(The Japan Association of Language Teaching)

Date: Wed, 9 Apr 1997
From: malang@gol.com (Thomas L. Simmons)
Subject: JALT's Response to Discrimination

Here is the message I received from the President of JALT, Gene van Troyer. This response was to the mass firings at Tokyo Foreign Language College recently.

Following is what I had posted to our WWWeb page a few days ago as part of my JALT Prez monthly message. Feel free to use it:

A Message from the JALT President: Mass Faculty Terminations
Gene van Troyer

One important aspect of professionalism is working conditions. By this I refer not to the physical, classroom situation, but to conditions of employment. Contracts, wages or salary, hours required in the classroom and office, grounds for termination and so forth, inevitably influence a teacher's ability to perform. It is, therefore, appropriate for a professional organization to express at least a general view on such matters. Recently I was informed that a certain college in Tokyo had fired 8 foreign faculty members via resgistered mail on March 15th presumably because they were members of a teachers labor union, and that in the previous 18 months another 13 union faculty members, 5 of them Japanese, had apparently been fired for the same reason. I was asked what JALT's view of this sort of thing was. JALT does not have a specific employment-related policy, but it does have a policy on discrimination that is applicable here. Following is the reply I sent:

"The Japan Association for Language Teaching is opposed to discrimination on the basis of race, sex, creed, religion, national origin or ethnicity. Certainly dismissal from employment on the arbitrary basis of professional affiliation, be it a labor union or academic association, constitutes a discriminatory employment practice.

"JALT's educational mission is to promote excellence and professionalism in language teaching. As JALT President I assume that this is a goal shared by any educational institution that offers language learning programs, and that such institutions would be keenly interested in hiring and retaining the most competent and well-trained faculty as possible. Terminating faculty solely on the basis of union affiliation, which is a basic right guaranteed under the Constitution and Labor Standards Law, would seem to cast into doubt an institution's purported commitment to educational excellence.

"I am personally and professionally dismayed by the counterproductive nature of an action such as the mass termination of faculty. Such actions not only undermine the profession by diminishing the commitment and competence of faculty in terms of research and pedagogy--the backbone of any educational institution worthy of the title "college" or "university"--they also cause grievous damage to the image of the institution and, ultimately, to the quality of education being offered to students.

"JALT emphatically does not support this kind of employment practice as a means to resolve disagreements between administration and faculty."

Everyone of a moderate, cooperative disposition naturally wants to believe that this sort of thing does not happen. It is repugnant and egregious to terminate competent, qualified faculty on the basis of social or religious persuasion, national or ethnic origin, sex or race. Unfortunately it happens all the time in various countries around the world. As a legally established academic association in Japan, JALT cannot address specific labor disputes or act as an advocator for individual members who are faced with unfair employment practices. JALT is not a labor union, which is formed under a different set of laws. What JALT can do officially is to speak out about general professional concerns, of which employment practices are a part, and how those practices affect the way teachers are able to perform.

Gene van Troyer
JALT President

JALT homepage: http://langue.hyper.chubu.ac.jp/jalt

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