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Court rules against foreign professor for mocking students

A Seoul court on Sunday ruled in favor of a university’s decision not to renew the contract of a foreign professor, after she was found to have ridiculed her students’ English essays on social media.

The Seoul Administrative Court recognized Ewha Womans University’s refusal to rehire its former employee last year as legal, stating that “the professor failed to maintain proper conduct as an educator.”

In September 2013, the former professor posted several remarks on her Facebook mocking grammatically awkward English phrases that her students wrote in their assignments, stating that she couldn’t “help but laugh.”

Following her initial post, the South African educator ― who began teaching a general undergraduate English course at the university in 2012 ― continued uploading similar posts, mocking her students’ lack of English abilities with her friends.

The university had claimed the incident was only one of the ex-professor’s unprofessional behaviors.

In the past, the former professor reportedly uploaded postings asking how to say certain English swear phrases in Korean. She also reportedly left the country for vacation without notifying or receiving approval from the university, failing to show up for her courses.

The university decided not to renew her contract in February 2014.

Since losing her teaching position, the ex-professor brought her case to the Appeal Commission for Teachers, which requested the university to reconsider its decision. The university responded by filing a lawsuit.

The court ruled in favor of the university under the premise that the ex-professor, whose online postings had included vulgar English phrases, displayed “highly deplorable behavior that strayed far from what is required of an educator.”

“Publicly mocking grammatical mistakes that her students made in an English course is highly condemnable behavior unfit for an educator,” the judge said.

“The students who wrote the English essays ridiculed by the (former) professor likely suffered psychological damage while the university sustained damage to its public image and reputation.”

By Sohn Ji-young (jys@heraldcorp.com)
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