While the UPLB administration supported their constituents’ appeal for more flexible learning methods especially with the occurrence of natural calamities, they cannot simply make decisions for the university as they are a part of the UP System and are bound by the rules set by the UP administration, Chancellor Jose Camacho Jr. said in a public dialogue with their constituents on December 2.
“What you can do is to rephrase [or push for the] reiteration [of] your case. We really can not… ‘Di kami basta-basta pwedeng mag-decide [on our own],” Camacho suggested.
Five resolutions were agreed upon in the said dialogue organized by the University Student Council (USC) consulting the UPLB administration regarding the university’s response to the student demands and concerns, especially the guidelines regarding the incomplete (INC) remarks stated in the memorandum released by the Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs (OVPAA) on November 26.
The OVPAA’s memorandum stated that the INC mark would be given to students who were not able to submit all requirements by January 22, 2021. Though there would be no grade of 4.0 or 5.0 be given this semester, the incomplete mark can be replaced once the requirements have been fulfilled within a year.
The resolutions agreed upon by the UPLB administration and the public dialogue attendees stated that (1) offline learners that are on self-paced mode who have not submitted any requirements will be given an INC grade, (2) no more additional requirements shall be given for those who submitted, (3) students marked with INC that have completed their requirements would not be served a failing grade, (4) students marked with INC would be given a year to accomplish their requirements, with an assurance that they would not be given a 5.0 grade, and (5) no more additional requirements shall be given to students who have already submitted their previous course requirements.
These resolutions were further strengthened through a memorandum released by the Office of the Chancellor (OC) Friday evening, clarifying the concerns of the students in the OVPAA memo.
The UP Board of Regents (BOR) had earlier decided to proceed with the semester as planned despite numerous calls from various organizations, and students and faculty across the entire UP system to end the semester.
Held back by the system
UPLB Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Dr. Janette Silva stated that the UPLB administration takes note of the concerns by the student body. However, as much as they want to “break free” from the guidelines specified in the memorandum, they are restricted from doing so because they are part of the UP system.
“The more crucial problem [is that] we should focus on how to address the core problem, ang hirap kumawala sa memo ng BOR. Merong mga loopholes, it can be subject to different interpretations,” Dr. Silva explained.
Camacho reiterated that even if UPLB administration cannot address many of the students’ concerns at the moment, he understands and supports the students’ calls to end the semester and make further adjustments to the guidelines for grading students.
However, the UPLB administration is yet to deal with the loopholes found in their own memorandum as well. Eleazar Luma of USC cited the reports from students stating that some instructors have been making their students choose between dropping the subject or receiving an INC grade if they do not comply with their requirements.
“We expect the UPLB admin to be compassionate. Magiging problema pa mismo [ito ng estudyante],” Luma said.
USC Vice Chairperson Gelo Aurigue emphasized that even if the affected students are willing to continue their studies, they could barely cope with the remote learning system, even moreso when consecutive typhoons hit the country last month.
“They want to study nga po eh, [but] the setup won’t let us perform well. The OVPAA memo will not answer the needs of those students,” Aurigue manifested.
Jade Corpuz from College of Economics and Management Student Council (CEMSC) stated that there are still students who cannot focus on their academic requirements because of the effects of recent typhoons.
“May mga nasiraan po ng bahay, pero may mga kailangan silang gawing mga exam at requirements, nagtutunggali ang need nilang mabuhay tsaka ang pag-aaral…May mga ibang estudyante na ilang weeks nang walang kuryente, walang ilaw, pero takot sila para sa future nila,” Corpuz stated.
Meanwhile, Jayjay Ongkiko from College of Development Communication Freshman Council (CDCFC) cited the experience of a new freshman student whose home was severely damaged due to the flooding in Marikina City when Typhoon Ulysses hit.
