In discussing possible plans for the resumption of face-to-face (F2F) classes, UPLB University Student Council (USC), together with college SCs and deans, and the Perspective convened with the UPLB administration last October 27.
Chancellor Jose Camacho, Jr. said that limited F2F activities, such as groundwork for theses of undergraduate and graduate students, will start as soon as the university gains approval from the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF).
“The university system has a committee to craft the roadmap for campus reopening […] We will meet within the week to craft the roadmap and conduct consultations later on. You will be informed about these consultations. Hindi lahat ng klase, hindi lahat ng student activities will be done F2F [Not all classes, not all student activities will be done F2F],” Chancellor Camacho explained, saying that the roadmap will hopefully be finished by January.
However, College of Human Ecology (CHE) Dean Ricardo Sandalo emphasized that the completion of the roadmap does not necessarily mean that F2F classes will proceed.
“Hindi pa ibig sabihin na by January magbubukas na [ang klase]; magkakaroon pa lang ng roadmap. I will have to wait for that na later on, we will be prepared. Nagsabi na kami na we can look for alternatives outside the roadmap. Talagang we are looking for ways na matapos yung thesis, practicum, requirements [ng mga estudyante],” Sandalo said.
[It does not mean that F2F classes will resume in January; there will only be a roadmap. I will have to wait such that later on, we will be prepared. We are already looking for alternatives outside the roadmap. We are looking for ways for students to finish their thesis, practicum, and other requirements.]
The proposal for F2F currently includes students conducting their theses and those taking laboratory activities. 130 graduate students and 101 undergraduate students are so far included in the proposal for limited F2F activities. In addition, Camacho also requested for the crafting of guidelines for specific practicum activities, to avoid sacrificing “scalar competency.”
Since learning shifted to online, students in technical courses such as DVM Veterinary Medicine have called for an immediate return to physical classes due to their classes requiring laboratory set-ups and equipment.
Chancellor Camacho also said that some classes may be done in “hybrid” form, since not all activities will be done synchronously.
“Maaaring ang isang course hindi laging ipapapunta sa campus; it will be specific to classes and course requirements. Magkakaroon ng bagong pag-uusap sa mga deans and faculty to consult as well […] Pupunta lang ang mga estudyante dito sa campus pero hindi buong semestre,” he added.
[It may be that one course may not always require students to come to the campus; it will be specific to classes and course requirements. Deans and faculty will be consulted as well. During F2F, students will come to the campus from time-to-time.]
Keeping constituents safe
In a presentation by Director Anna Firmalino of the Office of International Linkages (OIL) and a member of the COVID-19 Prevention Mitigation Committee (PMC), she said that all students are encouraged to be vaccinated. On the other hand, unvaccinated students will be regularly tested every two weeks. They will also be prioritized for future vaccinations.
Director Firmalino added that each building will have a reserved holding area for suspected or positive COVID-19 cases while awaiting test results.
According to Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs (VCSA) Janette Silva, over 60% of around 7000 survey respondents were already vaccinated. In relation to this, Chancellor Camacho said that Vice Chancellor for Community Affairs (VCCA) Roberto Cereno and Dr. Jessie Imelda Walde, Chair of the COVID-19 PMC, has “efforts to increase vaccination activities.”
Related to this, the UPLB administration launched a vaccination drive last October 14 and 18 for students and faculty to receive their doses, with the OVCSA and USC distributing a registration form for the initiative. This was said to be done in cooperation with the Department of Health (DOH) (READ: Postpone classes until demands are met – USC).
According to VCCA Cereno, “May vaccines pa tayo na available; ang problema wala pang gustong magpabakuna […] Nabakunahan na rin ang mga dependents natin na 18 [years old] pataas.”
[There are still available vaccines; the problem is that there are still no individuals to be vaccinated. We have already vaccinated dependents who are 18 years old and higher.]
VCCA Cereno added that the vaccination program for students in Laguna has already been finished, hoping that the local government units (LGUs) will complete the vaccination for others.
In relation to this, VCSA Silva said that the vaccination of UPLB students who reside near UP Diliman may just be accommodated by the latter campus.
Meanwhile, part of the necessary preparations as presented by Director Firmalino include insurance coverage from PhilHealth, as well as medical certificates concerning mental health and comorbidities. Staff are also enjoined by the administration to declare their health status to ensure the safety of all constituents.
On the continued call for academic ease
During the dialogue, USC Chair Siegfred Severino reiterated the students’ grievances in part of the academic ease proposals. These include concerns regarding stringent deadlines, a genuine wellness break, and the inclusion of synchronous classes in the grade components of some courses.
In response, Chancellor Camacho called on the college deans to remind department chairs, division heads, and professors regarding the raised concerns.
It can be recalled that in a memorandum released by the Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs (OVPAA) last September 6, which contains the guidelines for the Academic Year 2021-2022, deadlines should be imposed on a “case-to-case basis” in recognition of the “extraordinary stress” and “difficult circumstances” that everyone is experiencing amidst the pandemic. Attendance in synchronous classes must also be “optional”, and that recordings must be made available to students for the whole semester (READ: UPLB students face 2nd online acad year with ‘unresolved’ set-up challenges).
Members of the UPLB administration in the dialogue encouraged the SCs to always relay the students’ concerns to department chairs and “higher-ups”. Chancellor Camacho remembered the timeliness of coordination, calling it a “dynamic process of engagement”.
Additionally, student councils will schedule dialogues with local deans to reiterate the aforementioned memorandum.
“Baka pwedeng i-formalize na lang natin yung request na magkaroon ng centralized grievance form, to be raised accordingly sa mga deans. It’s important na malaman ng mga deans kung sinong prof ang di sumusunod [sa guidelines],” VCSA Silva added.
[We can formalize the request to have a centralized grievance form, to be raised accordingly to deans. It is important for deans to know which professors do not comply with the guidelines.]
USC Councilor Gean Celestial requested to suspend deadlines of requirements a few days after the reading break. In response, Chancellor Camacho promised to revisit the memorandum and reiterate such reminders.
Chancellor Camacho added, “Habang yung requirements ay nauusod, ang mental health ng faculty naaapektuhan din kasi kailangan mag-catch up sa pag-check. I-revisit namin ang memo and consider how we’re going to state it in a language na fair sa lahat.”
[While requirements are being moved, the mental health of faculty members are also being affected, because they have to catch up in marking the requirements. We will revisit the memo and consider how we’re going to state it in a language that will be fair to everyone.]
In relation to this, College of Engineering and Agro-Industrial Technology (CEAT) Dean Rossana Amongo assured that the faculty is open to adjusting the course guidelines and requirements to accommodate the requests of the students.
Data retrieved from CEAT’s Office of the College Secretary (OCS) revealed that their college had the highest number of students dropping courses by the second semester of A.Y. 2020-2021 compared to other colleges (READ: LOA, dropped cases up between 2 sems of 1st online acad year). [P]
Photo from Rise for Education – UPLB / Facebook