Sanctuaries of knowledge: are universities safe?
Sanctuaries of knowledge: are universities safe?
  • 김정아
  • 승인 2023.01.17 11:45
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The truth behind university security revealed in case
The CCTVs at Hannam University Photo: Kim Jung-A

Campuses in Daejeon have been on edge due to a sexual assault/murder case that took place on a university campus earlier this year that gained significant public attention. A male student at Inha University has been accused of raping and killing a female student in the same grade. This case had an enormous impact on society, and so universities countrywide, including in Daejeon and Incheon, are paying close attention to the case and reviewing their own security systems. Are universities - the sanctuaries of knowledge - really safe?

In an interview with Chungnam-ilbo in July, Hannam University representatives stated, "we are putting in place security-related systems such as security cameras and emergency alarms. Male and female students have separate dormitories and outsiders are not allowed to enter student centers or club rooms." Even with such measures, students continue to raise questions about campus security in the online community Everytime. One Hannam University student wrote a post on Everytime titled 'Sex offenders are wandering around the school.' In her post, the student described how a man approached her late at night and made insulting remarks while also doing obscene actions. Even though the student reported this incident right away, the man could not be identified or tracked due to the lack of any security cameras in the area where the incident took place. Students also criticized how the school took little action other than pasting stickers that read "beware of suspicious people walking around" around the campus.

Inadequate university security measures result in crimes being committed, and the blame is often placed on alcohol. Immediately after the Inha University incident took place, secondary victimization was rampant online as many blamed the victim for drinking until late hours. One can easily find comments such as "why did you drink until dawn?" or "was that not the cause?" under articles and videos related to the incident. In addition, several comments stated that "(women) have a distaste for Korean men and treat us like potential criminals." Among the many comments that were posted, some pointed the finger at the victim or women as a whole for the incident that led to the death of the female student. The media was also strongly criticized for writing articles that took advantage of the curiosity of internet users. According to a monitoring report published by the Citizens Coalition for Democratic Media (CCDM) in July, many media outlets used overly sensationalized terms to describe the incident. For example, several articles used terms like 'female student' or 'nude' in their titles while others even included photos that showed the victim's blood all in the name of trying to attract as many clicks as possible.

Many also harshly criticized internet companies and services for disregarding their social responsibilities and being neglectful toward hate-fueled posts that caused secondary victimization. On various portal sites like Google and Naver, people were asking for the identity of the deceased victim or links to the victim's social media pages. Some internet users even searched for terms like 'face,' 'photo,' and 'department' in connection with the keyword 'victim.' There were also articles that attracted curious readers by using titles that mentioned the victim's identity or leaked information in online communities; however, most of these were typical ruses where the actual article had nothing to do with the title. Shin Mi-hee, Secretary-general of CCDM, said, "it seems that overly detailed and sensational reports of the incident were a major factor in stimulating the public's curiosity." She also added, "portal operators need to move faster and block posts and comments in accordance with the guidelines."

The negative effects of university drinking culture: it must stop now.

Most developed countries prohibit the consumption of alcohol in public areas, including university campuses. Areas are clearly divided into places where alcohol can or cannot be sold or consumed, and the amount of alcohol that can be purchased at once is restricted. In these countries, liquor stores strictly check the age of customers who purchase alcohol and do not sell alcohol to people who appear to be drunk. If these rules are violated, the liquor seller may have their license revoked and be hit with a hefty fine. Additionally, if a drunk individual creates a scene because they want to buy alcohol even though the liquor store refuses to sell any to them, then this is considered illegal and the perpetrator may be fined. With measures like these, it becomes fundamentally impossible for alcohol to be consumed in public places or campuses. Given that people can drink as much as they want anytime and anywhere in Korea, it is clear that Korea's alcohol policies are lackluster to say the least.

In order to prevent the aforementioned problems from occurring in the first place, the United States put forth guidelines on 'alcohol restrictions on campus' so that students would abide with strict university rules. Dartmouth College, one of the most famous private universities in the US, decided to ban drinking on campus altogether to prevent sexual violence on campus. Philip J. Hanlon, President of Dartmouth University, said, "I made the decision to ban faculty and students from possessing or drinking alcohol on the Hanover campus." He also added, "hard liquor can cause students to end up hospitalized, and so hard liquor should not be made available in any college event, regardless of whether it is hosted by the school or the student council." The University of Pennsylvania also banned the consumption of alcohol above 15 degrees on campus, and similar drinking restrictions have been implemented at Dartmouth College, Brown University, and Virginia University.

It is time for universities to take action. Many developed countries choose alcohol regulation policies over individual freedom of choice because alcohol is no longer a 'general product' and since it is more important to ensure citizen safety from alcohol-related harm. Therefore, we could say that governments decided to implement policies banning alcohol on university campuses and public places because every student's rights to health and life are considered as more important. A more mature and healthy society should begin on university campuses: the ivory tower of knowledge.

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