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How to Ensure a Culture of Silence: Finance 101

When George Washington was offered a 3rd term as the first-ever President of the United States of America, he refused it citing that an indefinite power-grab would set a terrible precedent for a country that aimed to be democratic and open to progress.  And so the cap was set at 2 terms.

Unfortunately, this sunset clause fails to make it into the charter of most institutions, which instead aim to capitalize on expanding and entrenched power, forever and ever.  After all, it saves on start-up costs by already existing.  To win both ways, institutional PR will try to tell you two opposing things:

  1. That they are “stable” because of their size, age and “tried and true” policies
  2. But that they also have the resources and wisdom to be responsive to a changing world

It’s “win-win”!!  However, by definition, an institution defies change and progress: no “anomalous” person or event can ever change its course; it will not mutate; it will not adapt.

To keep up the public face of  “balancing stability and responsiveness”, the institution, say, an international school in a poorly regulated, isolated educational context, would make sure to have it “both ways”.  For instance, they would put teachers on one-year renewable contracts with no contribution to the Japanese pension plan–in order to fire any teacher at their discretion, but, also renew other teachers over and over at their discretion–for the overall semblance of rewarding good work with job security.  However, because there is no real job market to speak of when people are on specific working visas, there cannot be a real meritocracy.  Teachers are therefore totally financially dependent on the school.

As a private institution, you’re thinking, maybe a school admin can do what they want!  Sure.  But, sometimes standard labor laws don’t allow them to have it both ways–as Ms. Tran looked into.  If they did have free-rein both ways, it would wreak havoc on individual lives financially, whose cost society sometimes has to pick up.  A lesser known example: St. Mary’s didn’t pay unemployment insurance at the time it willfully made Ms. Tran unemployed in Tokyo–she had to demand it. Hence, laws.

So, what about the manoeuvres of an institution in a totally different case like this one dealing with child rape at St. Mary’s International School?

No change.  There is no real will or motivation for the administration to own or admit the fact that they had a child rapist among them–by this I mean hold this to the criminal standard that society has already dictated in law.  Doing so would invite financial ruin.  Instead, we’ve seen them shuffle their rapist to an unknowing Japanese community of children, then back to Canada, in another jurisdiction where everyone could then conveniently wash their hands of the whole thing.  That is exactly what an institution would do and what this one did.  Of course.  So, when we see this recent update from Kagei, we have to see it for the banal, “keep the course” drivel that it is.  This response would seem appropriate if it were from some pro-active neighboring school in Setagaya, wanting to assure parents that their institution has got NOTHING to do with this horrendous mess at St. Mary’s down the street.  But it’s actually from St. Mary’s International School: the “tried and true” institution, that by its very nature and policies, actively harbored and smuggled a rapist of our children, and countless others who sexually abused them, and now wants us to believe that it is earnestly searching for the one right thing to do to make it all better!  Please.

Parents, alumni, is our institutional nostalgia so impoverished that we can’t be generous enough to support the most vulnerable among us?  We are not an institution–we do have the flexibility to progress.  Let’s not be blind or naive to an institution’s bias to quietly keep course at all costs.  A progressive response from them is patently impossible.  Especially with this administration…

*    *    *

Recently, a former SMIS dad, who is now an investment banker in Antwerp, reminded us of this little thread of thought that made us think even more deeply about how institutions and their long-time staff become an “entrenched”, obstinate bunch:

In the Japanese Real Estate and Stock Bubble of the 1980s, banks were just lending, lending, lending at low interest rates, with easy credit checks, pushing up the land prices so high, that at one point, all of Japan was worth 4 times the land value of all of mainland USA, even though it was barely the size of California.

We wonder what St. Mary’s did with all that available credit?  As a large non-profit with an educational mandate, did it borrow to give the students a world class education?  Not that we remember: everything was pretty stuck in the 50s and 60s, same rotting textbooks, nasty carpeting and no air-con, until the new campus in the late-2000s, parents had to pay for every extra thing or raise money through events.  So, did the school just pass up that major era of easy credit?

