In a dialogue discussing the situation and welfare of university constituents under the online academic learning setting last October 16, chancellor-select-Dr. Jose Camacho, Jr. assured that the UPLB administration will be pushing for the demands not only of the students, but also of faculty members who are also struggling to adjust under remote learning.
“We will push for this. Sa tingin ko we could push for the demands. Mas lalong mapapaigting ang demands kung makukuha rin ‘yung pulso ang mga nahihirapan na faculty,” Camacho said.
In the dialogue, which was attended by the University Student Council (USC) and Vice Chancellor-select for Student Affairs Janette Silva, Camacho emphasized that the current setup must change. He added that the administration will look into other issues faced by the university’s constituents to create a data-backed survey before presenting their resolutions to the Board of Regents (BOR).
“May issues katulad ng connectivity, pati ang financial assistance ay kulang dahil may mga parents na nalay-off. May nag-express kung pwede bumalik sa Los Baños upang ipagpatuloy ang pag-aaral pero hindi masagot dahil may mga protocol regarding sa face-to-face learning,” Camacho stated.
This push to review these cases were earlier mentioned by Camacho in an October 3 episode of [P] Live, when he was asked what would be the very first thing he would do when he assumes the university’s highest post on November 2, following his victory in the most recent chancellor race.
“Pagka-upo natin sa … November 2 ay ang ating mga maihayag sa ating mga estudyante na ang pagre-review ng MRR at readmission [cases]. Mahalaga ito sa atin sapagkat kailangang maihanda ang ating mga estudyante para sa second sem, so kailangan nilang malaman ang resulta ng review nito.”
Camacho’s vocality on one of the most prominent issues in the university is a far different stance from the incumbent chancellor Fernando Sanchez, Jr., who is closing his term on October 31 with a reputation of being ‘anti-student’ for his tone-deaf policies.
USC Chairperson Jainno Bongon raised the students’ call for a lessened academic load as they experienced difficulty in catching up with their requirements.
“We’re expecting na magtutulungan ang students and administration na kumuha ng mas in-depth na data. Sa acad ease ‘di lang po break; isa siyang program na mag-aadjust ang education na matatanggap ng estudyante sa university,” Bongon said.
Bongon noted as well the importance of guidance and support for faculty members in the creation of their coursepacks.
Stating that the number of academic units will not change, Camacho said that they will, instead, look into the adjustment of requirement completion and the number of hours allotted per requirement.
In raising the students’ demand for academic ease, USC Vice Chairperson Aurigue emphasized that there should be no synchronous or asynchronous classes, with the curriculum for each course being fit for remote learning, and with December 9 being the initially expected end for the semester.
Camacho stressed that the university will be following the guidelines of the reading break this November 2 to 6, as they were stated in the memorandum of the Office of the Vice President of Academic Affairs last October 12.
“Malinaw sa memo. We will push for [a] one week break,” Camacho, adding that the faculty will also be reminded to follow the academic calendar as approved by the BOR.
Silva explained that the paradigm shift to remote learning during the pandemic was crucial, but that there was a lack of readiness because of the limited time provided to both faculty and students to prepare. She pointed out that required attendance during remote learning is inhumane, and that late submissions should be accepted if the end goal is to assure that students are really learning.
“Hindi makatao ang attendance sa asynchronous. What is the end goal for remote learning? Accept late submissions if the goal is really learning,” Silva explained.
Aurigue brought up the heightened appeal of the students for late submissions and concerns regarding the feasibility of attending synchronous lectures.
Camacho suggested that the synchronous lessons be recorded with the intent of being released to the public. That way, students can play the lessons in their most convenient time. However, Vice Chancellor-select for Academic Affairs Jean Loyola had expressed that quality checks should be done to assure that the information being relayed is accurate.
“Si Ma’am Jean ay may agam-agam dahil wala pa itong quality check dahil baka mapuna katulad ng DepEd,” said Camacho.
Meanwhile, in response to the students’ concerns regarding matriculation fees, Camacho stated that they will review the university’s guidelines and that they will take into account the paying capacity of the students not eligible to avail of the free tuition law.
MRR and readmission: an urgent concern
When Camacho and Silva were asked about their urgent plans after coming into office, Camacho reiterated that enrollment concerns are a priority and expressed his commitment to resolve concerns regarding pending MRR and readmission cases within his first two to three weeks in office.
