An important message to all students, staff and the University community from the President, Professor T. Nishimoto
Following COVID-related disruption to classes during the past academic year, Musashino University intends to resume on-campus classes and activities, while importantly, continuing to give due consideration to guidelines to prevent COVID contagion.
This notice outlines the relevant details below. Tokyo and several prefectures remain under a declared State of Emergency (SoE) until early February (when the circumstances will be reviewed). Mindful of the ongoing SoE, we would nonetheless advise students and their families to proceed with preparation for the commencement of the academic year in April 2021, including moving to Tokyo where necessary (or proceeding to come to Japan, as required).
The worldwide pandemic during 2020 was unprecedented in its disruption to our everyday lives and forced changes to our daily schedules, the consequences of which continue into 2021. We are mindful that we are still some distance from getting the virus completely under control, or even eliminated, and face the new academic year with some consternation. However, we believe our University community can proceed to return to campus life, although it will remain subject to strict conditions for the interim. As a university, we believe that on-campus teaching and activities are important for students and staff alike, and this thinking guided our decision-making and the implementation of safe guidelines.
During the 2020 Academic Year, all University staff endeavored to ensure that the education of our students would continue to be conducted with minimal disruption despite the emergency shift to online delivery of most classes. As previously reported, class surveys showed that there was, overall, a largely positive impact on results.
In the ten months since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the pandemic, we are beginning to come to terms with finding ways to ‘live with’ the virus for the time being. With that in mind, we are taking a cautious approach to recommencing classes and activities on campus. As students, you expect to spend between four to six years on campus (depending on your course), taking in all that campus life has to offer. As it stands, students have now spent one of those years effectively online and notwithstanding the present circumstances, it is not ideal to continue online classes indefinitely. At the start of the 2020 Academic year, given the initial concerns and uncertainty about the virus, Musashino University made the decision to shift to online classes with everyone’s health and welfare as a priority. As the year progressed and our understanding of the virus benefited from the research of the medical and related professions, we are of the view that the environment is a little more settled, compared with one year ago.
With a mind on our propensity to overcome previous pandemics, we are making our decision to recommence regular classes as part of our commitment to students, and with the reassurance that we do so based on sound scientific grounds.
Our experience of COVID during the past year has presented challenges to our familiar way of life on many levels. We are concerned about the possible long-term impacts of this pandemic and what it will mean for us as a University community.
While student responses to their experience of online learning this past year were largely positive, we are mindful that, in terms of a full university experience, campus life—on campus—is preferable to continuing in online mode. We are grateful for the manner in which many members of the University community responded this past year, but we also feel that being present on campus offers a special richness and experience to ‘University Life’ that we cannot replicate online. Working with your student peers, with University teachers and other members of staff is a critical component of your development. The COVID pandemic and the challenges it presented over the past year may have lasting effects. We have given much consideration to resuming learning and activities on campus in this context of ‘University Life’ and the expectations of the present circumstances, such as maintaining social or physical distance for the interim.
As we approach our Centennial year in 2024, our recently established initiative MUSIC（Musashino University Smart Intelligent Campus）was charged with overseeing the development of an AI-ready university campus, combining the advantages of learning in a real and cyber-environment. The reality of the pandemic in 2020, and our accelerated pivot to an online learning environment, has effectively brought this planning forward by four years and has given us much to reflect on as we continue in this direction, working with students to provide a full and complete education, while at the same time, presenting us with the opportunity to reimagine education in the future.
Our plan to return to on-campus learning in 2021 will be guided by the measures required to minimize COVID contagion. These measures include an ongoing commitment to observing the 3Cs (san-mitsu) of avoiding closed spaces, crowded places and close-contact settings. In the University context, this means that while we will return to face-to-face classes where possible, in some cases, especially classes with large enrolments, there will continue to be an online component. These adjustments at each campus will be dependent on classroom availability and especially in the case of the Ariake campus, where the new Building No 5 will be ready later in the year.
Another key factor to take into consideration is the response required in the event that the Japanese Government extends or reintroduces the State of Emergency (SoE), which may mean a return to the various restrictions the SoE imposes on our daily lives such as limited travel and unnecessary commuting. This may result in re-prioritizing online classes over face-to-face classes, as we have done during the Academic Year 2020.
We are also taking into account feedback from student responses to our surveys to ensure we have the appropriate infrastructure to deliver online classes. We are grateful for your comments and suggestions. Some students would like to see a continuation of online classes for various reasons such as the ongoing risk of infection, but at the same time, overwhelmingly, many students want to see a return to classes on campus. For the present time, we will be endeavoring to balance these needs in the era of the pandemic and we seek your cooperation and understanding.
A second State of Emergency was declared early in January 2021 and resulting in a heightened concern over the possibility of contagion.
As we move to recommencing teaching and activities on campus, this is an important reminder of your responsibility to act in accordance with the guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19. It is important that you avoid contracting the virus yourself but also that you act in a manner to prevent the spread to others. We remind you that you should avoid unnecessary travel and outings, and that you take all the necessary precautions in your daily life, for yourself, your family, and friends. Together we aim to realize a greater learning experience in this time of COVID and as students you too have an important role to play. It is particularly important during this present State of Emergency that we all conduct ourselves with great care and responsibility so that the SoE can be lifted, we can feel safer and we can look forward to commencing classes in April. We ask that all members of our University community work together to realize this goal.
We look forward to welcoming all students back to campus in the new Academic Year. Every April, we recall the words of renowned poet and foundation professor of the Faculty of Literature, Toki Zenmaro, which remind us of the importance of remembering your first intentions as you enter the campus and begin on your path of learning. All members of staff of the University will be doing their utmost to prepare you for the new year. To all students, whether returning or new to the campus, together we are looking forward to seeing you in class. Until then, please take care.