“Matalas, nakaugat sa lupa, at malinaw ang artikulasyon – TAPUSIN NA ANG SEMESTRE,” Department of Humanities’ (DHum) Dr. Emmanuel Dumlao wrote to his WIKA 1 class.
A similar set of words can be traced back to last April. At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, UPLB students and faculty appealed to bring an end to the previous second semester of A.Y. 2019-2020. This was after universities all across the UP system and beyond expressed worry regarding the physical and mental wellbeing of their constituents, as well as the uncertainty on what mode of education fits best for that time.
Less than seven months later, following a barrage of storms that have destroyed homes and flooded cities, members of the UPLB faculty found themselves yet again calling for an immediate end to the semester.
These calls escalated around the time when the UPLB Council of Student Leaders (CSL) declared a university-wide strike last November 9, amplifying the call for the current semester’s end. Additionally, this was in response to the dismal disaster response of the Duterte administration.
However, Dumlao was not the only one from the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) to end their classes in light of these developments.
Sir Jethro Pugal was one of the first to do so, even before the declaration of the strike. He highlighted how students have to focus on matters outside of the class given that the circumstances are “not normal.”
“Para sa mga students na highly affected ng recent events, dapat siguro mawala or at pababain sa list of priorities yung klase. Dagdag kasi yun sa stress pa nila plus kumakain ng energy na sana ay nailalaan sa mas importanteng bagay,” Pugal said.
He described some of the problems being faced by his students, including no signal or power, or their areas were flooded.
“Meron ding wala na sa tamang headspace para mag[-]function properly sa klase. On some level, lahat tayo ay negatively affected nung circumstances na kinakaharap natin ngayon,” Pugal said, adding that other professors have already aired their calls for compassion and understanding when it came to academic requirements through social media.
For the remaining sessions in his ETHICS 1 and Philosophy of Language classes, Pugal no longer required further assessments and had moved existing deadlines. He also opted to have remaining sessions be optional (and will be recorded and uploaded for the students) and be dedicated to discussions on current matters, as a means to have students learn without having to remove the context.
As examples, Pugal said that he would be open to “introspective reflections” on the government’s response or environmental ethics for his ETHICS 1 classes, while topics such as crisis communication for Philosophy of Language.
In concluding his interview with the Perspective, Pugal called for other members of the faculty to be more understanding to the students.
“Sabi nga ng isang colleague, hindi naman nag-exist lang ang guro para magbigay ng grades. So maari pa din namang magtuloy ang education kahit walang requirements,” Pugal elaborated.
He added that assessments were only there to measure what the students learned in classes, and as such he believed that numeric grades are not necessary,
“In the same vein, hindi lang numero ang nagtatakda ng excellence ng estudyante,” Pugal said.
All in this together
Aside from Pugal and Dumlao, Daryl Pasion announced to his SPAN11 classes that he will be ending the semester as well, thanking his students despite the short duration of their class.
“Bagamat hindi tayo natapos, sapat na sa akin na kahit papaano ay nagkaroon kayo ng kahit kaunting pagkamangha sa wika, in general, hindi lang sa espan[y]ol,” Pasion said, assuring the learners that even though they will not b able to master the language immediately, he hoped that the students will continue to hone their skills.
Sir Josef Adriel De Guzman, meanwhile, told his STS 1 class that a brief “recovery week” will not be enough for his students to recover from recent events.
“While I recognize this as a compassionate move by the University, I also think that it is largely insufficient. Surely, one week is not enough to recover for someone who lost all their possessions in a flood or typhoon. One week is not enough to mourn the loss of one’s loved ones. One week is not enough to go back to normal,” De Guzman said.
He ended his post by hoping for better days for his class, and the hopes that his course of action would lessen their burdens.
As he explained the adjustment requirements and that he will continue to upload learning materials for the students to see at their own pace, Sir Bernardo Arellano III told his PI 10 students that it would be unwise to not look at the situation without compassion.
“We strive for excellence, but it is without honor if you do not see the environment (natural and man-made) with compassion,” Arellano said.
Additionally, DHum’s Sir Dennis Aguinaldo, and the Department of Social Sciences’ (DSS) Sirs Roderick Javar and Prince Kennex Aldama have also ended their respective classes as well.
Just this morning, more members of the faculty have ended their classes, including DHum’s Jael Mendoza, Reya Mari Veloso, and Sir John Leihmar Toledo, and DSS’s Mary Diane Duran and Rosette Anne Rogelio.
“At the core of my job as your teacher is always service and compassion to my students. Your lives matter more than PDF files, Google Classroom activities, or even numerical grades,” Veloso said.
While not from CAS, Sir Joseph Dela Cruz from the College of Veterinary Medicine announced to his VMED 195 class that he too is ending the sem.
DHum’s Ma’am Liberty Notarte-Balanquit shared in a Facebook post that given what is happening, it is difficult to understand “where to begin again” following the destruction left by the typhoons.
“We, academics, should realize that not all circumstances are up for long debates. Some need quicker responses. Sometimes, especially in times of crisis, necessary unities do not require processing all our individual reservations,” Balanquit said regarding the campaign to end the semester.
Open your classrooms
Last November 19, the All UP Academic Employees Union – Los Baños released an open letter addressed to the UPLB faculty, appealing to join the collective call to end the semester.
“We have approximately 800 students residing in typhoon-ravaged provinces: Camarines Sur and Norte, Catanduanes, Albay, Sorsogon, Mindoro, and Batangas. This number is yet to include flood victims from Cagayan and now Pampanga,” the union said that with both students and teachers being ill-equipped for distance learning, many would be left behind. Something that the union explained that “this is not the kind of education that our students deserve.”
The letter continued by list five results from “opening classrooms:” no more graded assessments, continuous distribution of materials and sessions online, ungraded discussions or consultations with the students, and to craft a bridging program that would help in improving backloging skills.
“Our efforts in transforming our syllabus for online learning will not go to waste if we open our classrooms. The decision to open our classrooms is not only based on compassion; it is also a logical decision amidst the socioeconomic atmosphere that our country is currently facing,” the union continued.
The letter concluded with a call to end the semester now, to mass promote students, and to safely return to physical classes.
“Always, as teachers, our call is #NoStudentLeftBehind,” they ended. [P]
Photo from Juan Sebastian Evangelista