Tokyo International University of America forced to close, send students home
On April 23, Tokyo International University of America (TIUA) president Hiroshi Takahashi announced that TIUA would be closing for the time being, and students in the American Studies Program (ASP) left campus shortly thereafter. In an email, TIUA Director of Administration Toru Tanabe answered several questions regarding TIUA’s temporary closure.
In his statement, President Takahashi said that TIUA will remain closed for the rest of this academic year, with the possibility of staying closed for all of 2021. He said the school closed after the TIUA Corporation declared financial emergency, which “required a substantial reduction in the Corporation’s staff and its expenditures.”
Several factors will affect when TIUA reopens. According to Tanabe, COVID-19 will continue to be a safety concern for institutions, students and families engaged in study abroad programs. He said TIUA will also be looking for financial confidence to strengthen before reopening: “Students and their families must be willing to and comfortable spending the substantial amount of money it takes to study abroad.”
TIUA closed less than two months into this year’s program, but Tokyo International University (TIU) is working closely with students and their families to determine the value and amount of these reimbursements. TIU is TIUA’s parent organization.
Tanabe said much of TIUA’s staff has been permanently laid off.
“Unfortunately, when there are no students there are no financial resources. This necessitated laying off the majority of our employees. Indeed, only two remain; one in Japan and one in Salem.”
While Tanabe said that employees were permanently laid off, other sources, such as an April 30 email by professor Miho Fujiwara, said that TIUA’s faculty may be brought back when TIUA reopens.
Tanabe described the support that laid off employees are receiving: “Employees were fully compensated and received severance pay, but these are personnel matters governed by privacy. We brought someone in to work closely with all staff to address a range of questions and needs, and also to organize teaching materials and program documents so that everything remains well-preserved for eventual re-opening.”
There was concern from some students that when TIUA eventually reopened, the ASP program would be smaller in size or offer fewer opportunities to its students. However, Tanabe said that no permanent changes to the program have been determined or discussed.
“President Takahashi and Provost Long will eventually engage in discussions about how the program should improve or evolve. The dramatic changes in teaching happening at this time will help inform those conversations. Regardless, the overarching vision will remain, which is integrating TIU students into the Willamette experience through the ASP program.”
Tanabe hopes that despite the abrupt closure of TIUA and the departure of this year’s ASP students, the connection between TIUA and Willamette will continue to prosper once normalcy returns.
“As is true for a lot of things right now, sometimes our appreciation increases when we no longer have access. COVID-19 forced an unwanted pause for the ASP. When the ASP returns, our desire is for the Willamette community to embrace things even more fully than before.”
In an April 30 email to the Japanese department, professor Miho Fujiwara said that the College of Liberal Arts (CLA) members of the TIU-TIUA Relations Committee “wanted to gather expressions of gratitude and care for our TIUA faculty.” In this email, Fujiwara included a Google document that collected well wishes from students, faculty and administrators for the laid off TIUA faculty. As of May 5, this document was over 26 pages long with over 100 responses.
In an April 23 email, Fujiwara detailed how CLA students can stay connected to ASP students during TIUA’s closure: “Even though the 2020 ASP students will not be able to come back, drop a line to say ‘hi’ if you know their contacts.”
Existing student groups and clubs, as well as the World Language Studio, are continuing operations in order to help CLA and ASP students connect, now and when TIUA reopens in the future. “We experience valuable intercultural experience in these mutual collaborations,” Fujiwara said.
Fujiwara finished the email by saying: “Online experience will not replace the in-person experience with ASP students, TIUA faculty and staff on campus. But let’s do what we can do to prepare for the day when they return.”