Hi Blog. Turning the keyboard over to Kevin Dobbs, with a report on his temporary court defeat earlier this month over a workload around twice that given regular full-time faculty… Debito in Sapporo
Judge rules that unequal work loads on foreign faculty is legal
By Kevin Dobbs, Full-time educator at IUHW
May 8, 2007 (REVISED EDITION)
Our court experience was called “Kari Saiban” or Temporary Court, so our judge made his decision in 33 days. Following are the three main points that the judge said swayed him in favor of my workplace, the International University of Health and Welfare in Tochigi:
1) There was a “work agreement” (not a contract) that all charter teachers had to sign in 1995, the year IUHW opened. This agreement theoretically assured that teachers would stay at IUHW for 4 years, Monkasho’s trial period. All teachers signed this agreement including myself.
Teachers would not, however, have to sign any other “work agreement” thereafter. I, of course, did not. Even though that “agreement” expired in 1999, the judge deemed it admissible even though it expired 8 years ago and even though we stated in a plea that I do not remember signing the “agreement.” The one they submitted conveniently says in Article 4, “B shall teach as many hours as A requires, and shall teach English effectively to A’s students. . .”
On that day in 1995 that I was supposed to have signed this agreement, I was moving my family from Kanagawa to Tochigi. Even though we have asked for the original copy of this “agreement,” IUHW has not produced it. I strongly suspect it has been doctored. But of course this expired piece of paper shouldn’t even be valid, anyway. Curiously, I never received a copy of this “agreement” after I was supposed to have signed it.
2) Stated in our Labor Board settlement of 2006, IUHW awards Zheng Tan Yi (my wife) a decent payoff for getting unfairly fired and another “contract” colleague slightly better working conditions. As for me, the settlement states that “IUHW should carefully consider the number of my koma and make an effort to balance that number with other teachers’ koma at the university.” The average number of koma at IUHW is 6, but the judge believed the university when they said that other teachers’ committee work and other duties equaled 6 additional koma per week, which is just insane. Anyway, this provision in the settlement is really what bunged things up. . .and it was our labor union people and our lawyer who allowed that provision as a part of our overall settlement (I think they were in a hurry to finish things up)—could it be the provision that destroys me? As IUHW officials told us at a recent collective bargaining: “Because of this provision, we can give Kevin Dobbs 15 or 20 koma if we want.” Think they want me to quit?
3) A 1-year-renewable contract teacher (the one I mention above) at IUHW, and the only other union member still at IUHW, stated at a recent collective bargaining that 12 koma was acceptable for him. But that number was in his contract, anyway, and always has been, so he had no choice in the matter. Even though this teacher is a koshi with no publications or presentations to his credit, the judge decided to perceive me and this other teacher as qualitatively the same. The judge said, “If this teacher agrees with 12 koma, then so should Kevin Dobbs”—this, even though I have well over 100 highly competitive publications and some presentations to my credit, not to mention the fact that I was director of up to ten native-English speaking teachers for 10 years. At a recent collective bargaining, however, IUHW said: “If Kevin Dobbs wants to publish, he should quit and get a job at another university. His accomplishments mean nothing to us.”
Anyway, this judge totally ignored our evidence: indisputable Monkasho documents, letters from primary sources, and labor law. It was an abomination of Japanese law and basic decency.
We’re a little hesitant to appeal since we’ve been told that we might get the same judge as before—mind you, in the first town, Otawara, in Japan to allow that awful text book that recently fabricated what happened in WW II. We just don’t know what to do at this point. We’re reeling. Even though we’ve been fighting hard for 3 years, and have become hardened and tough, we’re at a loss here.
Oh, you’ll find this interesting: our union people fear that, if other universities hear about this judge’s decision, they’ll think it’s okay to give teachers more koma. As always, thank you so much for your support.
