Haruna’s university semester year has started — under lockdown

by Haruna Wada

Today, I had a video call test for my university research group. The following week regular lectures are going to start. However, the fragrance of this spring feels different from last year due to COVID-19.

I was supposed to be at university, taking lectures, but instead I am now at home and in front of my computer joining my research group on Skype. My university decided to switch lectures from face to face to online ones and professors do not know yet how long online lectures are going to last.

Personally, I am happy studying at home because I do not need to rush from one class room to another. Usually, the beginning of my semester is chaotic; getting books, finding a classroom, and deciding which lectures to take. On top of that, hallways are often full of student traffic jams so just going through these processes take all my energy away.

COVID-19 is bringing me quite a different way of starting my semester. Firstly, my way is not blocked by student traffic. Secondly, I do not need to carry the heaviest bag that I have ever carried since I was in Law faculty. Finally, I do not need to queue to the bathroom. What’s more, I don’t need to worry about the 10-minute breaks between lectures during which I needed to complete two missions; running to a classroom which is 500 meters away from me and lining up to the bathroom. I declare that home study is the healthiest road to take to my graduation!

Talking about graduation, I am a 4th year student at Hosei Law Faculty so hopefully this semester should be my last one. Generally, students who are in 4th grade are often asked to write research papers. Unfortunately, we cannot write whatever we want. Firstly, we must find a professor, then pick a topic, and finally we can start our research. Hence, I chose a professor whose name is Shigeru Takashi specialized in the process of administrative law.

A Little introduction of my professor: he is one of the so-called coealacanthiformes professors. What is a coelacanthiforme? It is the nickname – describing a fossilized fish – given by young people to professors who have an old mind-set. Because of this, I did not like him at first. However, he is slowly but surely changing the definition of coealacanthiformes for me and I am curious to discover the new waters this old fish can show me, which is why I picked him. I should admit sometimes he is tone-deaf, oops, I should not say that!

To be honest, I do not know the reason why I picked the administrative law research group, but I know one thing clearly: I want to write about new protocols of administrative law in my research paper. Although, I do not know this field very well yet, I am convinced that administrative law is the key to overcoming problems that we are facing today. The full picture is still blurry in my mind but it will hopefully be much clearer next spring than today. And if we’re lucky, COVID-19 will also be gone by that time.

Today’s world is very unpredictable, and I think that even world leaders are not sure where to steer their own ship. The political calendar is out of date, the world economy is in a severe situation and people across the world are losing lives unequally. The fact is no one knows the best solution and sadly, some leaders are tone-deaf or even dangerous.

For example, Boris Johnson, the prime minister of the UK kept very publicly shaking hands against the advice of WHO and specialists. The result was him catching COVID-19 and falling severely ill. But how many other people didn’t take the pandemic seriously because of him? How many fell ill? How many died? This is irresponsible behaviour for a leader: their role is to protect us, not show off.

Another example, this one closer to me, is the prime minister of Japan. Abe Shinzo broadcasted a video of him drinking tea and playing with his dog at home to the nation. His intention was to encourage residents to stay at home to help stop the pandemic. However, this caused a backlash as there are many workers who are not able to stay at home, either because they are essential, or because their boss doesn’t allow them to work from home. Yesterday, I saw many delivery cars bringing foods for people who can stay at home. At the supermarket I saw many workers wearing masks to serve people. Japan might be a developed country but COVID-19 seems to have divided it into two classes of people. The poor, who can’t stay at home and risk their lives to work so hard to allow the rich to stay safely at home. Who is Abe’s message for exactly?

Looking at this situation made me think deeply of not only the way world leaders behave but also residents. It is easy for a nation to criticize its government, and on the other side, it is easy for government to ask the nation to stay at home. Between them, there is a huge gap and I believe that administrative law is the key to fill it. How to do it?

Japan is now under soft state of emergency and it is related to administrative law. Is it helping to make a better situation? In fact, the number of infected patients is increasing, and hospitals almost reach full capacity. Sadly, administration law is working hard but not working smart therefore I would like to find the way to work better in my research paper.

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