An article titled ”Porno films for Teaching Material, Dirty-talking lecturer” in Hankyorae on February 27, criticized Understanding Sex, a cultural course taught at Hanyang University (HYU).In the article, the course was criticized for the possibility of bringing sexual discrimination and preferential views in sexual minors by feminists and minority sexuality groups. On every headline of articles from major publications like Hankyorae and Chosunilbo, there was the school name, HYU, mentioned at the very front of the article. On HYU’s online bulletin board, some students said that the school had to refute these articles, worrying that the image of school would be downgraded. Actually, one of the students said, “why is my school getting a kick in the pants due to a single lecture? HYU’s academic image would have damaged because of the immodest expression on media, ‘porno teaching’.” Why this phenomenon happening? Why were the students on HYU’s online bulletin board so sensitive to the event? It can be understood with the importance of image or impression of universities. It is because students worry that these articles with negative attitude toward school affecting HYU’s overall impression. A schools’ image has a certain importance in Korean society. For the image of school, what actions HYU is taking and what parts need to be improved is the question.
Importance of School Image in Korea
The importance of school image is not avoidable in Korean society. One has graduated is very important because Koreans want to reveal who he or she is by explaining where they graduated. People react much more sensitively to which school one graduated from, thus they evaluate school with diverse matters. One of the main but not measurable criteria is the impression or the overall image of the school. This can be the characteristic of Korean culture which is called hakyeon, the connections made by academic career.
Because of this hakyeon culture, a person who searching for employment could experience discrimination because of the school he or she attended. “When internship students or new employees are recruited, other employees ask about what school they had graduate and link the school with them,” said Choi Young-lak, director of personnel managing administration of Military Mutual Aid Association, one of the biggest mutual aid associations in Korea.
Not only in the job market, students, who are fresh from high school, apply to university seriously considering its image. “I decided to apply for Ewha Women’s University, instead of HYU. Because of the school image, Ewha Women’s University is academically well established,” said Jang You-kyung, a high school student waiting for results of university applications. “Most of students care about the image of school the most important, because it is relevant with their own images,” she added.
In this process, the school’s image is the first thing that can affect the estimation of a person. This is why many Korean universities are regarding public relation and other policies dealing media crucially, to manage the image of the school.
HYU is Trying, BUT
HYU has two big organizations working for school image toward media and public; SarangHandae and the Office of External Affairs and Development.
Since 2005, SarangHandae has been working public relations especially informing parents and students about HYU, helping them to apply HYU. They are composed of ten undergraduates at HYU; most of them are Sophomores and Juniors. Saranghandae members work for application public relations, take pictures on public relations materials and articles, and support various school events. They promote campus tours and visit high schools as ambassadors of HYU. On 2011 HYU Freshmen Orientation and Graduation Ceremony, SarangHandae student ambassadors supported the events and worked as staff members informing and helping visitors. They seem to work hard but need to work more to make significant remarks. “We are working on diverse areas to make HYU be known to many people as possible. Yet, as SarangHandae has been working for school only for six years, many Hanyangians and other people do not know us well. We put effort a lot into getting any ideas for activities that can make impact on our work,” said Huh Cho-in, the sixth Saranghandae student ambassador.
The other organization working on public relations of HYU is the Office of External Affairs and Development. They work for public relations and manage information of external affairs to help HYU be one of the 100 world qualified universities. It means they should manage on overall information of the school and deal with the media as an HYU’s administration.
However, the Office of External Affairs and Development’s website cannot be regarded as a website for public relations with media. There is no information about what the Office of External Affairs and Development do for HYU’s images on media. Categories for information about the schools are gone and basic information remained as blank pages. There are no office members on charge of public relation or caring about media exposure but all of them are on charge of fundraising. “This is very weird that they do not care about the website in this internet media era. As they do not focus on the public relations, their fundraising could not be successful,” said Jang Sang-wook, a Sophomore majoring in Media Communication. “We do not have a firm structure functioning for public relations and dealing with media. Without people having charge on public relations as their job, our work seems to be problematic,” said one of the members of Office of External Affairs and Development asking to be unidentified.
Taking Strides Toward a Better HYU
There should be changes made to the Office of External Affairs and Development. At least any manual is needed to deal with the negative articles without factual basis to maintain and protect the overall image HYU. Active but considerate action toward public relations for HYU’s image is needed for now. The SarangHandae is promoting Ole camp to approach as a first step toward high school students, not only supporting campus tours. “Regarding other schools’ student ambassadors, they would approach in various methods to wide range of people. For example, as Korea University’s student ambassadors, Yeoul, appears on television and other mass media for public relations. This can be very effective to make themselves known and shed light on their school’s image,” said Jo Kang-sung, Sophomore majoring in Clothing and Textiles.
Emphasizing positive existing image of HYU, such as its academic image, can be a good strategy. “HYU’s image is mostly related with Engineering College. Pragmatism inside that area of study can be helpful for HYU’s image. This can be understood as a practical academic tradition of HYU, which can be an efficient way of establishing HYU’s image of institution of pragmatic human resources,” said Lee Jae-jin, professor of Media Communication. “Practical employees are welcomed in the job market. As HYU has a impression of practicality, graduates are more apt to be seen as brilliant at managing tasks while maintaining good relationship with coworkers,” he added.
Better Image, Better Outlook
As the impression made by an university is distinctly important in this society, people do care about the school they graduated from. As a school image affects a person’s image, which can be crucial in this hakyeon based culture. For HYU’s image, SarangHandae and the Office of External Affairs and Development are functioning for public relations. Yet these two organizations need more improvement and ways to make HYU make more impact on the media or public. With better functioning of these organizations, emphasizing images of HYU’s practical academic tradition can build positive image of HYU. This can be beneficial to Hanyangians in getting job and flexibly adapt to work and job environment. To ensure better future of HYU, more effort on public relations and media image of school would be preceded.