More than 70 professors and other faculty members at Kyoto’s Doshisha University say they are “ashamed” by comments from their president, Koji Murata, in support of a set of security bills at a Diet committee hearing earlier this week.

“We, a group of university faculty members who pursue peace, are opposed to the passage of the security bills that are in violation of the Constitution,” the academics said in a statement released Wednesday.

“We are ashamed from the bottom of our hearts that despite (the nature of) the legislation, the professor who serves as the president publicly expressed support for the bills.”

During a Lower House special committee hearing on Monday, Murata said the legislation, which cleared the Lower House Thursday, is necessary to maintain Japan’s security amid a rapidly changing security environment. He was one of four scholars recommended by the ruling parties to offer an opinion.

As of 9:30 a.m. Friday, the statement had been signed by 83 professors and other faculty members from the elite private university.

Noting that Murata’s speech runs counter to the widely held view among constitutional scholars that the legislation is “unconstitutional,” the statement emphasized that the president’s opinion is merely “personal” and does not represent the university’s official stance.

In response, Murata told The Japan Times on Friday that he welcomed the move by the faculty to challenge him.

“Allowing various opinions to co-exist and deepening our mutual understanding through multiple — if sometimes heated — discussions, that’s what a university should really be like,” Murata said.

“Be it president or chairman, you are allowed to criticize whoever you want directly. This is our university’s tradition.”

Opponents of the defense bills say the legislation, which would enable Japan’s Self-Defense Forces to defend allies from foreign attack for the first time since World War II, contradicts the nation’s pacifist Constitution and may drag it into battle alongside the U.S.

During his speech Monday, Murata acknowledged that the legislation was constitutionally debatable.

But he said he and other security experts will in time come to appreciate its legitimacy, given China’s rise as an economic superpower and the declining influence of the U.S. — Japan’s closest ally.

The scholars warned against undermining the nation’s legal foundations.

“If we enact unconstitutional legislation to cope with the international situation it would disregard the principle of constitutionalism,” they said. Murata, they continued, advocated a stronger Japan-U.S. alliance based on the assumption that China will be Japan’s hypothetical enemy. Such an assertion is “nothing academic but extremely political,” they said.

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