in promotion, human resources and actual costs buying papers and pens are required. The major concern is uncertain result even after such spending. If student election were to happen and the minimum number of student votes falls short, the presidential election would be postponed and the entire school will likely be thrown into confusion. Who would take the responsibility then? To me, direct election seems to be consistent with the fact that it still has some unstable side effects.
I am opposed to the current voting system. First of all, a direct election system would satisfy both professors and student voters. Since professors are the only ones who have the right to vote, the candidate has a great tendency trying to satisfy their needs. Chances are, if students gain voting rights, the candidates will also listen to students’ needs. In this process I believe that they will side with students more than they do right now.
There is also a concern about mobocracy, which could bring up suspicions on the election system as a whole. To be honest, this is not likely to happen as other departments would be checking in. If a candidate from the Western Language Department decided to gain votes by promising ‘Western Language Department friendly policies’ the other departments would likely go against it. The other departments would express disagreement and in this process I believe that the election would remain fair. In the end, when we consider a lot of things, the students seem to gain a lot from having the voting rights. Therefore, I am opposed to the current system.
I am opposed to the current voting system. If the election system changes to a direct election, it will likely facilitate communication between the president and the students.
I personally felt that there was a lack of communication between the president and students. My friends also said they do not know much about the president. There seems to be a lot of doubt about what kind of work he is doing, what he decides to do, and what he is planning to do for the students. I wonder if our university president is listening to students just like how our country’s leader is listening to the voices of his people.
If students were allowed to participate in the presidential election, students would gain interest in presidential candidates and investigate them to correctly exercise their voting rights. In the case of presidential candidates, they would be more willing to interact with students to gain votes. To sum up, I believe that the voting right would bridge the gap between the university and the students.
By Cho Jae-won
Reporter of National Section