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MnSCU Debate Reaches Japan
By Martin Kaste
November 4, 1999
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A controversy over the cost of higher education caught up with Governor Ventura on the second day of his visit to Japan. The Board of MnSCU has been considering closing down its Japan campus, citing the high cost of supporting a school with low enrollment. The possibility of a shutdown spurred students from the Japan campus to rally outside the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo to try to get Governor Ventura on their side.

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Listento Governor Ventura at the Foreign Correspondents Club, responding to a question about how he reconciles his free-trade position with the relatively protectionist stance of his party.
EARLY IN THE MORNING, a busload of Japanese and American students from the Minnesota State University campus in Akita camped out in front of the U.S Embassy, hoping to catch Ventura's attention as he was driven in for a scheduled briefing with embassy personnel. He stopped and talked to them -- in part because he says the protest seemed so friendly.
Ventura: When I went out, they were very humble, they were not at all like the protests we receive in Minnesota, which is quite more aggressive.
In fact, the students wouldn't even say directly what it is they were looking for from the governor.
Student: We came here to meet governor, just to say, "welcome to Japan." It is a wonderful time to share the time with him.
MPR: But you do want to achieve something here?
Student: Yeah. Not help. We came here to talk about MSU-A. It's a wonderful place, that's all.
This non-protest pleased Ventura, perhaps because it resembled the cordial, relationship-building aspect of Japanese life he's talked about so much. Even though the students didn't explicitly ask him for help keeping the Akita campus open, he said they made their point, and he's looking for ways to do just that.

The Akita school was created 10 years ago, at a time when American universities were opening dozens of similar extension campuses in Japan, to cater to American students' interest in the booming Japanese economy, and Japanese students' interest in learning English. Since then, most of those campuses have closed, and Akita is one of the few holdouts. Now that Akita might close, too, things have been tense in the small farming village of Yuwa-machi, where it's based.

The town has invested considerable resources in what was supposed to be a 25-year deal; now, student Joanne Hannasch says many locals feel betrayed.
Hannasch: They're very frustrated, they're very hurt.
Hannasch says Minnesota's good reputation is at stake, and she says the worst thing MnSCU could do is take abrupt action.
Hannasch: They just want to pull out. And whatever the troubles are, there may be issues we have no awareness of, they need to do it on a gradual basis, so students are not affected, nor is Yuwa-machi, because that will tarnish future relationships with Japan.
A solution may be in the works. MnSCU has approached the Prefecture - or province - of Akita about stepping in to help support the school financially. The governor says the plan might even end up expanding the school.
Ventura: A four-year accredited school would serve the purpose even more, and dealing with the province or state level rather than the local or town level will lead to a better relationship for the education.
Ventura has met with the governor of the Akita prefecture privately to discuss the situation, but he says not to expect an instant solution. In keeping with the Japanese spirit of doing business, he says he has no intention of making any demands of the Akita prefecture; he just wants to establish a cordial relationship first, which might result in a deal down the road.