News & Event

President’s Address Fall 2022 Entrance Ceremony

News & Event

Congratulations to all our new students! On behalf of the university, it’s my great pleasure to welcome you to Hosei University. And congratulations also to those families who are participating online. 

Well, after over two and a half years of living with the COVID-19 pandemic, you’re about to start your learning at Hosei. The term “pandemic” refers to the worldwide spread of an infectious disease. The extent of the spread has varied according to the time and place, effecting changes in the response by schools and governments, as well as social life. What has been universal, however, is an abrupt and radical socioeconomic change from pre-pandemic times. In that sense, everywhere in the world could be said to have had the same experience. For each of you too, while you may well have spent the last 30 months in different places and different grades, you have all shared the experience of responding in some manner to a single phenomenon that devoured the world. Many of our international students enter the university in fall, and while they may not be a huge presence numerically, they always come from extremely diverse backgrounds. So here at Hosei University, students from different countries and cultural backgrounds who speak different languages will be sharing the same place of learning with domestic students. Over the next few years, you will get to know and interact with each other and take part in various activities together. The fact that you all share a major common experience will be a particular feature of those students joining the university since the pandemic began.

Of course, that shared experience will still vary greatly in the specifics. For example, the ratio of people currently wearing masks when they’re out and about is quite diverse across different countries. Back when the pandemic began, social responses varied enormously. Some countries imposed harsh lockdowns with penalties for disobedience; others relied on requests for cooperation that had no legal binding. The degree of civil obedience was also manifold. Some countries were strict at first, but freedom has now been almost entirely restored. Others initially only placed vague curbs on people’s behavior with no legal force, but now many people are self-restricting despite not being required to do so. Being aware of these differences provides an opportunity for reflection on a number of fronts.

The students that you will have the chance to meet at Hosei University have come from all corners of the globe, and the scope of their experience over the last two and a half years is extremely broad and disparate. As Hosei has over 27,000 students, you probably can’t get to know everyone, but for most new students, the university will certainly offer the opportunity to become acquainted with a wider range of people than you previously enjoyed. When you meet someone new here, why not start by sharing your respective experiences over the last 30 months? I’m sure there will be many surprises in the differences you find. Next, think about why those differences occurred, and then try exchanging your ideas. Be aware that you’re unlikely to find a straightforward answer. When you think something over in your head, it can be easy to believe that you’ve discovered the biggest reason, but in fact you are still almost certain to have missed key points. Interacting with a whole range of fellow students from different backgrounds enables you to make new intellectual discoveries. One great merit of studying at Hosei University is the wealth of opportunities to make such discoveries that you will enjoy.

At the same time, has there not been a moment in the last two and a half years when you’ve felt that you just didn’t know who to believe? Or that it seemed that you could trust THIS expert, but THAT expert did not inspire the same confidence? I think that many, many people around the world must be feeling like that these days. A university is a place for acquiring an area of expertise. While that is certainly not all that one learns, the element of expertise is what defines a university education. Given the current spread of acute distrust in the messages we are receiving from so-called experts, what’s the point of acquiring an expertise? And how should you approach that learning process? 

An expert, by definition, is an expert in a certain area. The current pandemic, however, is impacting on a breadth of social domains, making it impossible to propose and determine the necessary responses from the standpoint of one area of expertise alone. Each policy needs to be considered by multiple areas of expertise, with the result that it’s not unusual for the same policy to be assessed completely differently by different fields. Seeing this happen again and again has undermined our faith in experts.

Another issue is that all policies are selected and executed within certain constraints, so claims and explanations in relation to all policies are destined to be insufficient in some sense. The financial resources and personnel available to institute response measures are finite. Without sufficient funds and personnel, compromise becomes inevitable. In this situation, some people will explain that, while a measure might be inadequate, it is all that can currently be done given personnel constraints. Others, though, believe that making excuses about constraints can be hard to understand and may have the opposite effect in terms of convincing people and gaining their cooperation. Accordingly, they will simplify things and frame an inadequate but unavoidable policy as in fact the best option. In our modern information society, we get to see both sides.

This situation has continued for two and a half years as the pandemic has evolved. When a situation continues for a long time, people tend to get used to it. And even when it may have a direct impact on people’s health and quality of life, when there is no sign of improvement, people can throw up their hands and lose interest, or choose to hear only information that suits them and ignore everything else. The protracted COVID-19 pandemic is arguably creating exactly that situation. 

I said before that the pillar of a university education is acquiring an expertise. I think many people perceive this process as gaining knowledge that you didn’t have before. While that’s certainly not wrong, it’s a little misleading. I believe that acquiring an expertise means learning how to draw a precise line between what’s understood and what isn’t. As a result, you discover that the scope of what is understood is actually narrower than you thought. You come to realize that humanity knows and understands far less than you believed. Scholarship is accepting this as a fact while taking up the work of shedding at least a little more light on the unknown. Even within the same academic discipline, there will be a range of views as to what method should be used to draw that line, and these differences lie at the heart of so-called experts’ pronouncements and their mutual contradictions and squabbles. Another effect of acquiring an expertise is gaining the capacity to ponder why these differences among experts arise. In that sense, the significance of acquiring an expertise and the limits of that expertise can be viewed as two sides of the same coin. This is an insight that will become clearer to you as you master your own chosen field. And I am convinced that it will also become a major strength for you as citizens of a modern society that has no choice but to distrust expertise.

In conclusion, great opportunities lie ahead of you in your university life to meet and engage with a very different group of people than you will have previously come across, as well as to engage deeply with your chosen areas of expertise within that community. I hope that your student years will be full of both personal encounters and academic discoveries. Thank you.