Maybe not:

It would have been really easy for a non-profit to get in on the real estate craze.  It could have borrowed using its credit and then lent money to its staff to buy houses (i.e. foreigners and their wives with no bank credit).  It could even have made a profit by charging higher interest to its staff than what it paid to the bank.  Since the repayments and interest to the school would be deducted via salary expenses, all this would have been invisible to an auditor.  Unless this non-profit had a bank charter, it would have been illegal to lend money in these amounts, never mind make interest profit that is undeclared, hidden and expensed under the guise of, say, operating a school…

The title of the houses would have been in the non-profit’s name until the foreign staff paid enough of the equity down.  The foreign staff wouldn’t know any better anyway, as they would likely have gotten some altered, in-house, translated version of the mortgage contract.  In this arrangement, a co-dependency of longevity ensures that staff are now entrenched in the institution.  Child abuse?  DUI?  Poor skills?  Uncertified?  Lazy?  Can’t understand whenever they speak?  Doesn’t matter if this staff still owes the institution money, payable with their salary in a #humancentipede.

So, in this interweb of financial obligations, maybe we shouldn’t be surprised to see the same hardened crust of staff and admin decade in, decade out, all shilling for an institution as if they were indebted to it.

Oh, wait.

Apparently, this may not be hypothetical at all, and a list of mortgagees exists!  If our network of financially savvy former parents can find the time to dig into this, we’d totally be interested!

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St. Mary’s Brothers & Teachers Confess to Rape and Abuse

Update, November 20, 2014: The inimitable Sylvia deconstructs a recent Kagei letter to parents, blow-by-blow, in an awesome exercise of critical thinking.  My favourite is how Kagei declares that the raped alumni are “no longer members of the St. Mary’s community” (??), yet, asks parents at the end of the letter to “pray” for them.  That’s right, parents: abused victims of Catholic institutions are to be thrown out of the community and pitied.  Carry on.  Eueeeech.  Kagei lumped the expelled victims with their abusers, who are somehow also not part of the SMIS community.  No doubt Kagei hoped to divert from the awareness that perhaps there are CURRENT victims at the school, and EXISTING abusers.  Not to mention that Br. Lawrence lives with the Brothers in Quebec, who own the school, which makes this a lie. 

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The best part of Sylvia’s analysis is highlighting that when the St. Mary’s rapist himself writes a letter to say that he did rape a child, Kagei lied to have called it an “allegation” over and over in every letter sent out to parents.  Does the fancy swirly whirl of the Br. Lawrence signature not mean anything to Kagei?

Sylvia points out that SMIS has hired a risk management company as part of an investigative panel for the sexual abuse cases.  WTF indeed.  They’re even named 360, as in degrees?  I guess we gotta prepare to see Kagei do a couple of 180s.  First, from total silence for 8 months to “we care so much” (upon news story exposure).  Next, from “we care so much” to…”damn these pesky alumni trying seek acknowledgement of their childhood rape whilst in the care of our institution, how dare they??”  It’s already precipitating in the letter.

Are the panelists here to make lemonade out of lemons?  It’ll be kinda hard to put a positive spin on child-rape and cover-up.  Who chose this panel?  Who’s paying them?  Who cares?  It’s the the A-team of PR consultants, y’all!  What are they being paid?  If not enough, why would they lend any more than a disinterest glance at any victim, coming forward?  Even Kagei has to speak for them–prob. to save some yen.  Are these rare compassionate human-beings pitching in to help simply out of the goodness of their hearts?  Not likely.  What resources do they have to handle sensitive, deep, troubling and time-consuming cases?  That’s important to know.  For comparison purposes, this is how the investigative team for ASIJ victims (the survivors’ own lawyers: O’Donnell Clark & Crew) championed the issue in a press-release, issued directly by them.  These legal professionals, without the need to make a grand entrance, cared enough about the issue, to say a few words to the beleaguered community, themselves.  However, the school’s set of lawyers, Ropes & Gray, who are doing a parallel investigation, are a totally different story [Update April 18, 2015: not only have the school and Ropes&Gray failed to process a report by their own due date of Fall 2014, they have issued no updates except one that seems to shift blame on the victims for the delay–because the victims demanded too many things like “transparency”.  See what O’Donnell Clark & Crew were able to prove with concrete evidence to Ropes & Gray.]

