Two years after announcing strict volunteer requirements for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and realizing they could not get enough help for free, the Japanese ministry has instead turned to universities and their vast human resources, going so far as to altering curriculum schedules for those willing to assist.
In the latest move to entice students to volunteer for the Olympics, a large number of universities have begun to offer academic credits as a form of remuneration. According to broadcasting corporation NHK’s survey, 49 percent of universities in Tokyo — both national and private — are now considering that option.
In order to graduate, university students must achieve a set amount of credits.
While rewarding student volunteers with credits to advance their undergraduate programs is a nice gesture, the move also makes clear that the Olympic Committee does not want to pay for highly-skilled individuals who must speak a foreign language, work over ten full days, and sit through several training sessions. Not to mention that they must pass an interview.
The move also raises the question of what it means to volunteer. While it’s quite obvious by now there isn’t enough people to fill the 110,000 spots required, dangling credits to push students into assisting the event is still morally ambiguous. Those who are reluctant to help might feel pressured to do so in order to score academically, which really defeats the purpose of volunteering in the first place.
“Volunteering is essentially willing participation, as disaster volunteers and Olympic volunteers are inherently different. It’s unacceptable that institutions are enticing university students with promises of academic credit.”
As Kobayashi stated, it’s unprecedented that the Japanese ministry is doing so much to push students into volunteering for one sporting event, whereas no such effort is seen when lives are at stake during catastrophic disasters.
“So those that help out in the Paralympics get credit, but those who volunteer during disasters don’t?”
“This is what education in Japan is about?”
Offering Japanese students academic credits as a carrot on a stick seems like the wrong way to encourage volunteerism, but precious time is ticking away for the Olympic Committee. If they cannot get the required 110,000 volunteers soon, an army of emotionless androids might just work.