It might be a little surprising to hear that the University of Seoul (UOS) did not have a public lounge for male students to relax in, while they already had several for female students. After demanding it for several years, male students finally got a lounge in the Student Hall. Here, we will see what it looks like.
Indeed, male students have been demanding a counterpart to the female lounges for years. Kang Donghan (Dept. of Environmental Horticulture, `11), interviewed about the issue, remembered himself discussing this with his friends. “Quite a few were pointing out that it was sort of nonsense that a male lounge didn’t exist while there were already several female ones. Some even called it sexism.” However, Kang was a bit skeptical of the idea of male lounge itself. “I didn’t think a male lounge could be managed well. When you have such a place to use, you have responsibilities, too. At the time, I had already seen some students who, in my opinion, didn’t have enough discipline to properly utilize such a place.” Instead, he thought of the break rooms located in the Health Center. “I think, technically, a break room should be a place where those who feel bad or tired can take a break.”
From Student Councils to UOS
Different Student Councils have put effort into meeting this demand. For years, candidates for student president made pledges to set up a male lounge but struggled to keep them. In 2015, the Student Council Close-up started to run a male lounge in the Student Hall. In early 2016, the Student Council Si:won made a status report of the lounge’s users over the previous year and improved its service based on various feedback and by following examples at other universities such as Korea University.
The male lounge had been a service provided by the Student Council since 2016. However, in 2017, the service was transferred to the Office of Student Affairs and the lounge moved from the third floor of the Student Hall to the 2nd floor. Kang Min-seong, President of the Student Council Talk-talk, said that the transfer allowed a higher quality of service, more convenience and more stability for maintenance. “We believe that better service can be delivered to students under the management of the school. Also, it would definitely be better for the school to take over maintenance duties since they can provide it over the long-term.”
Yoo Jin, director of the Office of Student Affairs, confirmed this expectation: “The lounge will be there as long as students have need for it. The room has already been assigned for the lounge and there is little possibility that it will be converted for other uses.” He also explained the background story. “This service was basically started to meet the students’ needs. Various Student Councils gathered many students’ opinions and delivered them to the school, marking the official beginning of the service.”
How does it look?
The current male lounge is located on the corner of the 2nd floor of the Student Hall and its operating time is from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m during business days only. According to Director Yoo, operating hours are limited because of the risk of maintenance issues occurring. He said, “At certain times, for example during exams or school festivals, operating hours may be extended based on student need. The lounge really is for students who need it.”
Inside the lounge are sofas, rest chairs, stools, tables and automatic massagers. Slippers and shoe racks are also available. The user rules state that no food or drink, whether brought or delivered, is allowed in the lounge and a user should clean up his area after use. It also states that a user cannot leave his personal belongings in the lounge and any unauthorized promotional material is banned. The lounge is managed by hired students who clean it twice a day in the morning and evening.
Future Worries and Hopes
Like Kang, who is worried about whether a lounge solely for male students will be managed well, some students are also worried about the new lounge. Lee So-mi (Dept. of Business Administration, `14) recalled her unpleasant experience using the female student lounge. “Sometimes I felt uncomfortable using a female student lounge because of the mess. It can happen in any lounge or break room.” In addition, Lee admitted that the differing needs of students using the lounge can create conflict. “The new lounge consists of one large room instead of several separate rooms. If there are two groups of users in the lounge at the same time, and one group wants to take a nap while the other wants to read a book and relax, what will happen?”
On the contrary, some students say that there is no need to worry so much. Sin Tae-ho (Dept. of Computer Science, `11) said that there is little possibility that the lounge will become messy. “At first sight, it was a nice and neat place to stay in. The place was kept so simple and clean that I thought that it would be almost impossible to become dirty. If only it can be kept clean during the early stage of the service, then it will be fine afterwards.”
Being interviewed by The UOS Times, Director Yoo confirmed that the fundamental principle of the service is to meet the students’ needs and said that management will have flexibility during operation. Taking Yoo’s words into account, it might take some time to see whether the new lounge will successfully function after all.