OSAKA – An orientation brochure for prospective students at a university in western Japan has sparked controversy for including photo collections of ‘beautiful girl’ and ‘beautiful boy’ students, with experts criticizing the move as “lookism” or discrimination based on physical appearance, while the university claims it helps present a laid-back image of campus life.
Meanwhile, some college students have expressed positive opinions of the brochure, and an issue has come to light reflecting the controversy surrounding college beauty pageants.
The sections in question were published in Kindai Graffiti 2023, a brochure for candidates taking the entrance exam to Kindai University, whose main campus is in Osaka Prefecture. The university started distributing the brochure at open days from March 20, 2022 and also sent it to prospective students free of charge. It is also sold in bookstores nationwide and is available online.
The “beautiful girl” and “beautiful boy” photo collections cover a total of four pages, excluding the cover, towards the middle of the 90-page brochure. They show photos of eight male and female students, along with their profiles, which include their height and a description of the “type” of person they are attracted to. In the table of contents, a title reads: “Revealing the beautiful boys and girls found on campus!”
According to Kindai University’s public relations office, the brochure, created with the help of a magazine company, has been published annually since 2015 and aims to give applicants “a relaxed idea of the characteristics of the ‘university”. The “beautiful girl” and “beautiful boy” collections have also been published every year since, and the individuals featured in them are apparently chosen by the magazine’s editor staff as they interview students on campus for several months. .
On April 18, the Kindai University Faculty and Staff Union posted a tweet saying, “‘Collection of photos of beautiful girls’ in college orientation brochures calls into question the integrity of the school. It went viral, garnering around 2,100 retweets and some 3,300 likes within a month. Union general secretary Kazuhiro Fujimaki said: “I don’t want to dismiss the brochure completely, but using images of people based on physical appearance in a university’s official orientation book is extremely problematic. .”
In response to this, Kindai University’s public relations office explained to Mainichi Shimbun that “although the title is ‘beautiful girl, beautiful boy photo collection’, people who lead a fulfilling college life show it. also in their facial expressions, and the sections are created with the intention of featuring people that high school students will look up to.”
He added: “Each year we interviewed freshmen to hear their opinions and exclude unpopular sections. ‘use as a reference for their own clothes and makeup, so we kept them.” The public relations office said it intends to continue to gather input from freshmen to consider suitable content for publication.
It’s not just photo collections that are considered problematic. The brochure also contains a corner titled “Couples of Kindai teachers and students”. A teacher has revealed that several years ago the university asked her to recommend a “gorgeous and beautiful” student. She slammed the survey, saying, “I never rated my students based on their looks, and I thought that was practically harassment. Limiting the pairings to a male and female pair also has the idea of heterosexual love as a premise, which is problematic.”
The Mainichi Shimbun also interviewed students on and around the university campus in Higashiosaka City. A 21-year-old fourth-year student said she enjoyed looking at the brochure when she was considering applying to college. Citing Kindai University’s growing fame following its achievement of comprehensive bluefin tuna aquaculture production and other efforts, she said, “The university spends a lot of effort on promotional activities, so I think the brochures are part of it. Unlike brochures from other universities, you can read them like a magazine. I don’t think they are bad because they attract the attention of future students.
A third-year student also expressed favorable opinions, saying, “It’s okay if the parties involved agree to the publication. On the other hand, an 18-year-old freshman said: “It might be acceptable as a borderline case now, but a university’s action of judging people by their appearance may become inadmissible to the ‘coming.”
Fumio Sunaga, an associate professor at Showa University familiar with gender theory, assessed the pamphlet positively, saying, “Looking at the pamphlet as a whole, various students were introduced, and he made a no more compared to normal university guides to become an ambitious brochure that transmits its charms.” That being said, he pointed out, “Only the ‘beautiful girl, beautiful boy’ photo collection pages were designed from a heterosexual love perspective, such as including ‘ideal types’ in profiles. People that many others see as “masculine” or “feminine” are silently selected and agreed upon, which risks encouraging discrimination based on appearance and excluding diverse sexual identities. People are free to have their own personal beauty standards, but doing it under the name of a university is vulgar, and these pages should be taken down.”
(Japanese original by Yuki Noguchi, Osaka City News Department)