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Home > Debates Last Updated: 14:33 03/09/2007
Comment (November 11, 2004)

Comment on Takamitsu Sawa's Article "Universities Lack Will to Reform"

Steve McCarty  (Professor, Osaka Jogakuin College)

In "Universities Lack Will to Reform," Prof. Takamitsu Sawa has courageously pointed out the disproportionate number of administrative staff in Japanese universities who manage teachers rather than supporting education and research.

Especially at the former national universities the English translation "civil servant" does not capture the mastery that these Mandarins have presumed for themselves. Yet when I taught a graduate course at one of the top national universities, my Japanese wife was appalled at the sloppy administrative procedures for all the staff there. At the same time, as Prof. Sawa indicated, a teacher worked overtime and technical staff could be relied upon to set up a computer lab with the software necessary for audioconferencing with volunteer professors abroad.

When I was at a private junior college in the countryside, even some clerical staff were bossy, and after two promotions I was still treated like a full-time instructor. I overheard a typical professor, having retired from a high school, asked my dean why was McCarty-sensei promoted to full professor? Granted that I am a baseball player even now and do not act my age by Japanese standards, I have not found that people in Japanese universities know the difference between a teacher and a professor, or between Academia and other sectors of society for that matter.

Yet the international collaboration now afforded by the Internet confirms that the worldwide community of scholars shares the same academic standards and ethics. Thus it is no wonder that professors do not need to be managed to be professorial in volunteering publications, presentations, positions in academic societies, research, professional development such as in educational technology, community service, involvement in society and media, citizen-level diplomacy, free Website dissemination of information, and all that is educational on top of teaching specialized subjects.

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