Fed up with a litany of poor behavior by drunken students, Tohoku University in Miyagi Prefecture has decided to take the unusually harsh step of evicting all 105 residents from a school dorm by the end of September.
The move, announced Tuesday, represents a last resort by the prestigious university to stamp out alcohol-related lapses that have plagued the 123-year-old dorm, named Meizenryo, which is overseen by the university but run by a student body. The dorm in the city of Sendai houses first- and second-year students and about 70 percent of its residents are not legally old enough to drink, according to the university.
For years, the school admonished students to improve their behavior, and in April it issued a notice banning any drinking activities in the dorm. But such efforts haven’t worked, said Yasunori Kumakura, a university official in charge of student affairs.
By kicking out the students, “we hope to reset the atmosphere in the dorm,” he said. “We’re doing it for the sake of their health.”
Last November, one of the dorm’s residents was hospitalized for acute alcohol poisoning.
Once the dorm is emptied of students, it will close for renovations and resume operations in April. Students who have abided by the April notice will be thrown out, too. But they will likely be welcomed back in April after living temporarily in apartments arranged by the university. Those who have been found to have broken the no-drinking rule will need to find a new place to live in on their own.
Tao Kimura, the 20-year-old vice president of the dorm’s student body, said: “The announcement came completely out of the blue, and we only have two months until we need to get out of here. They should’ve given us a heads-up, because (the order) has such a huge impact on our lives.”
Despite its high percentage of minors, Atsushi Higashitani, a university professor in charge of the dorm, says it has been notorious for alcohol-based rituals and at times residents have clashed with neighbors who complained about the students’ midnight frenzies.
Occasionally, senior residents would bang on the door of younger residents’ rooms — even while they’re asleep — to persuade them to drink, the professor said. Unable to make it to the bathroom, students would sometimes vomit out of windows. Every year, about 10 percent of new residents, fed up with such traditions, decide to leave after a month or so, Higashitani said.
Despite repeated warnings from the university, some students defended their drinking tradition as a “way to foster fraternity,” in an anonymous survey conducted by the university last year, the professor said.
University official Kumakura disagrees.
“Compared with decades ago, I think society is growing more intolerant of minors drinking alcohol,” he said. “This idea that drinking is a rite of passage for college freshmen is not so accepted as it used to be.”