Restore trust through transparency of management system

To regain trust that has been lost, it is essential to break away from an old management culture. There is a need to actively promote information disclosure and be transformed into an open organization.

Writer Mariko Hayashi, a graduate of Nihon University, has taken office as the new chairperson of the university’s board of directors. All board members have been changed, with nine women among the 22 new members. This is the first time in Nihon University’s over 130 years of history that a woman became a board member, the university said.

Over the past few years, the university has been involved in a series of scandals, including the dangerous tackle made by a member of its American football team, breaches of trust by former board members and a tax evasion case involving the board’s former chairperson, Hidetoshi Tanaka.

At her inaugural press conference, Hayashi said a campaign is being launched to find a new image for Nihon University. She also stated the university wanted to aim for the most number of applicants in the entire nation. High hopes are pinned on the university’s stance of attempting to break away from its traditional closed nature by breathing new life into the organization.

A third-party panel has pointed out that a series of scandals was caused by Tanaka’s autocratic leadership. In order to prevent the concentration of power in the new leadership, the chairperson’s term of office is four years, with reelection possibly only once, according to the university.

Hayashi also expressed her intention to reinvestigate the scandals. The university plans to form a team of former prosecutors and others to investigate cases including those that did not result in criminal charges.

A whistleblowing system has already been put in place to report cases that are the seeds of wrongdoing. It is important to use this as an opportunity to clean up corruption within the university and take thorough measures to prevent similar incidents from occurring again.

Nihon University has about 120,000 students, including at its affiliated schools. There is an urgent need to restore its image, which has been damaged. The effectiveness of the reforms will be tested henceforth.

Hayashi does not have experience in university management. It is hoped that she will humbly listen to students, graduates and faculty members, and make use of them to improve the management of the organization.

Concerning private universities, a number of irregularities, including ones in medical school entrance examinations at other institutions, have been revealed. Schools should not disregard the Nihon University cases as having nothing to do with themselves, but should seriously question whether there are any problems with their own university management.

The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry is seeking to amend the Private Schools Law to strengthen the functions of a board of trustees that oversees a board of directors. The intention is to give the board of trustees the right to request the dismissal of a director who has committed wrongdoing and to require the trustees’ approval for the dissolution or merger of educational corporations.

Through the law revision, the ministry is considering not allowing board members to serve concurrently on both boards so that each can check the other. At Nihon University, the board of directors had become an entity in name only and the university could not stop Tanaka and others from going out of control. The important matter is how to enhance the oversight functions in the university.

The efforts by Nihon University to restore itself can be said to be a touchstone for the reform of private universities as a whole.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 6, 2022)