Japanese university ‘oppressing’ student group, say expelled leaders

Association heads booted out by Aichi after joining protest against Ukraine invasion and displaying banner with institution’s name on it

June 25, 2024
Japan anti-war protest
Source: iStock/electravk

A Japanese university faces legal action after expelling students involved in anti-war protests. 

Aichi University, a private institution founded in 1946, expelled three members of a student association after they attended an off-campus protest against the invasion of Ukraine in February 2023, The Mainichi Shimbun reported

The students were formerly chair and board members of the “Aichi University Toyohashi Self-Governing Association”. At the event, they displayed a banner with the name of the university group. The students had also protested against rumoured tuition fee increases in July 2022. 

The university reportedly accused them of acting “against the duties of a student” and of having “disturbed” the campus. Bosses said the students had not obtained permission to use the institution’s name and this created “the appearance of an official university activity”. It also said the signs related to tuition fees caused “unnecessary anxiety and confusion among students and their guardians”.

Now the former students have described the expulsion as “an oppressive act” aimed at crushing the student association by targeting its board members. They were already involved in a legal dispute with the university over the management of the student union building. 

They also accused the university of censorship, claiming that the institution had intercepted letters from the students to faculty members discussing their expulsion.

The plaintiffs seek to be reinstated as students as well as ¥11 million (£54,318) each in damages. According to local media, the university has already rejected a settlement proposal that would see the expulsion revoked. 

In the wake of the Russia-Ukraine and Israel-Hamas wars, student-led protests have spread across Japan, including recently at the University of Tokyo and Waseda University, following bitter confrontations between students and police on US campuses.

Although protests were a significant part of Japanese university life throughout the 1960s and 1970s, in general, dissent among students has been stifled in recent years. Experts suggest that Japanese youth are more apathetic than previous generations and feel cynical about the idea that they can influence societal change. 

Aichi University has been contacted for comment. 


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