By Ian Raphael Lopez, Jesus Joaquin Gonzalez IV and Ruben S. Belmonte Jr.
Students staying in UP dormitories have shown worry and disappointment over the UPLB administration’s handling of the recent COVID-19 scare in campus.
This came as officials confirmed on Thursday that a student staying in the Makiling Residence Hall (MAREHA) has been identified as a person under monitoring (PUM), after exhibiting symptoms such as coughs and colds.
The University Health Service, in an interview with [P], have said that there are no cases of COVID-19 “in this hospital, or in UPLB”. But dormers have expressed their sentiments as the University grappled for solutions, amid COVID-19 cases soar in Metro Manila.
Daren Lascano, Jr., the secretary of dormers in MAREHA, narrated how officials from the University Housing Office (UHO) responded during the case on Wednesday night.
“Upon knowing about the case, Prof. [Zoilo] Belano immediately visited MAREHA,” Lascano said. Housekeeping personnel disinfected the suspected victim’s room, while the PUM has been quarantined.
Amid the situation, however, Lascano said the MAREHA dormers have been “calm”. Officers have disputed fake news, and stocks and supplies such as soap and alcohol have been beefed up.
“Knowing that we don’t have testing kits and other supplies, then we still have no concrete plans.” he stated.
Neighboring dorms alarmed
Dorms connected to MAREHA have also trebled amid the speculations. Three dorms in the Forestry area share a common canteen, and students’ travel across each to do assignments and projects has been unimpeded until recently.
Paulo Rodriguez, a former officer of the New Forestry Residence Hall (NFRH), has also expressed disappointment.
Dormers in NFRH, a dorm adjacent to MAREHA, have been unsure whether they would go home or not. “Some students in faraway places have limited time to make a decision,” Rodriguez, himself living in Bicol, told [P].
President Duterte’s pronouncements of a lockdown over Metro Manila — a terminus for transportation to many points across our nation — has also rattled the freshmen dormers in NFRH.
“The UPLB administration has been so inconsiderate. It is so disappointing because not all UPLB students live in Los Banos or nearby areas” says Rodriguez.
Rodriguez noted that as the proposed “community quarantine” over the metropolis has not yet imposed, it could not prevent students going back to their hometowns, with a possibility of them being an asymptomatic carrier of the coronavirus.
“It is frustrating and angering because the administration has been deciding slowly… Students have to check one by one if their professors have suspended classes.”
“Students are panicking, they do not know whether they’ll go home or not,” Rodriguez said. “But here is our administration, not doing anything.”
In a recent interview with [P], Office of the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs officer-in-charge Eleno Peralta said that they have not yet tackled the suspension of classes. The administration, however, has already resorted to shifting to online classes starting on Monday, March 16.
A growing number of students have noted, however, that online classes would negatively impact those without stable internet connections at home.
For Forestry Residence Hall president Reann Leovido, it took too long before the administration stepped up regarding the coronavirus scare.
“They were able to conduct emergency meetings where they were able to layout protocols and such … but for the dormers and I, we think that it took too long before the administration released a statement,” Leovido told [P].
When asked if the steps taken were adequate, she replied with a “flat no”.
“Of course, the dormers’ reaction would be panic. They kept on asking when the classes will be suspended, why it hasn’t been suspended yet, and what would happen if suspensions do push through,” Leovido said.
Aside from concerns over Metro Manila’s impending “lockdown”, FOREHA dormers also bewailed the lack of coherent information from the administration.
Ariza Lagang, a FOREHA dormer, talked to [P] on her way home to Mindoro. She said that being with her family in these times would make the situation lighter.
“I was frustrated because I did not know whether I would push through with my trip home,” Lagang said.
She also asked the administration to make sound decisions faster, especially in unpredictable times brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, although adding that she is “used to decisions from them being not student-friendly most of the time.”
Those staying in UP dorms far from the Forestry area have been gripped by uncertainty.
John Ericksson Manuzon, from the ACCI Dorm, said that the situation is scary because if a positive case was confirmed in the campus, there is a big probability that others would have been infected as well.
“I appreciate their efforts, but next time they should be more prompt to avoid unfavorable situations,” Manuzon said.
Ceej Garcia, a prefect at the ATI-NTC Residence Hall, was concerned about the impact of the pandemic to school activities.
“Maybe next time, they should consider situations like these in formulating the school calendar,” Garcia told [P].
He also said that while no one could be blamed for the situation, the administration’s response was a “bit delayed”.
A student from the Men’s Dorm, who talked to [P] in the condition of anonymity, said that the administration could have acted more quickly. “If they could have been more prepared, we could have avoided the spread of fake news,” she said.
But she also implored students not to fall for misinformation: “Let’s follow the precautions to avoid a quicker spread of this disease.” [P]