It has been two months since the university implemented remote and modular learning: two months of forced neoliberal education and suffering for the students who have no choice but to partake in a failed attempt to normalize neoliberal education in a time when all hell breaks loose.
The second semester of A.Y. 2019-2020 was cut short due to COVID-19’s dreadful effects. Since then, the academe has shifted to remote learning, prompting faculty members to rush the crafting of their course packs.
The Office of the Student Regent (OSR) petitioned to postpone the start of classes due to the aggravating conditions of the society yet the Board of Regents (BOR) disregarded this request and proceeded with the semester unprepared. In the words of Vice President of Academic Affairs (VPAA) Cynthia Bautista, after hearing student demands in the UPLB Student Townhall Meeting last June 29, “I understand where the demand is coming from. But even if it’s very difficult for learning to continue, it is our duty to continue.”
It is not our duty to continue, yet students have tried to cope with the demands of your experiment. But as officials, you have failed to ensure that no student would be left behind. As primary constituents of the university, we do not deserve your neglect for the realities on the ground, only to keep UP’s distorted image as a “premier state university.” It is distasteful that the administration of the institution which takes pride in being the “national university” yet bows to the inconsiderate, anti-poor, and anti-people plans of the administration, and does not even heed the calls and demands of the masses it claims to serve.
Complete modules were given and for some students, synchronous classes serve as an extension of the provided materials. For others, it remains a privilege. Printed materials are limited in guiding the learning process. Unrest consumes students who have a scholarship to maintain and for those juggling work and academics, financial instability brought about by the current recession increases burden. It is shameful how the Duterte and UP administration has intensified the disparities of understanding among students. We shouldn’t have to go against each other in making these difficult decisions – especially now that it becomes clear for the student body who to hold accountable.
The seemingly unending anxiety of not being able to understand lessons due to limited communication is terrifying and exhausting. Expecting students to prioritize their modules for the sake of “pacing” when their family suffers from the ongoing health crisis physically, mentally and financially is a manifestation of a rotten system that favors only the fortunate.
Recently, different parts of the Philippines were hit by consecutive typhoons – another burden for those already struggling to brave the pandemic woes beforehand. This paved the way for extensive repercussions, including long periods of no power nor stable internet connection, and to the extremes, no more roofs above their heads. Their homes were washed away by wave after wave of flash floods, especially students from different parts of Luzon.
Others suffer from the death of relatives, of which is preposterous to even instruct them to continue submitting requirements. Some have relatives from affected areas who need assistance, too. Remote learning has been difficult as it is, and to face it on top of calamities and the pandemic, with the added burden of continuous negligence from the national government, is worse. Since students are under remote learning and we all hail from different parts of the country, the situation of each individual is different; some may enjoy the comforts of their beds every night but others may not even have a room to begin with.
The notion of giving an academic break to only those physically affected by the typhoon is appalling as in these times, how can one function knowing that while some of us are able to eat at least three times a day, thousands have not received a proper meal for days? As heartless and shortsighted this suggestion may be, students are not as such, as seen through many calls for solidarity and support to those affected by the disaster.
This is neither amplified to be used as a petty reason to enforce laziness nor to be used as a free pass from academic responsibilities. It is forwarded to ensure that there is inclusivity and compassion for students who are struggling to make ends meet. Those saying that students only call to ease measures to get a free pass is not only offensive, but also insulting to their conscience. It is inhumane of us to think of our module backlogs just when hundreds of our countrymen slowly and painfully lose their lives daily.
The UPLB University Student Council (USC) demanded for an academic ease through Chancellor Camacho but vague and insufficient guidelines were presented by the administration and it only encouraged leniency in the submission of academic requirements.
Although a progressive step for student welfare, an academic ease could only do so much. As professors have the academic liberty to proceed with set deadlines while also being given the jurisdiction of mandating requirements a student must comply with, asking for a mere ease is insufficient. Professors should look beyond academic freedom in requiring submissions and consider the welfare of students in the assignments that they give, especially now that students are struggling to survive. After all, both sectors are victims of this neoliberal educational system.
Now that we are subdued under a fascist regime, where human rights are disregarded and impunity and pure apathy fills society, genuine education is impossible under the sheer incompetence, neglect, and ruling-class agenda of the Duterte regime.
We must pursue a higher call.
We call on the UP administration to stand with the students, faculty and workers who are affected by the typhoon by ending the semester now. While academic adjustments, benefits and job security are also needed, the bigger problem rests upon the stubbornness to push through with education amid the national crisis.
The UPLB Perspective stands in solidarity with the students who cannot even afford to answer grievance forms or to send emails to professors to ask for extensions; for students who cannot cope with the overlapping burden of forcing themselves to submit requirements when their safety is already in jeopardy and for students who cannot mentally and emotionally press forward with the demands of remote learning anymore.
Now more than ever, do we need collective effort to ensure that the masses will no longer be coerced to endure the shortcomings of both the national government and the university officials who are detached from the current happenings in our country. The Philippines has suffered enough — every second we waste is already a life lost. The need for Duterte’s ouster becomes more and more urgent given today’s political situation.
We remain firm in our advocacy to end the semester and to pass all students for education should be for the betterment of our communities and should not be caged in the four corners of a computer monitor. As long as Duterte and his cronies are still in power, we are far from receiving the quality and accessible education we deserve.
This regime is afraid of what student power can achieve. We must work together to ensure that history shall unfold in the days to come. [P]
Graphics by Jermaine Valerio