Our internship provider friends at Come On Out Japan (COOJ) have been at it again. COOJ have been promoting their Global English Camp internships on campus for the third year running: the unique selling points of this internship last year included dangerous safeguarding failures and hazardous accommodation.

Last year, The Cheese Grater exposed how COOJ had been promoting their internships on campus in the full knowledge of UCL. When the issue was raised with UCL, they denied all responsibility. Previous interns on the scheme, including UCL students with whom we spoke last year, outlined their concerns in a written report.

The report catalogued a host of alleged failings, including the sexual assault of interns and sexual harassment of children by non-UCL students, who continued to have access to the children after concerns were raised. It was also alleged that COOJ failed to take immediate action on reports of racist abuse and dangerous accommodation which was located in what interns ‘feared to be a yakuza-controlled area’ where female interns were ‘followed home by unknown men.’

The housing itself was reportedly vermin-infested and included blood-stained mattresses. In 2018 we sought assurances from UCL that COOJ would not be allowed to promote their scheme on campus again, but none were forthcoming. UCL Media Relations did provide a statement, saying that ‘advice’ would be given to all students considering internships in future.

To our surprise however, emails promoting a COOJ internship event at UCL premises were sent to students across the university. We contacted the student union and staff at the IOE, where the event was to be held, who quickly intervened to prevent the promotion of the scheme on campus and postponed the event ‘subject to a full investigation by Students’ Union UCL into the matter’.

The Cheese Grater handed out copies of our previous article to bemused students who had turned up for the event, not knowing that it had been called off. The representative from COOJ, who had turned up anyway, posted on Facebook asking students to meet him on the street outside the IOE. COOJ claimed that they had made improvements to the programme, including increased vetting and child safeguarding training, and that the details of this had been sent to UCL Global Internships, part of UCL Careers.

UCL Careers have told The Cheese Grater that while they had received details from COOJ detailing improvements to the internship scheme, they had not promoted this internship as per our request of last year. They also told us that the UCL Japan Society organised the event despite being informed about the issues last year.

The society has not responded to our request for comment. It is unclear why COOJ have been allowed to hold events on campus following our initial report. The Department of Social Sciences has pledged that they ‘will ensure opportunities receive further vetting before they are circulated to Social Sciences students in the future’.

Time to roll this pledge out across the whole of UCL, perhaps?

Joanne Land

Additional reporting by Felicity Wareing