For most students, “extending compassion, understanding” will never be enough to cope with chaotic times.
With the NCR+ bubble being put under Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) again, UPLB students demand leniency in academic workload and an immediate suspension of classes.
In an attempt to have the administration heed the students’ demands, the UPLB University Student Council (USC) and Rise for Education (R4E) – UPLB, along with other college student councils sent a letter to the UPLB Office of the Chancellor (OC).
The requests were loud and clear: suspend all synchronous classes and activities from April 5 to April 10 and reduce course requirements only to the essentials. Additionally, signatories opted to have academic timetables and assignments be reworked following the one week suspension last Holy Week, in addition to being freer with deadlines and having consultations between faculty members and students.
“The continous rising of COVID-19 cases and the extension of Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) in Metro Manila and the surrounding provinces of Laguna, Bulacan, Rizal, and Cavite, have caused profound suffering for both the students and the faculty. As we continue with remote learning, we see how the students and faculty alike face diverse challenges,” the signatories said, highlighting that students face anxiety when meeting academic requirements in the current context.
They added that data from respondents of grievance forms from the Council of Student Leaders and local student councils, academic workload for students only “piled-up” despite the one week suspension of classes.
Not a day after, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs (VCSA) Dr. Janette M. Silva responded on behalf of Chancellor Jose Camacho, Jr. that the request for class suspensions was denied. Silva explained that this was because of the upcoming reading/wellness break by April’s end.
Moreover, the vice-chancellor reassured the students that Camacho shall enjoin all academic staff for monitoring their students on the matter of course requirement adjustments.
“Regarding the adjustments/recalibration/reduction of requirements, we suggest that the students consult their professors and discuss their concerns with them […] the chancellor has enjoined all [faculty] members to continue monitoring their students and to extend compassion, understanding, and leniency on deadlines and on attendance to synchronous sessions,” she wrote.
‘Honor before excellence’
BA Philosophy student Christianne Aurus Sawit, in an interview with the Perspective, shared her sentiments regarding the current educational situation in the country, delving into her experiences as a UPLB student.
“I’m actually in a phase of [having a] burn-out so medyo harder for me to juggle stuff. [Sa konteksto naman ng pag-aaral ngayong panahon.] It kinda makes me feel guilty na I’m in the safety of my home attending to my classes habang ang daming tao outside that doesn’t have the same privileges [as I do],” Sawit said.
Sawit mentioned that the suspension of classes last Holy Week did not help that much for her, since most of the requirements’ deadlines were placed right after the suspension.
On the matter of USC’s letter to the administration regarding the extension of class suspensions, Sawit agreed that every student deserved academic ease. She fears, however, that an extension of the break may also lead to an extension of the classes itself.
“I kind of understand [the admin’s] position to stick to the academic calendar. However, it is also with big disappointment that the admin seems a bit detached from the situation of students who may be gravely affected by ECQ,” she said (READ: Students petition for academic ease after a month of remote learning).
Sawit expressed hope that the university remembers to whom they are serving for, first and foremost. Emphasizing UP’s mantra, she said that most tend to forget that honor always comes before excellence.
“As a student, sobrang helpful if the extension would actually mean an academic break since a lot of students, especially myself, are already on the brink of burnout,” Sawit concluded.
State incompetence: the root cause of the struggle
“Enna” [not her real name], a BS Economics sophomore and student leader opened-up about her experiences with the current status of her academics in the middle of the health crisis in the country, adding how the one week suspension did nothing to lessen the burden on her.
“Hindi siya [the one-week break] nakatulong. Kasi nasira lang yung study schedule ko, natambak lang yung mga deadlines na supposedly for that week. Naghahalo-halo lang yung mga lessons to the point na I’m pretty sure magka-cram lang din naman ako to review for them. Hindi nga ako nakapag-reflect during Holy Week eh. Kasi gets na may responsibilities ako bilang [student leader] pero yung remaining time ko naibuhos ko kakaisip and kaka-worry how to finish my academics kahit na walang-wala na talaga akong will to do so,” she shared.
Enna, however, commended the recent call of USC regarding the extension of the class suspension for a lot of factors.
“Yun talaga ang pinaka-kailangan ng mga students ngayon. Napakaraming reports from all colleges na naging mas mabigat pa yung academic workload ngayon ng students as compared to last semester tapos main reason daw is “nakapag-adjust naman na kasi kayo,” she said.
Enna criticized such a mentality, saying that numerous students are being left behind, while the quality of education that they are supposed to receive from the university is being compromised.
She then emphasized that an extension was necessary and essential for students, describing the extension as some form of “breathing space.”
“Kailangan kasi talaga ng break. Namomroblema ka na nga sa internal state mo tas nando’n pa yung palpak na response ng government sa pandemic kaya gabi-gabi mapapaisip ka na lang na same routine ka na lang ba forever, dahil mukhang napakatagal pa bago tayo makausad at makaalis sa malalang sitwasyon na ‘to,” she asked.
Enna explained that having an academic break would allow student leaders to consult with their constituents, craft reports of their demands, and hold dialogues with their respective college administrative staff.
Student calls for academic leniency and the extension of class suspension are reflected largely because of the failed COVID-19 response in the country. In general, the government’s pandemic response is the root cause of all the struggles being experienced by students and the people.
“Kung hindi dahil sa pagiging incompetent ng Duterte administration ay hindi tayo aabot sa ganitong punto. Kaya laging makialam, mag-ingay, ilabas ninyo ang galit sa kanya at sa mga tuta niya na sinasayang lang ang pera ng taumbayan. Help to educate and inform others kung sino ba talaga ang root cause ng suffering natin ngayon. Let’s hold our government accountable dahil tumakbo sila sa posisyon na yun,” the student leader reminded.
After classes have been confirmed to proceed as scheduled, UPLB USC and R4E-UPLB sent a follow-up letter to the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs (VCAA) and VCSA, appealing to reduce requirements and “recalibrate” deadlines.
“We acknowledge that the UPLB administration released an advisory on the resumption of synchronous and asynchronous activities. However, through the Council of Student Leaders [CSL], which serves as the consultative arm of the UPLB USC, it has been noted that one week is not enough to cope with the academic load since some of the courses require 2-3 requirements per week,” the signatories said in the new letter.
Following an emergency CSL last April 4, both UPLB USC and R4E-UPLB highlighted that adjustments were needed, as some students may be exposed to COVID-19 due to some assignments requiring them to go outside of their homes. Both parties also emphasized that deadlines from the previous week were piling-up with newer ones, students must be given enough time to accomplish “timed synchronous assessments,” while other activities must be made asynchronous as much as possible.
In light of other UP campuses also calling for the suspension of synchronous sessions and asynchronous activities, Office of the Student Regent (OSR) likewise called for the UP administration to heed to student demands.
“The Office of the Student Regent supports our students and their student councils in clamoring for the ease [of] academic burden to students. We have sent a letter to the UP administrations reiterating the requests of the student body. We call on the UP administration to heed the calls of their constituents and prioritize the welfare of the affected students,” the office said in a Facebook post. [P]
Photo by Isabel Pangilinan