Stop the Harassment at Sophia University

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・Sophia University has a culture of silencing harassment and siding with the aggressors. Multiple professors (both inside and outside of Sophia) has reached out to us, describing similar instances of harassment. 

・Professor Choo applied for tenure a total of 4 times. She was accepted in her 3rd attempt, but the school retracted her tenure for unjust reasons. (Specifics below) She was denied tenure in her 4th application and the school rejected it without even evaluating it. 

There is an ongoing ‘culture of silencing harassment’ at Sophia University. Contemptible behavior such as harassment should not occur anywhere, especially at one of the leading global universities in Japan. Yet recently, it was revealed that a professor at Sophia University has been severely harassed by other faculty members of the Faculty of Liberal Arts Department (henceforth FLA Department). 

In 2014, Professor Kukhee Choo was persuaded to leave her permanent position at one of the top 50 universities in the United States to join Sophia University’s FLA Department. She was told that she could go up for tenure in 2 years owing to her publications and accomplishments. However, despite having applied for tenure 4 times in the past 5 years, Professor Choo has not been given tenure. The condition of her contract with Sophia states that she must receive tenure within 5 years to become a permanent employee.

Professor Choo applied for tenure 4 times within the past 5 years, and has been rejected 3 times, and has had one retraction. The reasons for the 3 rejections were always contradictory to the facts. Professor Choo’s 3rd tenure application was actually approved by the FLA Department in November of 2017. However, this promotion was later withdrawn in February of 2018. The basis of this retraction included more contradictory explanations, such as an accusation of 'more than 30 days unreported absence' during a prior winter travel and then an alleged lack of publications. In reality, Professor Choo followed necessary procedures for her winter travel, and is one of the most prolific research publishers in the department and submitted more publication than what was required for promotion. Professor Choo’s 4th tenure application was never even considered for evaluation. 

 

Other forms of harassment include:

・Being told to submit a picture of her family member in their hospital bed to prove that her family member was really ill.

・Being labeled a liar and "slow" in learning the hierarchical human relationships of the department (she did not know who to curry favor with), and therefore, could not get tenure. 

・Being told that the bullying was the department’s ‘culture’, and thus something she had to accept, and that if she were to report the harassment to the university, her promotion would be affected. 

・Being told, “You’re a dog in training" and that she had to put up with the bullying to get tenure.

・Being ignored at the hallways and elevator by her colleagues for years.

 

Professor Choo has been consulting with the Sophia University Harassment Committee since 2015 regarding the ongoing power and academic harassment in the FLA Department. She has also reached out to the Harassment Countermeasures Committee to resolve this problem. However, without checking the submitted evidence, the Harassment Countermeasures Committee concluded that “none of the acts constitute harassment" and soon after, the university terminated Professor Choo’s employment. From this it is clear that Sophia University has decided to ignore their problems. 

Sophia University has also made efforts to suppress the voices of students who hoped to shed light on the harassment against Professor Choo. The Sophia Times Newspaper attempted to raise awareness of the harassment on campus to the general student population, and have interviewed a few FLA students. However, the Center of Student Affairs Office not only threatened the The Sophia Times Newspaper, but censored their article as well.

(On a separate, but related note, this is not the first time Sophia University has taken the side of the aggressors. On June 20th, 2019, a symposium titled “For a Campus Without Sexual Harassment/Sexual Violence ~Suggestions from Students~” was held at Sophia University. At this event, the representative of Sophia University, again from the Center of Student Affairs Office, made some problematic remarks. He defended the actions of sexual harassers when he said “I still think that understanding the perpetrator is also extremely important.” Making such comments defending rapists in a room full of rape victims is not only extremely inappropriate, but alarming.)

In short, Sophia University has created a culture of silencing the victims of harassment, their supporters, and those who fight against harassment. We are calling for support to end this vicious cycle of perpetuating harassment at Sophia University as we, the students and alumni of Sophia University FLA Department, stand by Professor Choo’s account.

From the perspectives of both current and former students, it is undeniable that Professor Choo in the FLA Department is one of the most valuable professors at Sophia University. Students who have taken her classes can attest to the quality of her teaching and course content. All of her courses range from historical and sociological perspectives on media & film culture, gender & race, and critical thinking. They all provide a truly global perspective, as the courses offered at Sophia University should. Professor Choo also promotes an open and dynamic environment that engages students in active discussions, which prepares students to be confident in participating on the global stage. 

Professor Choo has also been an active protector of women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, and students’ safety on campus. She has helped Sophia students who were sexually assaulted, bullied, and harassed, and has guided them through their difficult times. We believe that Sophia University would be hard-pressed to find a professor as dedicated and passionate in the growth, development and protection of their students as Professor Choo is. 

The denial of harassment against Professor Choo by Sophia University has reached the point that students had no choice but to rally in front of the school to bring attention to the truth of what is going on behind closed doors. Professor Choo’s case is not unique. We have received messages from professors and students all around the world who have had similar experiences at Sophia University as well as at other institutions. 

This is why it is urgent to act.

What we aim to do through this petition

・Have Sophia University and the FLA Department recognize and address their ongoing harassment issues. Denying harassment goes against Sophia University's ideal of "recognizing the dignity and fundamental human rights of others” as stated on the university website.

・Have Sophia University continue Professor Choo’s employment. Her employment is not only the matter of the professor herself and the school, but also the students’ opportunity to learn more about the various social issues going on around the world. Only after learning about these issues can we students follow Sophia University’s philosophy, "Men and Women for Others, with Others."

・Have Sophia University and the FLA Department recognize that it has threatened the students, and apologize for it.

・To prevent a case like this from happening again, we urge the school to hold a symposium against harassment for all members, students and faculty, within a university.  

By signing this petition, you pledge your support to put a stop to Sophia University’s culture of silencing harassment as well as the unfair removal of Professor Choo, to shed light on this harassment issue, and to work to prevent it from happening again in the future.

Much like the #MeToo movement and Hong Kong protest abroad, change can only happen when enough people see the unfairness and speak out against it. Students' voices matter, and it is the duty of the university to provide the high level education that they promised. Please support our petition to protect current and future professors from harassment and to protect our quality of education at Sophia University.