“I was made aware, and it is my commitment in 2-3 weeks malalaman yung result. Yun ang pinaka-urgent. Kailangan malaman agad ng estudyante, kailangan maplantsa din ang enrollment. Ito ang mga discussions natin, major item ito ng aming first meeting,” Camacho stated.
Silva also informed the dialogue attendees of the actions she and Loyola are taking to review the MRR and readmission cases.
“Sa level namin ni Ma’am Jean [Loyola, the Vice Chancellor-select for Academic Affairs], we are reviewing and contacting those who are permanently disqualified to apply again. Kung sa level ng dean’s office ay disapproved, ang final decision ay sa OVCAA,” Silva explained.
Silva also mentioned that courses for the students must be put into consideration.
“We have to identify the courses that they need so that we can compile the courses they need. We’re trying to come up with a mechanism na ire-re-ad sila, tinitingnan natin ang possibility na maka-shift na to avoid having them apply again for readmission,” Silva discussed further.
Camacho explained in the [P] Live episode that the administration would need to gather essential pieces of information from the students, including who the students, where they are from, what degree programs they are taking, and circumstances surrounding their cases. Camacho discussed that these would be done in collaboration with student leaders.
“So magiging basehan ito ng ating magiging future actions regarding readmission and extensions.” Camacho said.
In the same interview, Camacho promised that once he is seated in office, it will only take two to three weeks to resolve all cases.
“Kaya nga kahit di’ pa tayo nag-aassume ng ating opisina ay inumpisahan na natin ang pagkalap ng mga impormasyon. Nais ko sana na sa ating mga lider-estudyante manggaling yung formal request,” Camacho said.
Additional funds and support required
In the dialogue, the USC criticized the inefficiency of the Student Learning Assistance (SLAS), citing that student applicants had to constantly follow up regarding the status of their application.
“The results for SLAS have not been released but the deadline for payment was [last October 15], forcing a lot of students to submit a late payment letter,” Aurigue said.
Professor Jickerson Lado clarified that students from low-income households can qualify for the grants, adding that they are expected to receive their grants before the end of October. Lado added that the first and second batch of SLAS have already been processed, and that some 43 students are expected to receive their grants before the end of October.
“Meron po tayong isesend [later that afternoon]. 43 students ang makakatanggap ng gadgets, 97 na internet connectivity,” Lado stated.
Nico Rastrullo of USC added that under the current SLAS program, students in need of internet assistance who were declared ineligible do not have any means to appeal.
“[May mga estudyante na] naging ineligible for internet assistance, pero wala pa pong way para mag-appeal directly,” Rastrullo explained.
Silva assured that the SLAS appeal mechanisms will be reviewed.
Meanwhile, outgoing UPLB Perspective Editor-in-Chief Juan Sebastian Evangelista inquired on the funding of college student publications, stating that the establishment as well as proper funding of college student publications is mandated in Republic Act (RA) 9500 of the UP Charter of 2008 (An Act to Strengthen the University of the Philippines as the National University).
“In RA 9500, dapat may funding. ‘Yung ibang CUs may publication [at] the college-level. Regarding consultations, it is in the works. Hindi namin alam in the admin-level ang formalization of the establishment of college-level pubs,” Evangelista said, adding that there is a need for financial support in publishing print issues and maintaining the Perspective’s website.
Meanwhile, Bongon mentioned the lack of funds going into the USC since RA 10931 (Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act) was implemented, with all funding for activities coming from their own funds.
“Walang pumapasok sa USC since RA 10931 was implemented. ‘Di namin ginagalaw yung student fund kasi sobrang liit niya. Yung funding sa activities ay galing sa sariling fund,” Bongon explained.
Camacho responded that they will find an “innovative way” to upgrade the equipment facilities of the Perspective and other student-based organizations.
When asked if student funds will increase to be able to support the budget funding for UPLB Perspective and the establishment of local college publications, Camacho stated that the administration will be creating assessments first before increasing student fees.
“Sa tingin ko, kailangan magawaan to ng masusing pag-aaral bago mag-increase ng fees. As of the moment, ang source nito to fund local college pubs ay manggagaling sa current fees. Pwede tayo magkaroon ng web-based publication, diba?,” Camacho said. [P]
Photoby Juan Sebastian Evangelista