Without the knowledge of the degreed panel’s level of care, here’s what the Kagei game-plan looks like:

“Children were raped at our school, you ask?  By our teachers?  Why look at these here Harvard degrees from our illustrious panel!” Kagei says as he wand-waves over the parents, who are desperately trying to hold together a decent school year for their kids.  

Kagei, your school makes it hard for parents.  Why do they even have to deal with the spectre of your staff’s criminality?  And foot the bill so you can PR-spin your child-rape cases? USD $25,000+ a year per child in tuition?  It was certainly a great business model, while it lasted.  Will it survive the internet’s long memory?  How about film?  One alumnus who came forward is a documentarian.

Also, just to keep it in perspective folks, here are 15 notable criminals from Harvard University.  16 if you count President Larry Summers, king of conflict of interest, architect of massive deregulation that put many St. Mary’s dads out of investment banking work in the global financial crisis of ’08, and helped wipe out $5 trillion in global savings and pensions.  More than anything here, that man was most responsible for the enrolment drop at St. Mary’s and the consequent lack of international diversity at the school, bar none.  I’d add him to this list (for the global crisis, I mean.  Obviously.):

Amy Bishop (born 1965)
PhD 1993
mass-murderess
John Donald Cody
Harvard Law School 1972
Aka “Bobby Thompson”; Convicted November 14, 2013 of charges in connection with United States Navy Veterans Association
Marc Stuart Dreier
Juris DoctorHarvard Law School 1975
Securities fraud
Gina Grant (born 1976)
Did not matriculate
voluntary manslaughter. Lied on application about killing mother. Early Admission offered, then rescinded.
Christopher Janus (1911–2009)
College 1936
Bank Fraud
Ted Kaczynski(born 1942)
College 1962
Unabomber terrorist/Murderer
Viktor Kozeny (born 1963)
College 1989
Fugitive financier
Chas Lee (born 1971)
College 1993
Embezzler
Suzanne Pomey(born 1980)
College 2002
Embezzler
Joshua Parker {1690-died after 1732}
Class of 1710 {did not graduate}
Forger; brother-in-law of Nicholas Fessenden Class of 1701
Henry Phillips
Class of 1724
Murderer {Duelist}-died in exile in France 1729
William Pickard(born 1945)
Kennedy School of Government1996
LSD manufacturer
[518]
Eugene Plotkin
College 2000
Convicted of insider trading
[519]
Robert Livingston Schuyler {b.1798}
Class of 1817
Embezzler/Bigamist
Louis Agassiz Shaw II {1906–1987}
Class of 1929
Murderer
Jeffrey Skilling(born 1953)
Business 1979
Conspiracy, making false statements, insider trading, and securities fraud during the Enron case
[520]
Sinedu Tadesse(1974–1995)
College 1996 (did not graduate)
Murderer
Chuck Turner (born 1941)
College 1963
Convicted felon and former Boston City Council Member
Dr John White Webster (1793–1850)
College 1811
Murderer
Richard Whitney (financier) (1888–1974)
Embezzler
Stephen H. Kessler(1930s-?)
Medical 1957
“Mad LSD Slayer” of 1967

[Brother Lawrence’s and the Brotherhood’s letters of confession / apology for rape, below]

Pain of Sexual Abuse 1

Leo Burnett Thailand created this powerful ad for Bangkok-based Center for the Protection of Children’s Rights Foundation

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Click to link to story

Well, so much for allegations.

