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Lecturer at ‘Japan’s MIT’ Told To Pay Damages Over Stolen Thesis

July 30, 1996

TOKYO (AP) _ In an embarrassment for a university that likes to call itself ``Japan’s MIT,″ a lecturer at Tsukuba University was ordered Tuesday to pay damages for taking credit for a female colleague’s writings.

The case exposed what critics say is pervasive sex discrimination at Japanese universities and also raised questions about standards at Tsukuba, whose president is Nobel Prize-winning physicist Reona Esaki.

The Tokyo District Court ordered lecturer Toshihiro Yoshida to pay former Tsukuba student Yukiko Okubo $11,000 for submitting her thesis to a scholarly journal _ with his name as the primary author.

Okubo said she wrote the paper, a mathematical analysis of investment portfolios, by herself in 1991 when both she and Yoshida were students at a Tsukuba master’s course in management systems.

She said she added Yoshida as secondary author under pressure from an influential professor at Tsukuba who was helping Yoshida get a job as a lecturer.

Yoshida then reversed the order of the authors’ names without Okubo’s knowledge, the court ruled. The article appeared in the journal Operations Research in May 1993.

``The primary author of the work in this case was the plaintiff,″ the judge, Yoshio Tamakoshi, said. ``We must conclude that the act of resubmitting the work (with the authors’ names reversed) constituted an illegal act.″

Okubo, who works at a computer programming firm, told The Associated Press that she believed sex discrimination was at the root of the case.

``This happened to me because they thought I couldn’t fight back,″ she said. ``But actually I could.″

She also charged that Tsukuba was lax in probing the case, noting that an investigative committee failed to ask for her testimony and never published its results.

In court testimony, Okubo said a Tsukuba professor warned her that if she pursued the case, ``you will have no future and you won’t have a single friend.″

A Tsukuba University spokesman, Senei Daimon, said he hadn’t heard of the case. He said Esaki, the university president, wasn’t available for comment.

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