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Re: The Beginning of the Summer Semester

April 1, 2020

To All Students of the University of Tokyo

The summer semester is about to begin during the outbreak of the novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

The following announcement was made in my message to the UTokyo community on March 18 of the decision made by the university in response to the outbreak:

  • The new semester will start in April, as originally scheduled;
  • The number of in-person classes will be minimized and instruction through online courses will be encouraged and promoted;
  • Orientation sessions for online courses will be offered to faculty and students at the beginning of the new semester.

However, after the announcement, it became apparent that many of the UTokyo community members had been abroad during the spring break, and I am therefore deeply concerned that the academic activities that would take place on the UTokyo campuses could be a trigger for further spread of COVID-19.

Under this situation, I judged that it was essential to make all the courses online in order to prioritize the safety of all the students.

Executive Vice President MATSUKI Norio has already announced this in his message of March 31, stating that "the university will only offer remote instruction (online courses) from April until further notice."

It is quite plausible that this emergency response will last for a long period. At the same time, we understand that the chance of education has to be secured, while prioritizing the health and safety of all the students. The university will take all necessary measures, including securing network access for students.

This is the first time that the university will endeavor to implement a full-scale transition to online courses, and our expert staff are working very hard to establish methods and necessary infrastructures to make this transition feasible. It is also expected that we will experience a considerable amount of network traffic congestion as the whole society moves towards being online (e.g. remote working). We are also aware that there might be differences in network accessibility among the students and we would like to make sure that this difference would not lead to leaving some students behind. More importantly, in this current state of emergency, we need to be aware that the network infrastructure is an important common good for all of us and that it is not an infinite resource. We need to consider the needs of others and learn to yield to each other, and as such, we may need to come up with ways to reduce the amount of information we transmit. Let us share our wisdom and devise methods so that we can overcome this challenging situation. I believe the UTokyo community as a whole has such a power.

In order for us to ensure all students the chance of education as much as possible, even in a situation where not all students are able to secure sufficient connectivity, it is necessary for all college, faculties, and graduate schools to make a variety of attempts. However, please rest assured that the university will take sufficient measures, including ex post facto ones, in order to ensure that there will be no inequality caused as a result of any differences in network connectivity. We will make our best effort not to make you feel apprehensive due to the lack of secure network connectivity at the moment. Your college, faculty or graduate school will provide you with information regarding the situation and about specific measures.

Overcoming this outbreak of COVID-19 is a huge challenge for humanity as a whole, and I would greatly appreciate your understanding and cooperation.

GONOKAMI Makoto
President
The University of Tokyo

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