The following are excerpts from the letters of confession, which we just learned that the school actually had in their possession prior to January 31, 2014 when they were still communicating this matter as “an allegation”, to parents:

Letter 1 is from Brother Lawrence to his victim:

“I finally take this opportunity to offer you my sincere apologies for assaulting you in 1965. It should never have happened. At that moment, I chose selfishly my pleasure, putting aside your value as a human being, the values that I wished to live by, the true endeavor of an educator, and the mission of my congregation. I am ashamed of what I did.”

Letter 2 reveals details of the sexual assault:

“The simple truth is that still today I cannot understand the fact I raped you. It was the first time I did that in my life, and I did not do that again. I was on my way to my bedroom upstairs when I saw you and saw nothing wrong with talking with you on the way. But then somehow passion suddenly took over and I did what I should never have done and selfishly and violently hurt your body and hurt your heart for the rest of your life.”

Letter 3 is from the Brothers of Christian Instruction:

“Our Congregation also bears responsibilities concerning the evil that was done to you. A warmer community life, a better awareness of the sexuality of men living in communities, and also a strong willingness to cope frankly with the evil done to you could have helped in preventing such wicked actions, or could have helped you get through that ordeal, but it was not the way the situation was dealt with. I am sorry.”

It is undeniable the full extent of rape that happened at St. Mary’s by a Brother, acknowledged by the perpetrator and the administration.  Why didn’t the school publicize this as such?  Since then, we know Brother Lawrence was sent off campus to a Japanese school in Shizuoka, where apparently the safety of Japanese children don’t matter as much.  Then, he was allowed a quiet exit from the country to retire in Canada.  Is St. Mary’s International School truly being accountable for what went on at their institution?  It is only because the Japan Times, outraged alumni, this blog and others have been persisting that the school has HAD to admit that it knew.  The school admin add that they are only now distressed to learn the extent of things and started reaching out to alumni who’ve been abused.  Of course, they have known all along and were content to sit on it passively for 9 months.

If you are part of the school community and are committed to it–recognize that the “leaders” in place are probably NOT the ones to make real, credible policy about this deeply important matter for the present and future safety and reputation of the students and school.  This is a complex situation, requires a a steady hand to separate the cancer from the vital organs.  Know that it IS possible to support the current students AND hold this administration to account.  YOU and the students are what makes the school great every year–how much greater would the school be with an admin that would act responsibly?  Remember: the perpetrator only retired a year ago.  Current students were among his charge.

And in case you thought it was just the Brothers at St. Mary’s, here’s a second article:

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Click to link to story.

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Japan Times: St. Mary’s International School’s Sexual Abuse Report

[Update #3: Headmaster Kagei has issued another letter dated Oct 4 to parents and staff.  Some of you may have already seen it on FB or the SMIS site. The letter talks about how Kagei has spoken with some victims and was “distressed” to hear the accounts of sexual abuse.  Yes, Mr. Kagei, just hearing of them is horrible–imagine experiencing them and being haunted by them for life. Mr. Kagei will identify a panel and launch yet another investigation. But who will lead these panels: SMIS payrollees who may have been abusers themselves?  Or staff that have interest in silencing the stories that have ruined the only institution on their resumes for the past 30 years?  Btw, what ever happened with the Archbishop’s and the police’s investigations that Kagei spoke of in the January letter?  Why is there no update on those fronts after 9 months?  Why didn’t Mr. Kagei write just now that these accounts will be submitted to police?  Mr. Kagei needs to report on the results from actual authorities who have the power to enact consequences for these crimes.  If there is nothing to report from the police, either one of two things happened: the school has not seriously engaged the police by providing evidence at all or the police were not interested.  In either case, parents cannot be satisfied that some in-house panel and improvised policies will be enough to protect their sons from one of the worst crimes possible, from a school and jurisdiction that obviously have been unable to redress past multiple occurrences of it.  Tuition money has gone toward paying for the retirement comfort of these abusers in Japan and Canada.  Finally, we need to learn of pertinent details to audit the efficacy of future policies: where on campus were these boys abused?  How were these boys separated from their class and led behind closed doors?  Did any of these boys say something at the time–and if so, how did their voices die off in the system?  This blog has long side-eyed the school’s practice of taking things behind closed doors, and of setting up their own panels to get the result they want–it is a classic d#$% move by admin.  This new “solution” isn’t any more transparent or open to public scrutiny than anything we’ve already seen.  But we are glad there has been a response.  Down the path that the community is headed now, there is nowhere to hide the truth.]

