Stay in Fukushima, or else, students are warned.

Ohu University, located in the town of Koriyama, Fukushima Prefecture, offers courses in dentistry and pharmaceutical sciences. With that sort of educational focus, it’s not surprising that the faculty would be particularly sensitive towards public health issues, and as a result extra concerned about the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.

Even still, 89 fourth-year students in the private university’s dentistry department were startled when they read an email from one of their professors which included the following warning:

“Please do not leave Fukushima Prefecture between now and May 6. If you are found to have left the prefecture, you will be expelled.”

The mail was sent on April 10, the first Friday following the start of classes at Ohu University for the new school year. The May 6 date seems to be in reference to the state of emergency announced by the Japanese government for certain parts of the country on April 6, which is tentatively scheduled to last one month.

However, the state of emergency has been declared for Tokyo and the prefectures of Osaka, Kanagawa, Saitama, Chiba, Hyogo, and Fukuoka, none of which border Fukushima. And while the students may have been studying dentistry, it doesn’t require a master’s degree in education to know that individual professors don’t have the authority to unilaterally expel students.

Eventually word got back around to Ohu University president Kazuo Seino, who has since issued a statement refuting the threat in the professor’s email. While the school has asked students to voluntarily refrain from traveling to parts of Japan that are under the state of emergency designation, it has no policies confining students to Fukushima Prefecture, and Seino offered his apologies to students and their families for any fear or confusion the email may have caused.

▼ Ohu University

In explaining his actions, the professor, whose name has not been released, said, “As students of medicine, I wanted them to act responsibly…[but] I was not trying to say that I would have them expelled.” That last part doesn’t really mesh with the email’s straightforward “you will be expelled,” but it does at least sound like the professor’s intent was to use a scare tactic to keep students local on their days off, not actually ruin anyone’s academic career. Still, like the boss who punched his employee in the face because he thought it would protect his other workers from the coronavirus, even if his heart is in the right place, he’s going to have to find some other way to deliver his message.

Sources: NHK, Asahi Shimbun
Top image: Pakutaso
Insert image: Wikipedia/あばさー 
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