Photo/IllutrationSociologist Chizuko Ueno delivers a speech April 12 at the entrance ceremony for the University of Tokyo held at Nippon Budokan hall. (Saki Rin)

Sexual discrimination is alive and kicking at the nation's most prestigious institute of learning, the University of Tokyo, according to a lecturer there greeting this year's new intake of students.

Sociologist Chizuko Ueno, who doubles as a professor emeritus at the educational institution commonly referred to as Todai, raised the issue April 12 during a welcoming speech at an entrance ceremony held at Nippon Budokan hall to accommodate the 3,000 or so new students.

She noted that the students will face sexual discrimination long after they leave the venerable institution.

"Once you enter the real world, you will encounter blatant sexual discrimination," she said. "Unfortunately, the University of Tokyo is no exception."

Ueno also called on the new students to develop an interest beyond the university in order to find ways to help those less fortunate than themselves.

"There are some in society who are never rewarded no matter how hard they try or are unable to even do their best even if they wanted to," she said. "Rather than use the advantageous environment and abilities that you possess only to allow for further success for yourselves, I hope you will use it to help those less advantaged."

At the start of her speech, Ueno touched upon the scandal last year at Tokyo Medical University that was found to have systematically discriminated against female applicants as well as the higher passing rates for males at other private medical faculties.

She referred to the "20-percent wall" at Todai, a figure that has been difficult to exceed for the ratio of new female students, and the gender gap in the rate of those who go on to higher education.

In referring to the sexual discrimination at Todai, Ueno said only 7.8 percent of the professors there are women and that only one of the 15 deans leading undergraduate faculties and graduate schools is a woman. She also pointed out that no woman has ever served as president of Todai.

She added that she wanted the students to realize that entering the university did not necessarily guarantee success in later life, despite their best efforts.

"I hope you never forget that you can now feel that you will be rewarded as long as you make the effort because of the advantageous environment you are currently in," she said.

Noted for her strong stance on women's issues, Ueno also used her own example in being selected to give the speech as evidence that Todai is changing, albeit perhaps not quite as quickly as she had hoped.

Stating that the institution was open to change and diversity, Ueno said, "What awaits you is a world filled with questions that have no right answer. Please go out into a different world in search of the unknown."

This year's intake of new students comprises 2,558 males and 567 females.

One student from Shizuoka Prefecture appeared to have been affected by Ueno's speech.

"Although I used my abilities only to get into Todai, I want to take advantage of learning in this environment and obtain knowledge that can contribute to helping those in a weaker position or in developing nations," the student said.