IN THE NEWS / New Tokyo U. president wants to toughen up students

Junichi Hamada, who recently took office as president of Tokyo University, is easy to talk to as he is a good listener who does not interrupt while a person is talking, according to an official at the university.

His predecessor, Hiroshi Komiyama, reputedly had a strong personality and stamped his own style on the nation’s most prestigious institution of higher learning.

Despite character differences, however, common ground can be found in their attitudes as educators. Both Komiyama and Hamada believe in producing students capable of solving global issues, such as those related to the environment.

Their avowed mission is to establish a center that can produce intellectuals “capable of driving the world forward.”

Hamada, 59, who graduated from the university’s law faculty in 1972, studied the relationship between law and the media. He read every book he could find on the subject and helped open up the frontier of socio-information studies. He currently is a board member of the Broadcasting Ethics and Program Improvement Organization, a third-party organization that monitors the broadcasting field.

The new Tokyo University president says today’s young people seem more fragile than those of his generation.

“I guess they lack the kind of social experience that can only be gained through studying overseas or volunteer activities, for example,” he said. “They concentrate on their studies and seclude themselves from society.”

Hamada studied at the university amid a period of student activism. He said he used to spend all night holding discussions with friends, and sometimes even threw stones as part of demonstrations.

“I took a risk and tested the strength of my own convictions,” he said. “I’m not saying [young people] should throw stones like we did, but I want to see them act in a bolder fashion and toughen themselves up in the real world.”

(Apr. 12, 2009)
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