The rapid expansion of the novel coronavirus outbreak continues. Accordingly, SOKENDAI has decided to cancel both the graduation ceremony scheduled for March 24 and the entrance ceremony scheduled for April 7. We recognise that this is a terrible disappointment for all those who were looking forward to these ceremonies.
Additionally, a state of emergency was declared in seven prefectures on April 7, the governors of which have urged that people refrain from engaging in nonessential outings. Approximately half of the University's major departments are located in these seven prefectures, and many graduate students are now being urged to stay at home. It is unclear when this crisis situation will end, and the future is uncertain as research projects cannot proceed as planned due to restrictions on conducting experiments, taking measurements, and other forms of laboratory use, as well as the inability to participate in overseas dispatch programs. We understand your frustration and disappointment regarding these matters.
Epidemics of infection by novel pathogens have occurred many times in human history. Large-scale outbreaks occurring across a wide area, such as the spread of disease after the Spanish conquest of the Aztecs and the Black Death that ravaged Europe, have led to the collapse of civilisations or changes in the course of their development.
With this in mind, I believe that the novel coronavirus pandemic affecting the world today is occurring in a new set of circumstances that has never existed before in human history. First, the world's population is much larger and is rapidly approaching 8 billion, with 53% living in densely populated urban areas. People today also utilise more advanced modes of transportation such as aircraft, railroads, automobiles, and the like, and travel more frequently than ever. The political economy of the world is also globalising, and no single country can manage it effectively. While many factors remain uncertain, the truth may not always be conveyed accurately due to sudden fluctuations in the information environment, including SNS.
Indeed, the world currently faces a global crisis. As for how to proceed with research, we ask that you consider the various things you can do after consulting with members of the faculty. As was the case with the Great East Japan Earthquake and the tsunami disaster in Tohoku, dealing with a crisis requires thinking differently than usual. As there are many things we do not yet understand about the crisis and we are dealing with it for the first time, it will also be necessary to make adjustments to the plan as needed through trial and error while observing the results. Build your wisdom for the future based on those experiences.
While everyone in the world must approach this reality with that mindset, as people in the academic world in particular, we must calmly grasp the situation, analyse it, and rationally determine what is important. We hope that you will overcome this crisis and develop a more resilient spirit while also keeping your sense of humour.
Mariko Hasegawa, President,The Graduate University for Advanced Studies, SOKENDAI