Photo/Illutration Some in-person classes resumed at Kindai University in Higashi-Osaka, Osaka Prefecture, in September. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

The government's “Go To” mantra is gaining prominence.

Tokyo was added to the “Go To Travel” tourism campaign on Oct. 1.

In addition to “Go To Eat” for restaurants, the economic stimulus program to support businesses hit by the pandemic will expand to “Go To Event” for concerts and sports events and “Go To Shotengai” for neighborhood shopping streets.

I wonder why the government is not as enthusiastic about enabling university students to attend classes on campus, say, by sponsoring a “Go To University” campaign.

Younger children are now going to elementary, junior and senior high schools, but many university students still receive lessons mostly online.

I was feeling sorry for the raw deal the latter are getting when I read about a signature collection drive to demand public funding to enable university students to resume in-person learning.

The move was organized by a group of university students originally formed to call for a 50 percent reduction in tuition fees during the pandemic. Organizers say they want ordinary life to resume for university students.

For the past six months, they have been denied the benefit of being on campus to get intellectual stimulation from teachers and fellow students.

Only 20 percent of universities have fully resumed in-person classes during the second semester. While the remaining 80 percent will combine in-person classes and remote teaching, large universities and those in urban centers are said to be sticking mostly to online classes.

I suspect our society is subconsciously making light of university education.

In his memoir “Butai wo Mawasu, Butai ga Mawaru” (Directing the stage, the stage turns), playwright Masakazu Yamazaki (1934-2020) said he was asked by the prime minister’s office to come up with measures for dealing with campus disputes.

He discussed the matter with several scholars and proposed suspending the entrance examination to the University of Tokyo. The proposal was adopted.

What the corporate world expected of universities was to select capable personnel through entrance examinations, not to offer education.

Yamazaki said he expected to turn campus disputes into issues for society at large with the shocking decision to cancel the entrance examination.

I wonder how much, if any, society’s view of universities has since changed.

Students in the signature collection drive ask why they cannot go to universities when the government is allocating more than 1 trillion yen ($9.5 billion) to finance “Go To” campaigns. Their words are heavy.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Oct. 3

* * *

Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.