Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff
The Emergency Declaration has been lifted in Tokyo and other prefectures and Japan is finally heading into a process of recovery. I am sure all of you are feeling somewhat relieved. Routine campus activities and other things we had taken for granted in our everyday life, such as just walking outside and getting together to enjoy conversation, were severely limited under restrictions. The University of Tokyo had never experienced anything like this in its long history.
The University of Tokyo managed to continue its education and research activities under these trying circumstances, thanks to the students and faculty who successfully switched to online education and to staff who continued their work off-campus despite many challenges. Students, researchers, and faculty also retained their energy and enthusiasm for their research even though they were unable to freely enter their labs. I thank every member of the university community for playing their part in coping with this crisis.
In response to the lifting of the Emergency Declaration, the University of Tokyo will slowly be easing its activity restrictions index, as previously released on our website*, while closely monitoring the spread of the infection in society. As of June 1, our index will be lowered from level 3 to 2. We plan to further lower it to level 1 in two weeks. If the infection is contained, we will lower it again to 0.5, perhaps as soon as in two weeks.
However, it will take considerably more time to achieve a ‘Post-Corona’ status, or level zero. That would require a development of a vaccine, effective drugs or herd immunity which could prevent an exponential spread and sufficiently lessen the chances of severe infection. This would take, I believe, a minimum of one to two years. Until then, we must understand that the period of having to live with Corona will continue and we must endeavor to contain the virus by avoiding the so-called 3Cs (closed spaces, crowded places, close contact settings) while also trying to resume the original functions of the university.
The university is a forum where people of diverse backgrounds come together to think and debate as they learn and create new knowledge. Face-to-face activities, in other words, are extremely important. We must remember how precious they are and be willing to share that feeling with others. To do so, we must learn to launch a new kind of lifestyle. We should not try to revert to the kind of lives we led before the Corona crisis. Rather, we must aim for a ‘Post-Corona’ university that is better than ever. I hope the period of living with the threat of the virus, which will last for a while, may serve as a stage in our preparation for a ‘Post-Corona’ age.
In order to achieve this, the University of Tokyo will take every measure possible to ensure the safety of every student, and every member of faculty and staff, and will support various programs in anticipation of the ‘Post-Corona’ age.
In terms of classes—something of the utmost importance to every student—all lectures will be conducted online for S1/S2 terms. Seminars and practica that require in-person activities will take place during S2 and summer break, although the final decision about this will be made after careful assessment of the infection situation. Research and field activities will also gradually resume, in accordance with the activities restriction index. Safety precautions are also paramount here.
The library is currently closed but it is offering a mail delivery service to students. We will be offering more services, again in line with the activities restriction index, while also putting in place proper measures against the spread of the coronavirus. Please refer to the library webpage to see the types of services it offers based on the restriction levels.
The student counseling and health services also remain open. I urge you to utilize them if you find any need for support.
I am sure you have come to realize over the last couple of months that in-person activities are indispensable to human life. To some degree, online classes, meetings, and working from home have made it possible to make up for the loss of face-to-face activities. These are all the fruits of advances in technology, sometimes labeled as digital innovation. Our daily life on university campuses is approaching the fusion of cyberspace and physical world, which is considered to be at the heart of the information society. However, I believe we have also come to realize that it is difficult to nurture trust and empathy, something essential to our research and educational endeavors, through remote communications alone.
In the new ‘Post-Corona’ society that will emerge after this phase of living with the virus in our midst, we must value and emphasize face-to-face contact as something precious and essential. The knowledge-intensive society, which is a result of fusion between cyberspace and the physical world, must achieve an inclusive society that respects diversity and sustains the future of the earth and human beings. I believe this novel coronavirus crisis has crystallized the challenges of Society 5.0 that Japan has been showcasing to the world. It is the diversity and inclusiveness of this society that is at the heart of the vision the University of Tokyo has been aspiring to achieve. The hard work of students, faculty and staff during the time of ‘With-Corona’ is an attempt to move towards the ‘new normal’ of the ‘Post-Corona’ society.
We will continue to value online lectures, meetings, and working from home as an integral part of university life while also improving the quality of our campus activities in the face-to-face world. I look forward to working together with you to further reform our education and ways of working so as to create a new university for the age that will emerge in the wake of the Corona crisis.
The spread of the infection has not ended and we should remain vigilant. We must try to maintain an environment where the risk of infection on our campuses is minimized through our wisdom and expertise. I hope all of you will prioritize the prevention of the spread of the virus while we still live under its the threats, as we continue to take steps toward our future.
The University of Tokyo