Interesting but kind of spotty report on how “In South Korea, Foreign Professors Can Have A Hard Time Fitting In”:
“Now back in New York with his wife, he says that he felt unwelcome at the university from the start, and that his relationship with faculty members and others deteriorated over time. He says he was even accused of racism by one of his students. ‘One of the students in evaluations said that I insulted Korea,’ he recalls. The student said, ‘If America is so much better, you should go back.’”
Officials of Korea University decline to speak publicly in detail about the matter, but one representative says the dispute began when Mr. Foster broke various campus rules. Mr. Foster declined to appear before a university ethics committee and has submitted his resignation.”
There is definitely a lot Korean universities could do to make foreign teachers feel more welcome, but first of all there’s a lot going on here that we aren’t aware of. He was offered a committee meeting, presumably with a dean, but just quit instead? That’s kind of strange and while I doubt he “insulted Korea” it’s more than likely he’d made up his mind that South Korea wasn’t for him, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
One thing that’s laughable though is the contention that departmental meetings should be held in Korean and English.
The Asian studies department at my graduate school held meetings in English, not in Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, etc.
South Korea is desperate to globalize its higher education system and this will require a new sense of cultural and academic flexibility on the part of university faculty and staff, no doubt. But let’s be realistic — bilingual department meetings won’t happen, because that would be silly.
The answer is having good liaisons in place who can explain or help new foreign hires with the mountains of paperwork that go with the job.
And the larger problem, the one that won’t be solved without major investments in time and education is that of intellectual property. Korea in particular, and Asia in general, has a very lax idea of the dangers of plagiarism. For the many problems facing American universities, plagiarism is easily the one thing that will get you booted in a heartbeat.
In Korea, not so much. So why would a young, promising academic in any field try and make her bones in a country doing research that simply isn’t respected by her peers? And I don’t mean looked down upon, but treated as something that someone else can simply steal to advance his own career?
Copyright in general is the 800-pound gorilla. Hell, I’m guilty myself to some extent. Last year when we needed a new ESL textbook for a mini-course for students who would be studying English in Canada and Australia I told a manager what book I wanted. The next day, 30 copies arrived at my office — 30 photocopy jobs of the text I had on my shelf.
That shit wouldn’t just get you fired in America, it would get you arrested if anybody found out.
Also, full disclosure: My job title is “professor” (according to my contract and my visa) but I don’t use that term myself because I don’t have a Ph.D. (A.B.D., but horse-shoes and hand-grenades and all that.) Still, I have spent the last three years at a Korean college and count myself very lucky to have a good boss (who lived in America for six years, which is no accident) and to have a good boss who has a good administrative staff who bend over backwards to help me when needed.
We’re a small shop though. I’d imagine a bigger operation like Korea University would present a whole new set of problems.