Waseda University Office for Promotion of Equality and Diversity One Year Anniversary Symposium
Diversity and the Mission of Waseda University
Date: August 2 (Wed.), 2017
Venue: Okuma Small Auditorium
Atsushi Takeuchi, Senior Dean, Faculty of Science and Engineering (Professor, Faculty of Science and Engineering)
Hiroshi Fujimoto, Senior Dean, Faculty of Human Sciences (Professor, Faculty of Human Sciences)
Hiroko Mikami, Head of Center, Student Diversity Center (Professor, Faculty of International Research and Education)
Shuji Hashimoto, Senior Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs & Provost
Keiko Hata, Vice President for Promotion of Equality and Diversity
Opening Remarks/Q&A and Discussion Moderator:
Tetsuya Yaguchi, Director, Office for Promotion of Equality and Diversity
This was the third symposium to be held on the theme of Examining Diversity at Waseda University, and it took place following the release of the Waseda University Promotion of Diversity Declaration (announced on July 1st).
The keynote speeches began with Professor Atsushi Takeuchi, who adopted a research scientist’s perspective to analyze the question of why diversity must be pursued, given the current population structure situation in Japan. He spoke about his own efforts to promote gender-equal participation and about the current status of positive action being undertaken within the Faculty of Science and Engineering, and he concluded by discussing the need for continued diversity promotion moving forward. Next was Professor Hiroshi Fujimoto, who talked about how his research brought him into contact with the Disabled Student Services Office and about the range of support that Waseda University offers disabled students. He discussed the situation which the disabled face in society, and he finished by expressing his hope that all the members of the Waseda community will continue to work to promote greater diversity.
Professor Hiroko Mikami, Head of the Student Diversity Center, spoke about operations at the new GS Center since it opened in April and reported about the level of utilization it has received during those four months, as well as expressed the determination which she and the others have to continue addressing needs and challenges.
During the discussion and question and answer time, the three keynote speakers were joined by Senior Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs & Provost Shuji Hashimoto as commentator and Office for Promotion of Equality and Diversity Director Tetsuya Yaguchi as moderator. The panel used the opportunity to collectively emphasize the significance of diversity promotion at Waseda University and to reiterate their commitment to addressing future challenges.
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Things have changed since then!!
A participant personally acquainted with the issue of disabled student support at Waseda offers their thoughts based on their experience being involved in the setting up Waseda University’s Disabled Student Services Office.
In 2005, while I was in charge of the Student Affairs Section, I committed myself wholeheartedly to the creation of a Disabled Student Services Office and agonized over it daily while studying other universities to see what precedents I could learn from. Finally, on March 1, 2006, my goal was finally realized when the Disabled Student Services Office was established. In the eleven years since then much has changed in our world, but because I was subsequently transferred to the Research Promotion Division, in my mind everything remained frozen as it was all those years ago. Now, upon hearing Professor Fujimoto’s speech, my frozen-in-time worldview on disabled student support has been greatly impacted!
Professor Fujimoto is the Director of the Institute for Healthcare Robotics, which is part of the Future Robotics Organization, one of the research organizations I deal with on the Research Council. The starting point for the Institute’s research was developing powered prosthetic lower limbs (above-knee prosthesis enabling the user to walk up stairs). I was shocked, therefore, when Professor Fujimoto opened his speech by saying, “I advise students these days to give up on this approach.” He went on the explain that, “This sort of thinking is a relic of the 1980s, when the disabled were not necessarily viewed as a minority group and thus had to fend for themselves without assistance. When the new barrier-free laws were enacted in the 2000s, the thinking switched to creating a society and environment which offers appropriate support via its infrastructure, such as elevators, to allow the disabled to have the same access as everyone else in society without the need for special prosthetics. Environmental factors are what’s important.” After hearing his careful explanation, my initial shock gave way to understanding.
During the latter half of his speech, Professor Fujimoto discussed global trends affecting the disabled, as well as laid out his hopes for the Disabled Student Services Office. My head, which had just stopped spinning, was sent reeling once more at an even greater pace as I was brought up to speed with the current state of affairs. I felt worlds removed from the days when we were setting up the Disabled Student Services Office, and we were focused exclusively on organizational and structural challenges, such as “How will we attract staff for the office?” and “How shall we support the students?”
It was one shock after another to realize how far things have come when the primary focus is now on ensuring reasonable accommodation for disabled students and on the expectation that this mindset be shared among all members of the Waseda community, including the teaching staff.
In this sense, I found the speech to be profoundly moving and valuable. Thank you so much, Professor Fujimoto.
Hidehiko Fukuda, Manager, Research Council and Research Promotion Division
(by sankaku news No.18)