Message from Deans to SFC students about COVID-19

Message from Deans to SFC students about measures and prospects accompanying the spread of COVID-19 infections (May 21, 2021)

The spring semester of the second year in which the Shonan Fujisawa Campus (SFC) has been affected by the coronavirus disease is half over.

It is undeniable that the impact of the ongoing spread of the coronavirus disease on the university has lasted longer and been more serious than initially anticipated. I am sure that while many of you are doing well, but also that this may not be the case for others. I am looking forward to the day when we can resume classes in the classroom.

If we look back at events that have had a serious impact on university education, we would likely identify the Spanish flu (1918-20) which was about 100 years ago, World War II (1939-1945) which was about 75 years ago, and the 1970 protests regarding the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty which took place 50 years ago. In other words, for almost 50 years, universities have enjoyed a period of peaceful and secure education.

About 30 years ago, when the Shonan Fujisawa Campus (SFC) opened, was a time of great change, with the end of the Cold War and the rapid progress of economic globalization. However, we were still able to conduct our university classes without impediment.

To say that we are witnessing a historic event of such significance will be of little comfort to those of you who feel unsatisfied with your student life as it now stands.

Of my four years in college, I spent the last year caring for my family and was only able to go to campus about once a week. I was fortunate in that I didn't have to take too many classes in my senior year; but didn't have the option to take classes online like now, having no choice but to read books in the hospital room. The fact that I was able to get a taste by flipping through the pages of classics such as works by Rousseau, Hobbes, and Marx, all of which I had never read before, and despite being barely-able to discern their meaning, has served to tide me over for all of my subsequent life to date.

But of course, there are tougher people than me out there in the world. The French historian Fernand Braudel, the author of a major work called "The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II", was writing his doctoral dissertation when World War II began as he served in the army. However, he became a prisoner of war in Germany and spent five years in a prison camp. During that time, he had no access to materials, but drafted his doctoral dissertation based on his memory alone. It was later published as "The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II".

There will be other times in your future when you will be placed in situations far beyond your control, not limited to those relating to the current coronavirus disease pandemic. It is imperative that you discover what can be done in such situations and prepare for the future in order to maintain a positive mindset.

This is because thinking about policy is nothing less than thinking about the future. Without a desire to change the future, policies cannot be conceived. Arguments as to whether health or the economy should decisive are commonplace. Public health and economics alone are insufficient means to solve the problem of coronavirus disease. Please envision the future, how you would tackle this problem, what you would do if you were the prime minister, a governor, a company president, or Keio University President, and how you would rebuild society after this pandemic has resolved. After graduating from university, you will be taking your first steps into being in a position that will allow you to do just that.

  1. Introduction
  2. The three of us Deans have decided to deliver our messages to all SFC students regarding the current status and future visions under the COVID-19 pandemic. During my term as dean, I will be delivering a message to everyone about once a week (or as soon as there is a change in the situation).

  3. Access and use of facilities on campus
  4. While use of some facilities is restricted due to precautions against the spread of infection, the media center (library), subway, and school offices are open. Although classes are fully online, students can enter the campus for research purposes. Some students may need to conduct research in the media center, while others may not be able to proceed with their research without the university's equipment. If there is a need for such research, students are allowed to enter the campus. And, importantly, at SFC, research is created by each one of you. If you need to enter the campus, then please do so with confidence based in the spirit of independence and self-respect. On the other hand, there are people with pre-existing medical conditions or those who are experiencing anxiety due to COVID-19, so please remember to be considerate of these people.

  5. On-campus extracurricular activities
  6. Many students seem to have the misconception that extracurricular activities on campus are completely prohibited, but the facilities can be used if such is approved as necessary. I believe the students have the best understanding of what is required for each extracurricular activity. The faculty and staff understand that many of the extracurricular activities involve goals and milestones that they are working hard towards. From the following page, students are able to submit an application, including the reason why they would like to conduct extracurricular activities, and if that application is approved as appropriate, the facilities can be used. The decision as to whether to approve applications is made by the Student Affairs Office.
    List of facilities for extracurricular activities at SFC (Revised on May 20, 2021)(Japanease only)

  7. What the SFC executive officers are doing
  8. The SFC executive officers are considering all aspects of the pandemic situation, both on campus and in the Tokyo metropolitan area, and creating policies based on these two factors. While we cannot provide details, I hope students will be aware that the SFC executive officers are making data-driven decisions.

