‘Tis the Season…

…for some corrupt-ass shit.

The English department secretary at my school sent me the following email hours before I hopped on a plane to come home for Christmas:

Dear Jo,

You have special sport students in some of your classes. I’m writing to let you know how to grade for those students.
 I attached the excel sheet showing the list of sport students. 

They will get a pass according to the score and rank which they win at the sport contest. Therefore, (name of my university) wants you to give the designated letter grades by which I mean you should give them a pass.

Please contact me if you have questions.
I teach once-a-week, pass / fail conversation classes; the cutoff point for passing is 60%. Basically, if the students show up most of the time, participate, and pass the exams, they pass the class.  In the list of twenty or so students that was sent to me, only one actually passed my class.  There were others who only showed up for the exams just to fail them, some who came once in a while without a textbook and then sat in the back on their cell phones the whole time, and some who never showed up to a single class or exam.  

Our university’s policy is that when it comes to student athletes, their class scores for all of their classes are based on how well they do in their sport.  If they’re athletic rock stars — say, in tae kwon do or baseball — they never have to go to a single class and can still get an A in all of them.  

This is not unique to my university; it’s common practice in private universities all over Korea.  I know shit like this happens in the US as well, but it’s shocking to see it so out in the open.  Maybe it’s better that way… at least there’s no pretense.

I always wonder what our student athletes do after university… do they go on to national competitions?  Then what? Do they coach?  What if they get injured?  Changing careers is relatively easy in the US, but extremely rare in Korea.  Students don’t even change majors in Korea. So if athletes just stop learning the same skills and knowledge their peers are learning at age 15, what happens when they need it?

Do Not Be Alarmed

I started a new university job this week; as a new teacher, I got a “Welcome to X University / Here Are Our Official Policies” handout last week at the new teacher meeting.  Imagine my shock and dismay upon reading the following paragraph (copied here verbatim):

“It should be pointed out that students in the sports department have a special system of grading.  This means that students with athletic scholarships are given academic scores based on their performance in that particular sport.  These students can often be absent from class, late and apathetic to appropriate academic behavior.  Simply put, their effort in class does not matter if they place high in their respective competition.  This being the case, it is essential that you identify these students at the beginning of the semester,  However, do not be alarmed.  Take each individual case in stride.”

I don’t know — I mean, I consider the fact that my university took the time to include in writing in an official university document that student athletes can sleep through class or not even bother to show up, and we’re still supposed to pass them PRETTY FUCKING ALARMING.  I’m sure college professors (for sure high school teachers) in the US are pressured to pass athletes (or, in the case of New Orleans, musicians) no matter their academic performance, but at least they have some means to fight back against it.

New KTO (Korean Tourism Organization) slogan:

Image result for korean flag

Korea!  We have the cojones to own up to corruption.