Does The Punishment Fit The Behaviour?

As a union, we believe that certain employee behaviour can, at times, warrant justifiable discipline (and even dismissal) under a fair set of working rules. Even so, this case raises some moral questions.

Many of you will have heard of the Kwansaei Gakuin lecturer who made a comment about seeing if a student from Fukushima Prefecture would "glow in the dark" (allegedly after turning off the lights in the classroom, according to some media). Fukushima, as you probably well know, is still experiencing the effects of a nuclear meltdown and the negative stigma that media saturation / sensationalism has caused.

The so-called "joke" was certainly offensive and inconsiderate, especially considering the bullying that has occurred to students relocated from Fukushima to other areas of Japan - but was the punishment appropriate?

The punishment in question? Three months of reduced salary and non-renewal of contract (allegedly at the lecturer's request, though one has to wonder if he was encouraged to fall on his proverbial sword).

Would a written apology have been sufficient?

Compounding the issue is the fact that the incident occurred in 2014 and the punishment is just happening now at the end of 2017.

This is not a case the union is dealing with (and we are glad we aren't!), but the debate over what would constitute an "appropriate punishment" still carries on amongst our staff and activists.

What do you think?

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THE MAINICHI (February 21, 2017)
KOBE (Kyodo) -- A part-time teacher at Kwansei Gakuin University made a comment ridiculing a student from nuclear disaster-hit Fukushima Prefecture in 2014 that she might glow in the dark because of her supposed exposure to radiation, the western Japan university said Tuesday.

The remark was made by an English-language teacher, identified as a foreign national in his 40s, according to the university in Nishinomiya, Hyogo Prefecture. He later explained that it was supposed to be a joke.

The university said the teacher received a three-month pay cut dated last Friday as the university regards his comment as discriminatory and "inconsiderate to people affected by" the March 11, 2011, quake and tsunami disaster, which led to a crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

Although the pay cut will be applied from March as a formality, the university will not renew the teacher's contract when it expires at the end of March in line with the teacher's request.

During his English class sometime around October or November 2014, the teacher asked the student, who had entered the university in April that year, where she was from. After her answer, the teacher turned off the lights and said he thought she would glow.

The student, who is in her 20s, found it "difficult" to attend classes after the incident, the university said.

After she learned the university had opened a harassment counseling center in April last year, the student sought advice about the incident.

"We would like to apologize to the student and people affected by the disaster," Shoichi Ito, vice president of the university, said in a statement, adding the school will make sure that such incidents will not occur again.

Disaster reconstruction minister Masahiro Imamura told reporters the same day the incident was "very regrettable" and "really intolerable."


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