“Nakakaiyak isipin na alam [ng aking ka-batch] yung depth ng problema nila ngayon. Sabi niya na he needs 2 months bago makapag[gawa ng] acads so he wishes for [more] time [to recover] sana,” Ongkiko said.
Several UP students were dismayed with this turn of events, noting that this is not the only time the BOR made such an inconsiderate decision that opposed student welfare, especially to those whose families were severely-hit by the devastating typhoons this month.
Some students aired their concerns on social media, saying that they would be “delayed” if the next semester would start in March 2021 with 12 units considered as a regular academic load. Others also shared their sentiments that instead of ‘mass promotion’, the UP administration served ‘mass INC remarks’ for the students.
Among the factors that were said to have been overlooked included the wellbeing of the students and the faculty on the overwhelming academic workload, despite dealing with the physical, mental, and economic effects brought about by the natural and man-made disasters that struck us this year.
Through the statement of UPLB Kilos Na, the #WelgaUPLB Task Force, some students shared their grievances in this uncompassionate decision by the Board of Regents (BOR).
Allen Kate Terren, a student from BS Statistics residing in Tuguegarao, Cagayan, described the severity of damage they have experienced in the onslaught of floods due to Typhoon Ulysses.
“‘What is actually crucifying is seeing other people whose houses are not really sturdy to suffer worse from the typhoon, especially that malawakang pagbaha talaga ‘yung naganap sa Cagayan kasi kami ‘yung tumanggap ng excess water na inilabas ng Magat Dam. It was a very, very terrifying experience for my family and for many Cagayanos,” Terren explained.
He added that with the announcement of the “flexible academic measures,” the load of ‘backlogs’ would become heavier and it would be more difficult for him and his family to cope up and recover from the disaster.
“Tuguegarao used to be a progressive city and Cagayan has been called ‘the land of smiling beauty’ as well, but after the typhoon Ulysses, I am no longer sure if they could still really be associated with those tags,” he said.
Dave Ian Raon, also a BS Statistics student from Marikina City, encouraged everyone to sympathize with all the people affected by the storms, especially in the midst of a global pandemic.
“Hindi tayo pare-pareho ng kakayahan para mag-cope at makabalik sa dati na parang walang nangyari,” Raon said.
Janna Patricia Elevado, a student of BS Food Science and Technology from Daet, Camarines Norte, called for the UP administration’s prompt response to the calls of its sectors.
“In times like this, it does not matter kung privileged ka or hindi. Even though we have all the resources, kung signal mismo ang mawawala, hindi rin kami makakagawa [ng aming mga gawain]. Plus, marami ring ibang concerns [na kailangang asikasuhin], at may mga hindi maka-focus after what happened. So, please hear us,” Elevado said.
After the 1356th Meeting of the BOR, the sectoral regents issued a joint statement on the rejection of the board to end the semester. There, they described that all the teachers, students, education workers and schools were “literally and figuratively left to their own devices”, citing that the university’s failure to provide enough support for the basic requirements of remote online learning was faced by delays in providing the assistance needed.
“Faculty, students, and administrative personnel are struggling to bring closure to a semester that did not begin well. Many were forced to go through the motions of teaching and learning even under near impossible and unreasonable conditions,” the statement reads.
The UPLB University Freshman Council (UFC) also released a statement, condemning the outcome of the recent BOR meeting. They described BOR as having “deaf ears and blind eyes”, the UFC said that the board sustained to not hear the concerns and not see the reality of online classes and its effects on students and faculty.
“Some students have lost their homes, while some continue to live every day without any electricity and water up to now. Amidst all of these, it is really inhumane and insensitive that they have still come to this decision,” the UFC stated.
The UFC also pointed out the unclear outcome that was a result of the recent BOR meeting, asking the Board to look after its constituents first before prioritizing the glorification of its world rankings.
“Even with the no-fail policy, the main call to end the semester has not been addressed directly, which could leave many of their constituents behind,” the UFC added. [P]
Photo by James Jericho Bajar