The Student Union Building can be many things in the perspective of a UPLB student. For many, the SU is a meeting place for organization general assemblies, a tambayan for when you’re just trying to kill time, a study area, and, of course, a canteen.
Historically, the SU served as a baluarte of progressives, with its spaces hosting countless educational discussions and workshops. SU is also the home of the student institutions, the University Student Council and the UPLB Perspective. In present day, one can see three different streamers hanging from their windows: one calling to resume the peace talks, one calling for former Calauan Mayor Sanchez’s permanence in prison, and one with the words “Never again”, which was actually used when Southern Tagalog delegates visited Mendiola on the 46th commemoration of Martial Law.
There’s a reason why students flock to SU for all these activities—there are little to no accessible spaces that the UPLB admin provides for them.
I recall a dear friend of mine from the College of Agriculture and Food Science. Upon entering UP, his apartment lacked a WiFi connection. At the time, he and his roommate lacked the resources to set up their own.
Many students are dependent on the UPLB WiFi, which can only be accessed when you’re inside the campus. Beyond curfew hours, I spotted him scrolling through his browser just to finish his academics… at the Admin Building side of Carabao Park.
I was concerned for him. “What if it rains?”, I asked.
“Walang choice, gurl. (I don’t have a choice.)”
Had the SU been accessible at night, he wouldn’t have to risk the weather just to finish schoolwork.
Academics aren’t everything, however. SU also serves as a training area for performing artists and theater junkies. Such are the likes of Umalohokan, Inc., a theater organization, and Sandayaw, a Filipino cultural dance organization. Its sunken lobbies and basement have become the rehearsal areas of Isko’t Iska—UPLB’s annual play led by freshmen.
Rehearsals take a lot of space and long hours of repetitive practice of different scenes and tunes. It shouldn’t be a surprise that the students would be training non-stop beyond 10 p.m. just to pull off their performances. This issue seems to have fallen in oversight by the admin, whom has notoriously denied the longevity of their stay in the building.
Because of this, performing artists are forced to either go home once the curfew begins or hide from university authorities to prevent being caught. Some of them can’t even use SU due to its limited space. When students from the BACA program were rehearsing for their plays, they had to resort to the lobby of CAS A2 or rented a room in the building.
Student leaders are affected as well. Early on in the semester, the UPLB University Freshman Council election was held. Even before the assembly came to an end, the students were forced to exit the Makiling Ballroom Hall just to continue. They claim that the venue can only be used until 9 p.m., any longer than that would require a permit from the OVCCA. The elections continued at the outside hall.
Much more has happened in this historical building, but recently, the University Police Force shut the lights down while students were occupying. At the time, some of them were even studying and preparing for UP’s hellweek this December.
This scandal is an unforgivable action for an institution that is supposed to cater to the needs of its students, their primary constituent. If their concern is that they are unsafe at night, then why give the burden on the students when they could focus on heightening campus security? Why not at least lift the curfew in the building? Most of all, was turning the light off even called for?
The students clearly need the Student Union Building, but the curfew has continued to limit their capacities in academics, leadership, and performance. Perhaps the UPF and the OVCCA should review their curfew policy.
It is important to recall that the right to education includes the entire students’ experience—and student spaces are part of this. After all, democratic rights do not end at 10 p.m. [P]
Words and collage by Mark Ernest Famatigan