Friday, May 21, 2021
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.