|▲ Dean of Academic Affairs, left, GSC President, third from left, and members of the GSC and the Student Council for Geography Education having a meeting on May 11
The 2021 General Student Council (GSC) at Chonnam National University (CNU) has been officially launched. After the presidential by-election, the Student Representative Meeting convened online on May 1 approved the newly created GSC, which is now performing the function of the student representative body. For the past two years, there have been various incidents, including the absence of the council, due to low turnout and election failure, and the resignation of the former 2021 GSC president. Consequently, students have greater expectations for the newly inaugurated student council as well as concerns because of the lack of preparation time for them. The Chonnam Tribune looked over the procedure of the by-election and listened to students’ opinions about the new GSC.
Looking Back: Presidential By-election
After the incident concerning the former GSC, the impeachment motion of the former president was approved at the Student Representative Meeting on February 17, and the Expanded General Student Council Operation Committee (EGSCOC) decided to vote on the impeachment, which failed due to low voting rate. The former GSC president submitted his resignation letter to the Central Operation Committee on March 18. The Central Election Management Committee (CEMC) announced again on April 10 that they had confirmed the candidates for the President and the Vice President of the 2021 GSC. ‘Neulbom’ and ‘Naeil’ candidates who ran for the election conducted a campaign for 12 days from April 15 to 27. A public hearing on the policies of the presidential candidates took place and was streamed in real time on April 26.
The by-election was held online from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on April 28. The presidential candidates from Naeil Headquarters, Lee Myeong-no (Senior, Faculty of Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences) and Gu Su-hyeon (Junior, Dept. of Family Environment and Welfare), won the election. President Lee said, “I would like to thank all the students who showed interest and participated in the election even during the exam week. I feel some responsibility being elected after failing to be elected twice. We will make an effort to win the students’ trust.” They began their terms after the approval of the EGSCOC on May 1.
Listening to Students: Concerns and Needs
The vote rate of the presidential by-election was lower than the previous election last year. The election was the first election after the changes, allowing blank ballots and a decreased voting rate of just one third of the voter eligible population. The voting rate was 44.04 percent including the blank ballots. Excluding the blank ballots, 17.40 percent of students voted for President Lee and Vice President Gu. Regarding the result, some students are worried about the GSC’s ability to represent all of the students, saying the changed bylaws are imperfect and more extra details are needed to elect their representatives. CEMC Chairman Lim Jae-hun (Senior, Dept. of Statistics) said, “The election’s goal was to have more than one third of the voting population electing the president and the vice president. We have accomplished this goal despite the exam period, thanks to both candidates running the campaign so well.”
Other students expressed their opinions by casting a blank ballot or choosing not to vote in the election. They are concerned about the controversies of the GSC, and hope the new council tries to fulfill their promises. Kim Ha-eun (Senior, Dept. of Food Science) said, “I hope the new GSC keeps their election pledges and lets us feel that they are working for the students. I am especially looking forward to a pseudo-religion eradication project. I hope the day will come when we will no longer have to worry about religious problems on campus.” Other students also showed a lot of interest in the pledges about partnership business. Moon Dae-young (Sophomore, Dept. of Family Environment and Welfare) said, “Having partnerships has been financially helpful for students. Expanding these partnerships will directly improve our daily life. I hope that there will be a website where we can get organized information about the partnerships so we can easily use them.”
Student Participation Is Essential
Many students hope the new GSC will be the student union for the students so that they might feel that the organization is necessary. Kim Ji-yun (Sophomore, Faculty of Economics) said, “So far, I haven’t felt that the organization was necessary. By electing the new GSC, I hope they change my perception of them so that we do not have any doubts about paying our student union fees. I think they need to communicate promptly with students and notify us with the proper information which students need. “
The new GSC’s first project is to launch their website where students can communicate with them. President Lee said, “Communicating with the Administration Office of the university to enhance the rights and welfare of students, and find proper solutions to improve their campus life is the role of the GSC. We will show how the campus changes during our term.” Vice President Gu said, “During the campaigning period, when we were roaming around the campus, many students cheered for us and told us what is needed for their campus life. We will do our best to repay all the encouragement and faith by changing student life on campus to ensure that it is better than before.”
Over the past two years, student autonomy has been shrinking since the GSC had not been formed. Some students said that they did not feel uncomfortable without the student self-government body. This situation made many students doubt the necessity of the student union. Since early May, the newly created 2021 GSC has been performing its role as the representative organization of all of the students at CNU. Now, students need to constantly show interest in what they are doing to improve students’ campus life. With students’ attention and participation, the student council will make better results, and consequently our campus will be better for all CNUians. That is the reason why all of us students need to keep showing interest in the GSC and cheer for them and the work that it does. Active student involvement is essential for restoring student autonomy at our university.
By Baek Du-jin, Tribune Reporter