About one month has passed since a state of emergency was declared due to the novel coronavirus. The declaration was not lifted on May 6 as originally scheduled, except for 39 prefectures that were lifted on May 14. It appears that this situation will continue for some time. The majors at SOKENDAI (the Graduate University of Advanced Studies) are spread over various locations throughout Japan. Although the severity of the level of infection differs between prefectures, we imagine that all our graduate students are concerned and anxious each day they are prevented from conducting their research.
As I mentioned in my initial message when the state of emergency was declared, I fully understand your concerns and stress. I am also very anxious for your livelihoods under the current conditions. Now that global economic activity has slowed and people are unable to gather in person to work together, part-time work and other activities that have sustained graduate student life in the past have also declined. In addition, remittances from family members may not be as reliable in today's economy.
Universities throughout Japan are considering a range of means to support students' lifestyles in order to respond to this situation. SOKENDAI has extended the due date for the first semester's tuition from the end of June to the end of August. In addition, we are planning on expanding our framework for exempting tuition. More details about this will be released shortly.
We have made arrangements for online meetings for classes and thesis instruction. The current circumstances, in which you cannot come to laboratories, perform experiments, gather with your fellows to talk, and discuss your thesis is not normal. I hope that you will be able to make use of online classes, instruction, and meetings to resolve this to some extent.
Nonetheless, for those who are in the final stages of writing their doctoral thesis, or who are waiting to perform the last experiments for their research, I imagine your concerns about the future must seem enormous. In addition to taking measures to prevent coronavirus, please take care of your mental health--it is important to address the potential psychological burdens from all that is happening. If you are isolated and anxious due to this stifling situation, you will become depressed. In addition to consulting your instructors, please make use of the available mental health consultation services at the university.
I clearly remember the Great Tōhoku Earthquake Disaster that occurred on March 11, 2011, and the nuclear power plant accident in Fukushima that followed. The catastrophe and resulting confusion provided a good opportunity to reexamine the fundamentals of modern civilization. However, the goal at that time was to restore previous structures, sometimes at the expense of reexamining the fundamentals of modern civilization.
This time, everyone around the world has been given the chance to reexamine modern civilization--but what will happen now? The younger generation can set new goals as they are confronted with new opportunities. The conventional value systems of the older generation will no longer apply. The current situation is difficult, but I anticipate that you will create a new world together.
Mariko Hasegawa, President,The Graduate University for Advanced Studies, SOKENDAI