By Alvin James Magno
Several faculty members in the University of the Philippines (UP) System have begun promoting their students from their classes, regardless of the decision made by the Board of Regents (BOR) on Thursday to adopt a ‘deferred grading’ scheme for the current semester, as an act of compassion amidst the coronavirus pandemic.
A surge of individual posts and letters of unity by the faculty surfaced on social media has revealed that there has been a growing support on the academe to the student’s massive clamor to end the semester and to mass promote all enrolled students in their classes. One of them is Janette Malata – Silva, the President of the All UP Academic Employees Union – Los Baños (AUPAEU-LB).
The professor said in her Facebook post that administrators should dispel the idea that learning should be limited and enclosed to fulfilling the requirements itself, and they should find various ways to provide the necessary competencies of the subject.
“Ang tanaw ng ‘PASS ALL’ panawagan ay hindi nakakulong sa sink or swim na kaisipan bagkus ay ang pagkilala na ang pagkatuto ay maaring maabot sa maraming paraan at batay sa kolektibong pag-iral… Hindi ito panahon para ipagpilitan na ang honor at excellence ay nakakulong sa mga academic requirements ng mga kurso,” the Union’s president explained.
Meanwhile, Liberty Notarte-Balanquit, a language professor in the UPLB Department of Humanities (DHum), explained that she invoked the principles stipulated in the UP Code and the UP Charter on handling her classes amidst the public health emergency such as innovativeness and creativity, academic freedom of teachers, and academic excellence.
She also mentioned that the University should consider the problems of its largest stakeholder affected by the pandemic — the students.
“The campaign for #MassPromotion of students addresses problems (i.e. personal, mental and psychological health) that are colossally relevant to the performance of students and faculty as primary agents in the classroom. To ignore these issues is to operate in a paradigm of normal circumstance, oblivious to the impact of COVID-19 to all of us,” Balanquit stated.
Reaffirmation of the Union and the Alliance
It is known that after the BOR meeting, the AUPAEU National, the largest union composed of all faculty members and research, extension and professional staff (REPS) in the system, amplified their calls to their fellow colleagues to join their cause to mass promote all students as a way to put premium on the overall wellbeing of stakeholders this semester.
“We therefore appeal to all our colleagues in the academe to invoke academic freedom and stand for the health and wellbeing of all students, staff and faculty amid the pandemic.” the Union said.
To affirm their unity with the national office, AUPAEU-LB Secretary Mariyel Hiyas Liwanag explained that their local chapter has already pronounced their commitment to the effort.
“Appeal ng unyon sa mga faculty is to mass-promote everyone, as we’ve seen the need for it. Isa rin naman ang paninindigan ng union sa buong system. Mass promotion would teach what is beyond honor and excellence, what is more than grades,” she stated.
Chapters in Baguio, Cebu and Manila have already intensified its calls to their respective constituent units to convince faculty members to participate in mass promotion.
AUPAEU already expressed their gratitude to those faculty members who accepted their calls to give students a passing remark.
In addition, the Rise for Education Alliance (R4E) – UP Diliman, since before the BOR convened, reiterated their stand by publishing the sentiments of the faculty members all over the UP system. Former UPD Chancellor Michael Tan, Mass Communication Professor Danilo Arao, and Social Science Professor Gerry Lanuza are some of the widely known academicians that supported the call.
“Mass promotion is the most practical solution to somewhat relieve our students of the burden of surviving in this already cruel world, made crueler by a draconian government oblivious to the plight of many, and made even cruelest by an imposed educational system that demands honor and excellence without any room for compassion,” Arao explained.
Unified initiatives of the faculty
There have been several unity statements that circulated online supporting the calls for mass promotion, as a response to the resolution made by the highest decision making body of the university on the readjustments that will be taken into effect for this semester.
One of the earliest unity statements came from several faculty members of UPD Department of History, hours after the ruling. They said that any form of mediated learning, which aims to fulfill the course requirements in the middle of a crisis, is difficult to be employed. Thus, the 11 professors made two pronouncements to address the gaps of learning — through sending readings that the students could read on their own pace, and reminding them that they can still sit in on their classes for the upcoming semesters.
Meanwhile, Lakan Umali and his five other colleagues in UP Mindanao’s Creative Writing program explained that they have decided to end the semester for the student to channel out their energies in other more important concerns.
“The program was developed to instill a life-long passion for learning among students, and foster critical thinkers who can intervene in local and national settings. How can we expect our students to fulfill these objectives if we do not practice them ourselves?” the concerned faculty stated.
Professors in both of the unity statements expected their students to prioritize their overall well-being and focus on addressing their immediate needs, as they officially end the semester in the middle of the crisis.
The calls to pass all students without any academic burden reverberates even after the BOR decision. The R4E, alongside its local counterparts, initiated an online signature campaign to show how the different stakeholders of the UP community rally their concerns against the resolution adopted. It already amassed over 10,000 signatures, at the time of writing.
The UP Office of the Student Regent (OSR) explained that the faculty members who participated in the calls for mass promotion, serves as an act of compassion to their students.
“This is a huge manifestation of how we as a community can function and learn together from each other without relying too much on robotic productivity amid a pandemic… Together, a much more needed perspective of honor and excellence can be upheld by us and it is serving our purpose of doing what is right and deserving for the people,” the OSR declared. [P]