KAIST slams professors for resisting Suh’s reform
The Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) said Tuesday it will deal sternly with an ongoing campaign by the professors’ council to oust the school’s President Suh Nam-pyo.
The school condemned the council for making a politically-motivated attempt to shake Suh’s leadership, alleging that behind the negative campaigning are a group of professors acting against Suh’s reforms.
“The professors are only demanding Suh’s resignation without trying to solve the problem in a democratic way. They are only trying to expel Suh to keep their own vested rights,” the school said in a press release.
The angry response came amid escalating conflicts between Suh, a 76-year-old former MIT professor, and the professors’ council.
According to the school, at the center of the controversy is a merit-based tenure system for the faculty and other measures Suh has been pushing to spur competition.
Under the system, KAIST professors must take tenure track examinations. Only 302 of 588 professors, or 51 percent, have received tenure. The school will reveal the first batch of professors who fail to get tenure, which is quite unimaginable in local schools.
“One of the requirements professors must meet to receive tenure is that they should write academic papers and have their capability verified by at least four world-renowned scholars,” a KAIST official said. “The school believes that the measure is necessary to enhance its global profile and encourage competition among faculty members. That’s also to provide better education to the students.”
The move drew a fierce protest from professors. The professors’ council has rejected Suh’s proposal for an open debate for communication and instead launched a campaign to oust him.
Professors, however, claim that a growing number of professors as well as students have turned their back on Suh because they were unhappy about his competition-first restructuring and a series of suicides occurred at the school since last year. Five students and a professor have taken their own lives, which they say were the result of Suh’s reckless push for reform.
There are also disputes over the patents of technologies developed by KAIST professors while conducting school-funded research projects. Some professors have complained that many technologies they developed were registered in Suh’s name.
The school said an investigation is currently underway to determine whether Suh “stole” the technologies and violated ethics. The professors’ association, however, has used the case to defame the president, portraying him as a “patent thief” in media interviews, the KAIST official said.