International University of Health and Welfare

A Systemically Corrupt and Racist Institution

By Kevin Dobbs, Associate Professor of English, International University of Health and Welfare
March 2007


From its inception in 1995, International University of Health and Welfare, Tochigi Prefecture, has discriminated against its foreign teachers, and often its few foreign students. Foreign teachers, many of whom have been far more qualified than their Japanese counterparts, have suffered extreme marginalization born of . . . garden variety racism.


Finally, in April of 2004, IUHW’s management, through a series of nasty tricks, attempted to fire all foreign teachers in its foreign language department. Even after these foreign teachers joined a labor union to protect themselves, management fired three of the contract teachers in an effort to “bust the Union.” One of them was Zheng Tan Yi, a part-time teacher of Chinese, who was better published and had more education than any of her Japanese colleagues. After she had served for ten years as an abused part-timer, they fired her over the phone. With a lot of help from local groups, the labor union, a few diet members, and inspired judges at the Tochigi Labor Board, Tan Yi won an historic settlement (the first of its kind in Japan) in April of 2006.


But harassment of the two remaining foreign teachers (both Americans) continues. Mind you, before April of 2004, there were eight to ten foreign teachers, some of whom, harassed into submission, became physically ill and had to quit. Forms of harassment have included: summary interrogations; many threatening letters slid under office doors; increased course loads, double or triple that of Japanese colleagues; elimination from committee and other important assignments in order to isolate; taking research days away; no longer acknowledging the research and publishing of foreign teachers (especially difficult for Associate Professor Kevin Dobbs who is probably the best published teacher in the university); language discrimination against foreigners who don’t speak enough Japanese and against those who speak too well. But that’s not all: foreign teachers’ classes, which before 2006 were nearly all “required,” are now all “elective” courses. Eerily, however, those courses taught by Japanese English teachers remain “required” courses.


The saddest story, however, involves a young Korean Assistant Professor from another department: even though he had exceptionally high student evaluations, was publishing well, had a PhD, and was generally terrific, the founder fired him. This unfortunate teacher begged the founder to let him stay because he desperately needed the money for his ten-year-old son, who was being treated for leukemia. This made no difference to the founder—it just angered him more. The labor union may have been able to save this teacher from the firing, but he was afraid to join, saying that Koreans, union or no union, cannot dare hope for “equality” at IUHW.


IUHW, in only twelve years, has become one of the most racist and corrupt universities in Japan and has already attracted considerable, negative media attention covering many types of improprieties—including government related scandals involving massive sums of misappropriated money. The corruption is now so entrenched that there is now little hope for any real improvement. Students, teachers, and staff will continue to suffer, for who knows how long, from the whims of just a few cronies.