Nihon University Has Lost Its Way: Now Is Hardly the Time for Internal Strife and Leaving Students Out of The Loop

Nihon University is again straying off course. The university is unable to decide the fate of an athletic team marred by drug incidents, while internal strife has emerged with the vice president suing the chairperson of the board of trustees.

If students are left out of the loop and the university continues to engage in infighting, it will not be able to regain the trust of society.

Members of Nihon University’s American football team have been arrested in succession on charges related to the possession of marijuana, so last week the school submitted a plan to improve university management to the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry. The plan mentioned a view toward abolishing the team.

Afterward, the university’s board of trustees put off making a decision to abolish the team. In Japan’s college football world, the team is a powerhouse, winning the collegiate national championship 21 times. At a press conference on Monday, Mariko Hayashi, chairperson of the board of trustees, avoided giving detailed explanations, saying that the matter is still being discussed. The belief is that the board was taking into consideration the views of those who wanted the team to continue to exist.

However, an email has already been sent to team members informing them of the abolishment. It is hard to deny the impression that university authorities’ responses have been inconsistent.

In autumn last year, a team member reported use of marijuana on the football team. Information was also sent from a guardian. However, the university did not investigate the actual situation at that time, and Vice President Yasuhiro Sawada, who discovered plant fragments in a team dormitory this summer, kept them with him for 12 days without reporting anything to police.

A third-party committee established by the university argued that Sawada’s behavior “deviated from common sense in the world.” The problem is the lack of governance at the university, where the president and the board of trustees chairperson were unable to correct the vice president’s error in judgment.

Sawada, the very person who made the error, has filed a civil suit against Hayashi, claiming he was subjected to harassment in the workplace by the chairperson. It appears that he is trying to settle a grudge without reflecting on his own failings. Students must undoubtedly be disappointed.

One of the team members indicted testified at his trial that “about 10 members of the team” were using marijuana. He also stated that the head coach told him that he should be “glad it was Vice President Sawada” who discovered the marijuana, and that “I felt a little relieved because I thought he would cover it up.”

If this is true, the vice president must be lacking awareness of the norm, not only as a person involved in education, but also as an honest adult.

Last year, Nihon University overhauled its administrative structure to change the organization after a series of scandals, including an incident over a dangerous tackle during a game by a member of the American football team and a tax evasion case involving a former board chairperson. The current state of Nihon University, however, shows how far it is from being reformed.

The education ministry has said it plans to set up a special team within the ministry by the end of this year to check the efforts of Nihon University to make improvements. The situation is so serious that the government must intervene in the management of one private university.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 5, 2023)