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Scandal-hit Nihon University on June 3 named award-winning author Mariko Hayashi, an alumnus of the Tokyo-based institution, at the head of his board of directors to clean up the mess left by his predecessor and other top officials.
The revamping of this veritable and massive organization, whose roots date back to the Meiji era (1868-1912), is beyond the abilities of a single individual, even someone as well-known and highly skilled in communications as Hayashi.
If she plans to pursue lofty ideals, Hayashi will need to gain support from a wide range of stakeholders by maintaining open and effective communication and paying close attention to the voices of faculty and students.
Nihon University has weathered a series of scandals in recent years. They include controversy over a dangerous illegal tackle by his football team’s linebacker against a rival team’s helpless quarterback, revelations that his medical school gave favorable treatment to children of alumni during entrance exams and tax evasion charges against Hidetoshi Tanaka, the former president, and other officials.
The common factors behind the scandals stemmed from Tanaka’s “tyrannical” control over the university during the 13 years and five terms he served as chairman of the board of trustees, a wholesale repeal of accountability for senior officials and the homogeneous and closed nature of the organization, which has no women or outsiders in key positions.
In response to recommendations from outside experts, the university this spring set certain requirements for who would head the board and left the choice to a selection committee made up of the president of a private university and heads of business.
The requirements included the absence of involvement in the past management of the university and the appointment of a person capable of establishing close cooperative relations with local communities and other organizations concerned.
After evaluating the candidates, the committee chose Hayashi, who committed in a letter and the interview process to run the university in a way that gives top priority to the benefit of students and the appointment of women. in important positions.
She faces a formidable challenge in reforming the management of Japan’s largest private university, which has 70,000 students and a faculty and staff of 4,000. With no experience in running a school, Hayashi will have to tackle the difficult task of eradicating the long-established culture of complying unquestioningly with the demands of superiors.
Hayashi announced at a press conference that she plans to create a task force made up of experts in various fields, such as certified public accountants, lawyers and school superintendents. The selection of suitable senior assistants to support his mission is a matter of considerable urgency.
The new team will have to understand the environment that governs Japanese universities and fully engage in the government’s education policy. This will require defining a strategy to respond to the challenges facing the institution.
Hayashi clarified that she was aware of the enormity of the task she faced when she said it was not something she could do in her spare time. We hope she will demonstrate a level of commitment commensurate with her arduous mission.
More than anything else, she will need to have candid discussions with faculty and staff members as well as with students. By listening to what they have to say, she should be able to identify the issues that have plagued the university and come up with a viable plan to overhaul the organization.
Questions to be answered in the process include how the former chairman of the board was able to behave like a despot for so long and what were the shortcomings behind the failing management of the institution.
In response to a wave of scandals that have hit this private university and others, the Ministry of Education is working on a bill to revise the law on private schools. The review will aim to ensure more effective governance and internal control by strengthening the powers of the boards of directors, which act as supervisory bodies for the boards of directors.
In a proactive move, in anticipation of the law review, Nihon University is working to implement a new management structure in July by reshuffling its trustees and trustees by the end of June.
The influence of the disgraced former president must be thrown away. The university has an obligation to make clear to the society, from which it selects new trustees and trustees, the type of discussions that take place and what new members are expected to accomplish as a first step in carving out a new and better future. .
–The Asahi Shimbun, June 7