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Wish for a Better ‘Free Major’

Do you remember that many students of School of Liberal Studies gathered to hold a rally in front of the Mun-heon-Gwan on March 14? Why were they making so much noise? With that question above, you probably don't know the reason for the rally if you are don’t belong to the Free Major.

The complaints from the students didn’t appear all of a sudden.

According to the official introduction on the website of Hongik University regarding the Seoul Campus Free Major, the “Seoul Campus Free Major aims to produce professionals with the expertise appropriate with the individual's aptitude through creative and multidisciplinary education since 2007” (http://fm.hongik.ac.kr/). Moreover, it says that students can select one’s major after going through a period of major exploration after admission. Of course, the main advantage is that students of the free major can choose any major except those in the College of Education. However, there are many disadvantages.

As mentioned earlier, a system called “free major” allows freshmen to earn degrees by freely choosing their major and completing the required credits for graduation. Because they choose their own major, they also pay the same tuition fees as those in the College of Engineering and College of Fine Arts, which are the most expensive tuition fees in Hongik University. Since many students have chosen the Department of Architecture or the School of Design as their major, the situation that such departments were crowded has occurred. As a result, those departments are short of classrooms and classroom space. To learn more about this, we had an interview with Woo Jun-beom, the student president of the School of Liberal Studies.

Q. Can you explain about the rally called "Finding Free Major’s Rights" held on March 14?

A. It has passed 10 years since the Free Major of Hongik University was made. The school's greed has led to a large number of students in the Free Major, and problems that have always occurred at the beginning of the semester are repeated annually. Sadly, again problems have happened in the College of Architecture and other departments which are crowded with Free Major students. As a matter of fact, the student union of the College of Architecture, which was in trouble due to the large number of Free Major students last year, knew exactly what the problem was. They offered to support the student council of Free Major if we do some campaign to solve the fundamental problems. Therefore, we organized the rally to see how Hongik University and the students felt about the issue.

Q. Was there any support from any department other than the College of Architecture?

A. Before the rally, we put up hand-written petitions that made our stance clear, and almost all of the student council signed them to agree on our problems. That means that most of the students considered this a problem throughout the school.

Q. Could you briefly describe your requests to the school?

A. We had three requests for the rally. The first is that if there are 500 Free Major freshmen who want to choose architecture as their major, the system of the College of Architecture should be able to operate properly. The school should do so in accordance with the vision for free majors as it mentioned.

The second is that the professors shouldn’t openly make degrading comments about the students of Free Majors in their classes. The Free Major student council conducted an investigation about professors’ humiliating words that discovered 102 cases. As Free Major students are also students of classes, those professors should be more careful with their remarks. Therefore, it was meant to get professors to refrain from making such comments.

The third was the requirement for the decrease in the number of students as the aforementioned problems were due to the large number of students. It's an annual request, but school authorities don’t respect it. If there are many students, the school can get high scores on the clause ‘restructuring’ of the Education Ministry’s school evaluation. From the standpoint of the school, there is no reason to reduce the number of Free Major students. The school isn't going to cut the number of students down immediately, so we’re going to work on the problems continuously on the 500-person line. Fortunately, we have got a promise from the school that there will be no further increase of Free Major students.

Q. Did the school give any answers?

The school would like to hear a little bit about it to accept it to some degree, but nothing has physically changed so far. I think it would be better if we took a little time and continued to work toward out goals.

Q. Any last words?

A. I think even Free Major students have a wrong perception of the problems. Much of the blame is always directed at the student council. Well, there are some things we haven't solved. But if we can do this together, it will open up the minds of our students in a more positive way. So, we want your support!

I belonged to the School of Liberal Studies before, therefore I understand the students’ situation. They just took classes of the department they wanted to take. It isn’t right to shift the responsibility of the education system to the student. I hope the school allows some of the conditions requested by the Free Major student council to comply with the name of "Free Major."

Choi Yugyeong  pretty0467@naver.com

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