… I’m sorry. It’s coming. Today was taken up in large part by my trip to school to teach a class for which half my students didn’t do their prep work, and which they therefore had no reason to attend.
And then all hell broke loose.
During my trip to school, I discovered exactly why the drafted contracts we were shown last week had none of the insane clauses that were added to the contracts of all the professors who re-signed last term. None of that “Shouldst thou break covenant with us, thou shalt payest all moneies ever earned,” for example. The pay raise was there, as was the right to resign with one month’s notice, and no demands that we work summer and winter camps during our holidays when requested.
In fact, the only change made to our contracts involved the size stipulations regarding our housing. I wondered why that was, but was assured that I would not need to worry about being forced into on-campus housing. Brian told me, outright, that this was not going to happen, that it had been canceled, that he’d told the university it was a bad idea. Well, it seems that his explanation didn’t seem to matter that much; someone decided that professor ought, like students, to live in dormitory-styled housing on campus.
I began to froth at the mouth when I heard the story that follows.
A couple of my co-workers were walking about campus and happened to approach the site of a new building. One of the housing office people was there and when my co-workers asked, they were told that this was to be our new housing, once it was completed. Ah, all kinds of news spilled from the lips of the housing office employee… the fact that the apartments of several professors are even now being sold (including mine); the fact that we would be moved into the on-campus housing as soon as it was finished. That the rooms are quite small (10 pyeong, about a 25% reduction for the current size of our rooms). Oh, but not to worry! We’ll have a shared living room.
You might think, hey, that’s really convenient. Living only a few minutes from the office? That’s great.
Think again. Here are some reasons it’s a terrible idea:
- Politics. They’re already complicated enough when people have to work together. Having a shared space is only going to make us all the more likely to feud and fight over the pettiest of things. That may serve the University in that it’ll keep us divided and easier to control, but it’ll screw the university’s chances of having employees who are satisfied and do their jobs well.
- Privacy. There’s the little fact that I don’t need my co-workers knowing about my private life. Koreans may deny that this is an issue, but they crave privacy as much as anyone. It’s a particularly dehumanizing move to make co-workers live together on campus, near students, near their workplace, and side by side, no less. Which brings me to my next point:
- Security. There have been incidents at other universities at which foreign teachers have been place in on-campus housing; even at universities with a much more high-level sample of students than ours. Being a supposedly- (or apparently-)privileged minority in a generally xenophobic society means putting up with a certain degree of harassment and bullshit from the less enlightened members of a society. Add in the pressure of grades, students’ futures, and the knowledge that professors are living right there in that building between the Art building and the Science Hall, and you’re in for trouble.
- Location. The university is located outside of the city, and while it’s only just barely so, it’s an added expense and pain in the ass for anyone to come out there to visit. Hell, it’s even a pain in the ass to get in to town at night, or to get home after a night out. Professors, apparently, are not to have social lives that take them off campus; or private lives at all, apparently. Oh,. and add to that the fact that Home Economics classrooms is what’s projected to be on the floor below ours. I anticipate some wonderful scents rising up through the hastily-constructed flooring.
- Working Conditions. The conditions we’re going to be living in will be drastically reduced in comparison to our current situation. This cannot but create a certain degree of resentment and apathy, and a corresponding reflection will emerge in our work. Of course, I’m convinced the university views foreign professors as expendable, and has little concern for the quality of our work, which is a sad, sad thing. The fact that they’re building the rooms specifically for us, makes me consider the fact that it would have taken very little trouble for them to build rooms that were a certain degree bigger. Why the university should delight in building chicken-coop sized rooms for us to live in, instead of decent-sized flats that might stem employee turnover, is beyond me. Perhaps it’s some pissant’s idea of revenge on the affluent whites who get such an easy rideteaching double the hours of Korean profs with none of the bonuses, none of the student assistance, and none of the free hand in cancelations that the rest of the faculaty quite obviously have.
- Dignity. From everything I’ve heard, the University has been making it a policy to chisel away every little benefit that the foreign professors have, and our lack of representation on this countthe negotiations of a professor who has his own tenure under review cannot be thought to be (understandably) unaffected by his own agenda and personal concernshas resulted in a continually worsening situation for the foreign professors at our school. And when were these people planning on telling us about the move they had in store for us? They had planned, I am sure, to spring it on us at the last minute. Just like the way they deliver our contracts to us just a few days before we leave the country, too late to find new work, too late to move, too late to change our plans, leaving us no option but to sign an unsatisfactory contract. (In one case they even tried a demotion contract in such circumstances, on the day a professor was leaving.) Oh, then again, they once illegally changed a professor’s contract in -mid-contract and then asked him to sign after the fact, after downgrading his over-time pay in mid-semester.
Such dirty tricks, such chicanery and deceit, and such outright rudness from a University that bills itself as Christian, is far beyond disappointing; it’s ridiculous, and in my opinion it belies any claims of faith that anyone at the school dares to make; the claims are, I think, more than anything just an appeal to a certain demographic of potential students, no more and no less.
Of course, I have a plan of sorts (with plan A, plan B, plan C, and so on)… provided the school actually follows through on the contract it’s (according to the draft I’ve seen) planning to strike with those of us who are re-signing, it won’t get past plan A and I won’t be too heavily inconvenienced. It’s possible they’ll try even more tricks, I suppose. But I’m going to try things.
All I can say, though, is that this year is going to be quite different from last year; that, and that if I didn’t have a very good reason to remain in Jeonju, I’d be scanning the job boards at Dave’s ESL Cafe really attentively right about now. Maybe I should be anyway… hmmm. But they’re not loading… weird.