Your Tochigi Friend, Kevin Dobbs (firstname.lastname@example.org)
ADDENDUM (MAY 27)
–SENT TO ME BY KEVIN DOBBS, SINCE SOME PEDANTS HAVE ARGUED BACK THAT THEY DON’T SEE KEVIN AS SOMEHOW “QUALIFIED ENOUGH” TO DESERVE THE SAME TREATMENT AS HIS FELLOW FULL-TIME JAPANESE FACULTY OTHERWISE HIRED UNDER THE SAME CONDITIONS. HOPE THE SHOE’S ON THE OTHER FOOT FOR THE PEDANTS SOMEDAY SO THEY CAN SEE HOW IT FEELS. ANYWAY, HERE ARE KEVIN’S QUALIFICATIONS, FOR WHAT THEIR WORTH. DEBITO
Since 1995, I have worked as an Associate Professor of English at International University of Health and Welfare in Japan. Up to 2006, I was Director of Communicative Strategies and was in charge of up to ten native-English speaking instructors. Now we have only two regular native-English speaking instructors; the other three are from local language schools. The two native-English full-timers who remain have been officially isolated—in other words, our names do not appear on any university literature whether it be hard copy or on the school’s website.
At IUHW, when management considered me a “professional,” I served in many supervisory, public relations, and administrative capacities: these duties included graduate student selection; foreign graduate student advisor; departmental budget management; scheduling; curriculum design; test design; faculty advisor for several student extracurricular clubs (for example, the English Speaking Society); committee for festival coordination; design and implementation of CALL workshops; design and implementation of a university-wide, public speaking program; design and implementation of community outreach, English language workshops; coordinator for sharing outreach with nearby NGO’s and NPO’s; English-speaking host for many of our guest scholars from such countries as Kenya, Cambodia, China, Sweden; international committee; university curriculum committee; hiring committee; committee for foreign student admittance; and many others.
My research and publishing has been interdisciplinary in nature, an accepted way of publishing in Japan since anyone can remember. I’ve published academically in the specialties of EFL public speaking, EAP/ESP writing across the curriculum, and in cross-cultural communication and aesthetic sharing within the classroom. In the 1990’s, I published several book reviews in the Asahi Shimbun, and I’m proud of the fact that later on I was primary essay writer for Shigeru Matsumoto’s text book, Rakku Raku Eibun Kaishaku (Understandable English Essays). Also, I have published primary source literature—short stories, essays, and poems—in dozens of highly competitive, North American literary journals including The New York Quarterly, Carolina Quarterly, Raritan: a Quarterly Review, Mid-American Review, Chelsea, Beloit Fiction Journal, Florida Review, Gulf Stream, Karamu, Poet Lore, Sou’wester, Madison Review, and many others. Within these venues, I’ve published on numerous occasions with Nobel and Pulitzer Laureates, National Book Award winners, and many other literary luminaries. Once, I was featured with one of my favorite novelists, Ken Kesey, in Whiskey Island Magazine, Cleveland State University Press. By the way, if you’d like to take an easy look at some of my poems, go to Maverick Magazine, a leading online journal in which I’ve been published in four issues: maverickmagazine.com. If you’d like to check (verify) my publications, Google me by writing into the search box, “Kevin Dobbs, poetry,” or just “Kevin Dobbs” should get quite a few listings.
Although I’m an accomplished writer, I’m obviously not, by any means, famous, but most of IUHW’s Japanese full-timers, who teach English, have had few or no publications at all. There was never a time since 1995 that I didn’t have more publications than all other Japanese English teachers put together.
As for my graduate degree, I have a terminal Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree in Creative Writing, Arizona State University, which consisted of 48 semester hours: 24 in literature and 24 in various forms of writing. This kind of degree usually takes three and a half to four years to complete. My four and a half years in graduate school left me with 58 graduate semester hours. My undergraduate degree was in English literature.
I’ve taught ESL/EFL since 1986: composition, public speaking, conversation, listening, basic reading, American culture, basic literature, ESP (medical English), traditional grammar and usage, creative writing, film criticism, critical reading and writing and research, and research methods.