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Update #2: Sept. 25, 2014. Looks like the survivors of SMIS abuse are serious.

[Update #1: Headmaster Saburo Kagei has sent out this Sept 11 2014 response to alumni regarding the matter of sexual abuse at the school written about in the January 2014 letter.  A main point of Mr. Kagei’s latest letter is that Br. Lawrence had actually written an apology to the victim who had come forward, thus acknowledging his role in the sexual abuse.  This doesn’t sound like “an allegation”, it sounds like a criminal confession by a St. Mary’s admin who committed the worst possible betrayal of trust against a child. What did the school do to bring this crime to justice?  Some people in our community learned that Br. Lawrence had briefly been transferred to a sister school in Shizuoka, when this was found out, exposing Japanese children to this matter, which their families wouldn’t have known about.  Mr. Kagei has now written that Br. Lawrence has simply moved away.  The school is asking (in earnest) for information on any other St. Mary’s staff predators past and present.  How can we be sure that this information would be treated with any kind of severity?  The school needs to acknowledge that the era of the status quo admin is over.  Their culture is one of hiding and confounding problems until they become epically bad.  To convincingly show the school community that it is dedicated to a new era of accountable management, the entire admin needs to be replaced.]

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(Click on image to link to story)

Well, there it is.  A great piece by Simon Scott of the Japan Times, built upon the accounts of St. Mary’s International School’s sexual abuse survivors both named and anonymous.  Despite the school and the Archdiocese of Tokyo failing to comment on the matter (note: even the admin of ASIJ responded in their case), the story is out and in circulation.  As it should be–for the community to acknowledge and solve going forward.

If the school remains silent, it will be met with the silence of families who will no longer be willing to pay for such unaccountability in a matter so crucial to the education of children.

Much respect to abuse survivor Mr. Arboleda, whose compassion to empower future generations of children to identify and speak of such abuse, has meant for  him to unearth unsettling memories.  This is surely something difficult for anyone to do, and I’d say even more so for a grown man in our society.  Men are expected to internalize all kinds of emotional turmoil.  I suspect it is largely the reason the ASIJ case, led my so many female abuse survivors, was acted upon in a faster, more decisive way.  The Alumni at St. Mary’s probably have had to work through an invisible, but thick, layer of social stigma against men revisiting emotional and psychological pain.  Not to mention the Japanese culture, isolated international school culture and Catholic culture all embedded, all at work, in addition!  All the more reason it has been hugely important for Mr. Scott, Mr. Arboleda and “Mr. Smith” to bring this story forth.

One correction we’d make to Mr. Scott’s reporting, is that while this site was certainly put together during Ms. Tran’s first case against the school over labour matters, it was set up by a community of people who helped translate, attend court hearings, secure legal papers, blog and vet comments.

We have Mr. Michael DiMuzio and Linda Wayne, of the St. Mary’s Admin, actually, to thank for the existence of this blog.

Without such monumental egotism, middle-manager paranoia, abuse of power, denial and obstinacy toward Ms. Tran and in other dealings within the community, we never would have been inspired to carry on like this 🙂

Ms. Tran by the way, flew to Japan this August to testify against Gregory Strong, the friend and arguable revenge foot-soldier of Linda Wayne in the university teaching industry, at the Yokohama District Court.  It was the first time Ms. Tran and Mr. Strong had ever met.  While, like all cases, this will likely go down in a settlement, it’s nice to know that there are all kinds of people willing to stand up to abusers of power.

Abuse of power, denial and obstinacy in one small case, is a sign of much more behind the scenes.  Like seeing a cockroach.  Glad we could be part of the fumigation.

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