Oct. 8 in 2018 fall semester marks the breaking ground for the remodeling of the University Library, which had been a long-awaited wish to HUFSans. Shortly after the glad tidings, however, unforeseen issues started to inconvenience students, especially a shortage of reading rooms. In order to unravel the root causes of the problem and to clarify what awaits to be changed, The Argus delved into the prickly issue of the library remodeling.
Is that it?
The shortage of reading rooms, due to the remodeling of the University Library, is critically afflicting many students. To remedy the problem, the university did come up with a solution, but the implementation of this idea hardly contributed to settling the issue.
The school has provided alternatives?around 300 and 600 seats in the GlobeeDorm and the Social Science Building respectively?to students. Yet the number of seats lost from the library totals about 1,400 seats; thus, the newly-created seats are far less than half of the original capacity of the library, 2,345 seats. Park Chae-leen, a student of the Department of International Economics and Law ‘18, lamented, “I am experiencing a considerable amount of inconvenience due to the lack of spaces to study. Everywhere I have been studying is now in at full capacity.”
In addition, the shorter operating hours of provisional facilities disappoints students who crave for a place to study until late at night. Students’ complaints rage in campus social media such as Everytime, and one anonymous student posting from the website claims, “I have always studied past over midnight, paving my career path, but now I cannot because the facility in GlobeeDorm closes at 12 sharp.”
Rights to study
As the library embarked on its first step to its rebirth, it has left a spatial issue which has significantly impinged on HUFSans’ rights to study.
The rights students harbor can by no means be violated. They are invested legitimately to take advantage of the education they pay for and of related facilities to supplement academic pursuits. The situation, however, is falling short of affording students with their rightful claims.
The school’s administration has arrived at some alternatives; however, they can hardly be an indulgence for being free from accusations. What included within the average tuition of around 3 million won (US$2,678) that students pay is the guarantee from the university that they will offer corresponding services in return. The university is thus liable to offer the promised value to students on par with their payment. Even though alternatives were developed due to much-needed renovations, students are short about 1,400 seats compared to the past. Makeshift measures, in other words, cannot comply with fulfilling the liability as a service provider, since they failed to meet the original promise they made.
Talking to a brick wall
The school administration’s unilateral communication has persisted, and therein lies the factor that aggravated the pending issue. As for the effectiveness of a decision, it is advisable to ask what the demands are to people directly involved in the subject. In the case of remodeling, however, the announcement of a mere fact that a temporary reading room is in operation falls far short of revealing the details behind the decision.
Should any limitation prevail which impedes needs to be met, students deserve to know why their voices are not being heard. This lack of access to the relevant information leaves a lot to be desired by a number of students. One of the anonymous claims on the reading room issue in HUFS Facebook Bamboo Forest bemoans, “I rather feel discontent about the administration’s decision, which has usually been made internally. I wish the school to cooperate more with students.”
In terms of the lack of communication, the university’s claim is that it is premature to formally announce future plans which may be uncertain or likely to change. “A large portion of the details regarding the remodeling is still under discussion, which give us difficulty in providing a definite answer. The information on HUFS webpage announcement about the library on HUFS website is something that we can officially declare, so far,” replied the school representative, upon the question about their silence.
And yes, it is all about money
Despite the inconvenience, the blame does not solely belong to the administration. Due to financial shortages, which have long afflicted HUFS, the administration has been struggling to secure more facilities to provide requirements for studying.
Poring over HUFS’ financial standing, the cash-strapped situation of the university seems more obvious. The Net Working Capital (NWC) of HUFS in 2018, the finance that can be exploited for any activities such as enlarging facilities, is 437 million won (US$390,766). On the other hand, the average NWC of 10 private universities in Seoul amounts to a level almost fivefold of that of HUFS, at 2,176 million won (US$1,943,611). HUFS administration claims that they have reached a deadlock as to commence any new initiative requiring money. “In order to expand reading rooms, it means procuring additional monies, which is almost impossible. Even in the temporary room in GlobeeDorm, we do not have any budget to fully equip the facility with an air conditioning system,” claimed the school’s representative.