  9. Future prospects
  10. At the time of writing this message, the government's expert bodies have not acknowledged the peaking off of the outbreak, but personally, the pace of increase in the number of infected people seems to have slowed down this week. At the SFC executive board meeting held this week, it was suggested that we need to start preparing now for what type of format classes we will return to in case the state of emergency is lifted in the near future. We will carefully discuss and prepare for the future situation.

Hope to see you all soon.

In the blink of an eye, the second half of the spring semester is upon us. For the first few weeks of the semester, I was able to meet everyone at the on-campus classes. Although I was excited to be back teaching again in the classrooms after such a long time, due to the declaration of a state of emergency we decided to move classes back online. Even now, after Golden Week has passed, our days continue to be unsettled.
Comparing the situation at SFC with other campuses and universities, or even merely strolling around the city, leaves me with mixed feelings. With so many restrictions in place, you may be left with a sense of injustice comparing the current situation at SFC and the rest of society.
Although the three of us (deans) have different ways of thinking and approaching things, we arrived at these decisions based on the understanding that what we are currently facing are matters of life and death. Policies regarding class formats and the use of the campus and its facilities will be determined by Keio University, considering the unique characteristics of SFC. We cannot necessarily predict our future, whether or not such predictions are based on data. We have no choice but to accept what the future holds in store and make decisions in the course of this.
I am sure that the other two faculty deans have received even more questions and suggestions than I have. Listening to each student and coming to an understanding of their situation, it is clear that current "rules" and "regulations" as they stand are perceived as extremely restrictive. However, if nothing serious happens, it will just be a question of patting yourself on the back later. It's too late once something actually happens. My priority is solely to protect our "campus life."

In the midst of all this, many things have crossed my mind of late. For example, what kind of leaders do we expect when the situation around us is constantly changing and we are confronted with complex issues for which there is no single right answer? In the current situation, people are looking for strong leaders and want to hear authoritative statements from them (I am not a strong speaker, so I guess I'm not well suited to be a leader in today's society).
Strong words can unite and bring about a sense of unity to many. Still, they can also cause us to become overly dependent on our leaders and to abandon thinking for ourselves, leading to a loss of autonomy and independence. Strong words can also lead to division by leaving no room for ambiguity and blurred lines.
That is why I think there is significance and merit to the three of us writing our messages in our own words. Sometimes decisions can be delayed or confusing, but it is important to respect a multitude of voices; listening to many "voices" while speaking in our own "voices." This will allow us to think for ourselves and behave wisely. Since various information may be provided through multiple routes and at different times, I think there is room for these to be somewhat more straightforward. With the expectation that the situation will improve little by little, we will apprehend the daily updated information, read it carefully, and take appropriate action. Let's make these our basic actions.

Another thing that worries me is that all of our communication seems to have become a little chaotic of late. Online communication has increased tremendously, and I have learned from experience how efficient it can be. As is often pointed out, while we are enjoying this efficiency and convenience, various "margins" have undoubtedly been jettisoned. It seems that messages from various corners of a dry and bureaucratic nature are on the rise, of the nature of the phrases like "Details are in the e-mail" or "Please check the website." COVID-19 may have revealed the true nature of our humanity to us.
However, it would be strange for us to be unkind to each other for such a reason. Leave room in your imagination for others. Even if you are all remote from one another, and even if it is through a screen, there is always someone on the other side who makes you who you are. We need to be conscious of our communication now more than ever before. I always want to remain conscious of the importance of talking to each other and calling each other by name to mitigate awkward and unpleasant situations. With a little effort and ingenuity, our feelings of being constrained will soon be at an end.