21st Message from Our President: The Second Semester Is Starting; Let’s Make It a Safe and Healthy One

Following our second workplace vaccination day on September 26, around 2,400 of our students have now vaccinated twice. Repeated disarray in the government’s supply of vaccines meant we had to reschedule and change venues, eventually settling on a single location at the Kobe Campus for Commerce, and I regret the inconvenience caused to students who had to travel long distances. I have also heard that, in addition to those who participated in our workplace vaccination scheme, many other students received, or plan to receive, their vaccinations elsewhere. We hope that this will reduce the risk of infection or COVID-19 cases into serious illness among our University.

Meanwhile, Japan’s fifth wave of infections has peaked, case numbers are now declining, and local states of emergency have been lifted across the country as of October 1. However, new cases have remained at around 2,000 nationwide over the past few days, with Hyogo sitting at more or less one hundred, and the pressure on hospital capacity is still high. There are concerns that case numbers may have bottomed out and that we are heading toward a sixth wave in the winter. The Hyogo prefectural government remains cautious about relaxing restrictions, and has stated it will do so gradually over a period of around three weeks while keeping a close eye on the situation. We will also take a wait-and-see approach for a while as we work toward returning to normal.

I recently participated in a discussion between vice-president and director of Institute for Student Affairs Prof. Reiko Sakashita, the chairperson of the West Branch of the Students’ Union, the captain of the American football team, and others regarding restrictions on extracurricular activities amid COVID-19. A variety of views were aired, and I understand how our students are feeling. With the frustrations of students whose extracurricular club activities—not just sports teams but cultural and other pursuits, too—fully in mind, I urged the participants to realize that society expects universities to be even stricter than the rest of the community in their efforts to counter COVID-19. It pains my heart to know that some students have now had to bear the burden of various restrictions for 40% of their four years of university life. I hope that we can return swiftly to unrestricted (as much as possible) entry to campus—with appropriate anti-COVID-19 measures, of course—and restore a university environment where students and faculty can interact in person.

With the nationwide lifting of states of emergency, and following careful gauging of the situation out in the community and COVID-19 case numbers, we have moved to Level 1(a) of our Business Continuity Plan. This means that, except in extraordinary circumstances, we can switch all classes to in-person classes and extracurricular activities are permitted as long as proper anti-COVID-19 measures are taken. This does not mean going back to pre-COVID-19 ways; we must guard against a sixth wave of infections. As part of that, I hope fervently that we can allow students—even partially—to learn and interact with friends on campus, to participate in extracurricular activities, and to do all the things that make up a university experience. Whether we can do that or not depends on younger generations—including you, our students. If you wish to see campus filled with students enjoying life at our university, then we need to work together and earn it.

University of Hyogo