Nihon University’s Handling of Drug Problem: Underestimating Issue’s Severity Has Sent Institution off Course

The current situation with the leadership of Nihon University, which has ignored common sense in crisis management and repeatedly strayed off course, must be described as extremely serious. The private university must revamp its structure and stem the chain of scandals.

A third-party panel that has been reviewing the university’s handling of the illegal drug case involving members of its American football club has released a report.

Since autumn 2022, Nihon University had received numerous reports of suspected marijuana use by club members. In July, the university finally checked the club’s dormitory and found plant fragments, but Vice President Yasuhiro Sawada held on to them for 12 days, saying that he wanted to wait for the members to turn themselves in.

Regarding this approach to the issue, the report clearly stated that the university “made light of the facts and justified itself by turning a blind eye to inconvenient information.” Sawada is a former prosecutor who is supposed to be well-versed in criminal investigations. Why did he not immediately report the plant fragments to the police?

The president and other executives received reports of the discovery of the plant fragments, but allowed them to be kept within the university, according to the report. There is little wonder that the university’s response could be perceived as a cover-up. It is quite natural that the report harshly noted the university’s responsibility.

Furthermore, the university at first quickly ended its suspension of the American football club’s activities, claiming that it was an individual crime committed by a single member of the club. However, suspicion subsequently emerged that other members of the club had also used marijuana, forcing the university to suspend once again the activities of the club indefinitely.

It can be said that the university did not make efforts to ascertain the seriousness of the incident and tried to handle the issue with a rosy outlook, thereby deepening the damage.

Last year, alumnus and writer Mariko Hayashi took over as Nihon University’s chairperson of the board of trustees in an effort to rebuild the organization after a spate of scandals, including one in which an American football club player injured an opposing team’s player in a dangerous tackle and a tax evasion case involving Hidetoshi Tanaka, a former chairperson.

Hayashi is pushing Sawada to resign from his position as vice president over the latest drug scandal, leading to a fierce standoff within the university.

It is difficult to understand why Sawada is resisting demands for his resignation, even though he misjudged the situation from the beginning. Hayashi and others also cannot be exempt from responsibility as they left the handling of the matter entirely to Sawada. It is not a matter of simply having him resign.

The autocratic reign of Tanaka continued for a long time at Nihon University, preventing the school from developing personnel who can be trusted to run the institution. This situation may be one reason why it has been so difficult for the university to rebuild itself.

The government provides subsidies to private universities, but has suspended them to Nihon University for two years due to the spate of scandals, and it has been decided that the full amount would not be granted to the university this fiscal year as well. The biggest victims are the 120,000 students at Nihon University and its affiliated schools. How disappointed must they be with the university’s inability to cleanse itself?

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 1, 2023)