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End the sem petition reaches almost 2,400 signatories

As of November 30, the petition encouraging constituents of UPLB to partake in a “multi-sectoral academic strike” has now reached 2,370 signatories. This strike served as a call to immediately end the semester and hold the Duterte administration accountable for its negligent pandemic and disaster response. 

According to the petition, students who signed pledge to boycott their classes and submissions until the demands in the petition were met, while the faculty pledge to cancel their requirements for the courses that they handle.

The petition stated that its signatories would be taking a firm stand by ending the semester themselves, instead of waiting for government action. It cited numerous calls for academic ease and safe reopening of schools that had earlier been declined, and the government’s insistence in pushing through with the school year without providing support for teachers to efficiently conduct classes online and students whose families are suffering from unemployment during the pandemic.   

“We will no longer wait while our fellow students, faculty, and staff’s safety and wellbeing are being compromised as we speak. Thus it is imperative for us to not continue the semester knowing that many students, faculty, and staff are being, and are already, left behind,” the petition wrote.

Last November 17, the UPLB Council of Student Leaders (CSL), UPLB University Student Council’s (USC) consultative arm, had declared a university-wide strike echoing UP system-wide calls to end the semester and pass all students, making UPLB the first campus in the UP system to declare an academic strike. 

According to the #WelgaUPLB Information Page, the strike is said to be successful if the UP administration formally ends the semester.

The UP Board of Regents (BOR), however, decided in a meeting on November 26, to proceed with the semester as scheduled, despite having already over 15,000 individuals signed petitions and joined calls to end the semester across the entire UP system.

UP will also implement a no-fail policy this semester, entailing that no student shall receive a grade of 4.0 or 5.0. The UP Office of the Student Regent (OSR) called this “an initial victory for the UP student body” in its fight to make education more inclusive and compassionate especially amid the pandemic.

Meanwhile, UPLB Chancellor Jose Camacho Jr., in a memorandum released on November 20, prohibited UPLB faculty members from giving online assessments, namely quizzes and exams. He also extended the submission of grades to January 21, 2021. This memorandum, however, was met with confusion by both students and faculty due to its unclear guidelines on the kind of assessments faculty are allowed to give.

Amid calls to end the semester, some faculty in UPLB had also taken it upon themselves to end their classes in consideration of students who were affected by the consecutive typhoons that hit the country.

Meanwhile, the All UP Academic Employees Union – Los Baños (AUPAEU-LB) launched a petition entitled “End the Sem, Open Our Classrooms” appealing to their fellow UPLB faculty to join the students in their campaign to end the semester.

In the petition, AUPAEU-LB encourages UPLB faculty members to end all graded requirements while maintaining “open yet ungraded” discussions and consultations, and uploading learning materials to address the competencies that the students need.

This way, the faculty are still “opening their classrooms” even if they are no longer giving graded assessments, and the semester has already ended. Thus, learning is not being compromised.

“These measures are concrete and viable for us teachers, should we choose a more compassionate and humane action in consideration of our students,” the AUPAEU-LB petition wrote.

 A string of petitions

This is not the only time that the constituents of the UP system launched petitions and called for the UP administration to reconsider its decision to conduct classes in the online set-up.

On October 19, the USC, together with the Rise for Education (R4E) UPLB and the Kulturang Ugnayan ng Kabataan Alay sa Bayan (KULAYAN)-UPLB, launched an online petition a month into online learning clamoring to lessen the burden of campus students and faculty.

The OSR likewise called for academic ease, suggesting that the break be used by the university to “reassess and recalibrate” the current situation of students under remote learning and address the needs of the community.

In response to the calls for academic ease, the UP Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs (OVPAA) released a memorandum on October 12 scheduling a “System-wide Semester Reading Break” on November 2 to 6.

The reading break had likewise been included in the academic calendars for the second semester and midyear of A.Y. 2020-2021 during the meeting of the BOR on October 29.

Before the first semester of online learning started, the USC also launched a system-wide petition to postpone classes, citing results that show that at least 5,600 students would not be able to keep up with remote learning.

Despite this, the BOR rejected the system-wide appeal to postpone classes on September 10. [P]

Photo by Sophia Isabel Pangilinan

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