Waseda University Sexual Harassment List Accidentally Released

December 2, 2008

A list of members of the Waseda University who sought counseling for sexual harassment, “power harassment”, or stalking was released on the internet through file sharing software. On the list were 390 cases which listed the names and addresses of victims, the reason for seeking counseling, and the name of the accused. The list referred to people who sought counseling between 1999 and 2005.

An employee of the university who was a member of the Anti-harassment Committee reportedly brought the data home. She then sent the data to a friend by e-mail requesting that he help her create a database to manage the data. The data was leaked onto the internet by file sharing data on the man’s computer.

Waseda University released a statement saying that the data is only a record of counseling and although there are several people listed as accused in the file, this is no indication of guilt.

The school apologized to all those who may have been troubled by the release of the information.

Commentary:

Briefly, the original Japanese article here explicitly listed the person who brought the information home as a female staff member, and the friend who inadvertently leaked the information as a male friend. I’m not sure why, but there may be something more to the story.

How many of these 390 cases went beyond the counseling stage?

Here’s a link to the Waseda University Sexual Harassment Information Committee website’s “The Process of Counseling” which describes the confidentiality policies in section four.

There are strong assurances that confidentiality will be “strictly kept” and that committee members are “legally bound not to speak of any information they have concerning the consulting and counseling”.

The committee’s website above also outlines what one must do if a resolution is desired. The language seems to imply that they hope you decide that you are satisfied with just counseling, but there is a very convoluted and difficult sounding process to follow if one should want some kind of resolution. There are multiple committees and appeals involved so I won’t go into it here, but it seems that the road from counseling to legal action is a long and winding one… uphill, in traffic.

If you’ve read this blog before you know that one of the themes is that social problems need to be brought out into the open in order to be solved. Here’s another case of that with a twist. There is a committee in place to help the victims, but a process which seems nearly impossible to traverse if one wants disciplinary action taking. Add to that a staff that takes all too lightly their own confidentiality policy.