Hanyang University (HYU) completed construction of the 5th Student Residence Hall on January, 2017 and has welcomed a total of 388 freshmen to the newly-built dormitory. However, unlike many students’ expectation that they will have a bigger opportunity to live in the dormitories, the HYU Residence Hall accommodation rate increased by merely 1.58 percentage points compared to last year’s 11.4%, only accommodating 12.98% of the total number of HYU students. This is still far below the general accommodation rate of universities in Seoul, which is 19.12%.
According to HYU administration, HYU provides an opportunity of education to a total of 20,750 students; among them, 15,269 are Korean undergraduates, 3,481 are Korean graduate students, and 2,000 are international students. The problem is that 45% of the student body (9,300 students) resides outside Seoul. In other words, they do not have a place to stay during the semester while they attend HYU. These students have to bear the financial burden of renting rooms near the school if they fail to get into the dormitory.
In light of this problematic statistic, HYU administration seeks to build a 6th and 7th Student Residence Hall to house more students who need accommodation. Unfortunately, HYU is having difficulty in persuading the residents of Seongdonggu of the need for more residence halls.
NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard): The Problem HYU is Facing
“We know that 12.98% falls short of fulfilling the needs of our students. If we build a 6th Student Residence Hall that accommodates 540 foreign students and professors, and a 7th Student Residence Hall that accommodates 1,450 Korean students, the percentage will go up to 18.43%,” the HYU Residence Hall administration manager explained. However, despite HYU’s plans, the school is having difficulty in persuading the residents of Seongdong-gu, who strongly disapprove of building new dormitories.
In order to construct a new building on campus, HYU’s planned proposal must be passed after deliberation by the City, and needs to be approved by the Seongdong-gu Office. However, HYU could not get an approval due to the opposition of the residents of Seongdong-gu. “Residents who provide leasing service strongly believe that if more dormitories are built, their livelihoods will be threatened,” a staff member at HYU Residence Hall said.
“The HYU headquarters is doing its best to respond strongly to this conflict. To overcome the NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) culture of the Seongdong-gu residents and successfully build the 6th and 7th Student Residence Hall, active support and concern from HYU student members are vital,” residence administration manager Kim Jang-kon added.
Hanyangians Request for More Dormitories
HYU students have pleaded for more dormitories. This need stems from the fact that it is a financial burden to live off campus during the semester. “I’ve lived alone in Wangsimni ever since I failed to get into the dormitory two years ago. But it costs too much and I feel sorry for my parents. So I applied for the dormitory again this semester, but it was too competitive and I failed again,” said a junior in the Department of Engineering. “Students are burdened by various financial difficulties. Reducing dwelling expenses helps to decrease the overall financial burden, and this is why HYU should build new Student Residence Halls as soon as possible,” said the HYU student council (Hanmadi).
According to the survey, although the 5th Student Residence Hall is newlybuilt, the current application system that allocated the whole building to freshmen hindered non-freshmen from feeling they actually benefited from the new dormitory.
According to the HYU Residence Hall application guidelines for this semester, 588 positions were offered to freshmen: 388 students were assigned to the newlybuilt 5th Student Residence Hall, and 200 were assigned to the 2nd and Gaenari Halls. While 453 positions were offered to undergraduates, only 168 positions were left open for graduate students. Although the newly-built 5th Student Residence Hall does improve the total accommodation rate, a total acceptance of 1,209 students (off-campus dormitories and law school dormitories excluded) is still insufficient.
In response to this policy, the student council demanded alternative measures for non-freshmen, and HYU adjusted the undergraduate quota for existing dormitories. “If the Residence Hall was larger and could accommodate enough students, this kind of discontent would not have existed in the first place. More dormitories are sorely needed,” the student council explained.
In an effort to convey students’ feelings on the necessity of building a 6th and 7th Student Residence Hall, the student council participated in a public hearing with Seongdong-gu residents on November, 2016. “We fully explained the reasons why students need more dormitories to the residents. We will continuously communicate with the Seongdong-gu Office about the students’ stance on the construction of new dormitories,” the student council added.
Residents Express Strong Opposition to Dormitories
Residents of Sageun -dong , Seongdong-gu submitted a petition signed by 1,487 people against the construction of the 6th and 7th Student Residence Hall. “A large proportion of the residents living in Sageun-dong and Haengdangdong rent out rooms to students; those residents are mostly senior citizens who earn a livelihood in this way. If new dormitories are built, fewer students will look for rented rooms and this will result in residents losing their income,” said Mr. Lee, a resident of Seongdong-gu.
In the public hearing that was held in November, the residents strongly opposed the construction of new dormitories, failing to find middle ground with HYU and the student council. “With the newly-built 5th Student Residence Hall, 388 students, who were potential tenants, will live in the dormitory. Our opposition was disregarded last time, but this time, we won’t agree to the dormitory that accommodates more than a thousand people. We are suffering from economic difficulties already,” said Mr. Han, a resident of Seongdong-gu.
The possibility of a 6th and 7th Student Residence Hall has been put on hold as HYU students and the administration tries desperately to arrange another meeting with the opposing Seongdonggu residents.
Active Interest and Support from HYU Students is Essential
HYU and the student council are making efforts to push ahead with the dormitory construction plan, but unfortunately, they are still stuck. Above all, active interest from Hanyangians about the situation and a mutual exchange of opinions with the student council will activate the process of persuading the residents and delivering the students’ position to them. In the current status, showing interest is the most effective form of support.