A story from the Yomiuri Shimbun of March 7, 2010 reports that a male literature professor, aged 52, has been dismissed from his position with Yasuda Women's University over allegations of sexual harassment. The unusual aspects of the case, as the Yomiuri reports it, include the the following:
-that the professor is a U.S. citizen,
-that the alleged sexual harassment happened in the US while he was supervising students from Yasuda Women's University (Hiroshima, Japan) on a 6-month study abroad program, and
-that the guilt for the alleged sexual harassment was determined based on the content of an e-mail sent in January this year from the alleged victim to a counselor at the university.
Now what is really striking about this story is just how quickly the professor was dismissed and how little evidence is being offered by the institution to support this determination of guilt.
Over the past decade, Japanese universities have often found themselves at the notorious center of society-wide efforts to clamp down on and punish sexual harassment in the workplaces of government, business and education. One reason why so many cases have involved academics is that there are a lot of male academics and researchers in Japan, and there are millions of young women attending universities. Academia here is still dominated by men but now enrolls a lot of women as undergraduate and graduate students, as well as employs them as faculty. So there are plenty of opportunities for men to harass women in universities and colleges here.
Some of these sexual harassment cases have led to the suspension, re-assigment, collegial censure, and firing of the perpetrators. There were even some cases of civil litigation and criminal prosecution.
However, the pattern for dealing with cases involving Japanese male faculty usually resulted in the suspension of the accused until there were detailed and lengthy investigations into the matter. And most punishments amounted to little more than the 'slap on the wrist', even when meted out to inviduals who had decades' worth of abuse allegations listed against them.
If the American professor in this case decided not to contest the accusations, that might account for his firing occurring so quickly. But the article clearly states that the professor denies the allegation. Therefore, one is forced to consider the possibility that this professor has not been given the same rights to defend himself that a Japanese faculty member would get.
We will watch for more information and developments in this story. On the one hand, Japan HEO and ELT in Japan condemn sexual harassment in the workplace and school. On the other hand, we also have to condemn unequal treatment of individuals in such cases because it ruins individual lives and then contributes to wider patterns of abuse of employee rights and discrimination based on race, nationality, ethnicity and culture.
Below is a link to the story at the Osaka edition of the Yomiuri Newspaper online (Japanese language only) followed by a brief excerpt.
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