HUFS Seoul Campus, renowned for its petite size, accounts for 11.81 square meters per capita, while the number that barely reaches one-fourth of that of the average university size in Korea, 47.6 square meters. The striking contrast manifests, which is no more a surprise, by comparing the number of buildings between HUFS and neighboring Kyung Hee University, 16 and 39, respectively. Such spatial limitation makes HUFS more vulnerable to the ripple-effect due to any interruption. A HUFS worker said, “We could not find any available place to house the extensive collection of books and materials had been kept in the library. We, therefore, concluded that operating a closed-shelf library is the most optimal measure to overcome the limited space.”
A safety issue, no less critical, also surfaces stemming from monetary matters, such as operating a 24-hour reading room. A security system is a prerequisite for maintaining the facility, and its necessity shall not be diminished considering the countless accidents such as trespassers in the Division of Language and Diplomacy’s reading room in last autumn. The issue, however, converges to the very same limitation, for it requires the additional employment of security personnel. “As the temporary facility in GlobeeDorm is located on the first floor, any random person can walk in. It, therefore, should be accompanied by security measures, which incurs additional costs,” said the university staff.
To make both ends meet
For the sake of the principle, “the greatest happiness for the greatest number,” listening to the demands of both parties is vital. Taking advantage of such communication medium as a survey can be one of the relevant attempts at a solution at the moment. It can enable students to share their own ideas by inviting various viewpoints, which can help to reach an optimal solution, if not the best. Nevertheless, noticeable is the tendency that turning a blind eye to such a fundamental stage barely seems to reduce. No wonder the outcome hence kindled discontent without a means for interaction to meet both ends.
It may still be difficult to evade the impression of redundancy, especially when it comes to the “efficiency in the decision-making process.” Such effort, nonetheless, is never in vain, in so much as it relates to the “effectiveness of the outcome.” The absence of communication cannot evade conflicts, for it deprives people of an opportunity to reconcile the disparity in opinions, ending up with aggravating dissatisfaction all around. Successive failure to invite mutual consent would be synonymous to the perpetuation of calls for negotiation, requiring “sheer redundancy” in putting in additional efforts.
By facilitating communication, knitting the mutual bond between the students and university administration can be another way to improve the effectiveness in the decision-making process in the long term. Situations which lie before the administration and students cannot be the same, for they are involved in different realms of views and interests. As is observable in the case of the remodeling, a lacking of access to the information merely festers animosity. It is, therefore, vital for the both to be attentive to the viewpoints of one another, which may derive sincere involvement of both parties.
Tightening our belt
Hardly can the financial constraints be dismissed, considering the tight budget of HUFS. The harsh situation necessitates optimizing the use of internal resources in hand. Security personnel at the library building have been withdrawn upon the beginning of remodeling, according to the university staff. Through re-aligning the workforce to the new facility, or making use of the increments incurred from the downsizing, it seems that the lingering issues can be addressed.
So as to overcome limitations, such as a 24-hour operation of the temporary reading room, the university representative said, “We are currently revising the contract with our security service company for additional employment. And we are also in discussions about adding a new security office in GlobeeDorm.”
What is left on students’ hands
In order for HUFSans to vest in an active spirit for the improvement of the university, establishing a precedent of substantial outcome is vital. A tangible example made by students’ active participation can change the public attitude, injecting the mindset that they are the drivers for the betterment of the university.
Students’ active participation, therefore, is prerequisite to redress the current space shortage issue. A great number of students are facing difficulties due to this problem which awaits mending. It is thus important for students to actively engage in opportunities to embody their calls for the change. By justly articulating of which they are in need, each of the voices will never be unheard, thus adjoining the possibility for further improvement.
As the momentum emanates from students’ action, the responsibility of relinquishing their own right due to a torpid manner only falls on themselves. In this regard, failure of the Annual Student Meeting held in October is no more than negligence. How can improvements be made if a pocketful of wishes are never taken out? To answer this question, bystanders are no help at all.
Challenge and Response - “A life which does not go into action is a failure.”
As HUFS faces numerous constraints, the fact itself provides both parties with an ample justification for investing additional efforts. Complacency to the status quo is the greatest threat, for it smothers the sense of necessity for further improvement. If there is nothing to strive for; no objective to accomplish; no ideals to pursue, what else is left other than mediocrity? Adversity, instead, should be pronounced as an opportunity for an advancement. Consigning to the idleness is a shortcut to sabotage. HUFS definitely deserves better than that.
By An Kwan-ho
Staff Reporter of Campus Section