Words by FJ Masangkay and Naenae Dampitan
Student councils across all UP campuses convened online last December 11 for an emergency General Assembly of Student Councils (eGASC), which centered on discussing the term extension of the 38th Student Regent (SR) Renee Co. The SCs also presented their term reports and resolutions concerning urgent university and national issues, including the conduct of an on-ground 52nd GASC before the start of the 2nd Semester of A.Y. 2021-2022.
SCs raised the challenges brought by convening in the online setup, because of issues with Internet connectivity and digital fatigue. UP Cebu (UPC) University Student Council (USC) said that these issues affected the productivity of GASC discussions.
With an on-ground GASC imminent, UP Los Baños (UPLB) USC emphasized that they could further extend the calls for #LigtasNaBalikEskwela. The on-ground GASC would also be a better avenue for SCs to coordinate in addressing the needs of the students and the masses, according to UP Diliman (UPD) USC.
Recognizing the disinclination towards requiring vaccination, SR Co said that other representatives may still attend the 52nd GASC online.
Following the approval of the resolution to conduct an on-ground GASC, only the venue and the protocols remain to be further deliberated, which will then be handled by the Office of the Student Regent (OSR). Campuses that will be primarily considered are those that already completed retrofitting measures.
On extending SR Renee Co’s term
A resolution extending SR Co’s term was also approved in the eGASC to synchronize her term with the rest of the student councils. The resolution authorized the incumbent SR to remain in office until the appointment of the next SR at the 53rd GASC.
SR Co highlighted the need to re-synchronize the timelines on the selection of the SR, as a one semester gap in the terms of the student councils and the SR requires adjustments on both ends.
SCs from UPD and University of the Philippines Baguio (UPB) echoed SR Co’s points that the selection of a new SR amidst a hectic academic year and the upcoming national elections will cause setbacks for the SCs.
The resolution also pushed towards the prevention of appointing an SR every second semester, impeding student-led campaigns forwarded in the middle of an academic year. Originally, student regents are elected before the start of an academic year.
According to the resolution, calls for nominations for the next SR will begin next semester, while the 53rd GASC will select the successor before the first semester of A.Y. 2022-2023.
SR Co was appointed as the 38th SR in January 2021 following former SR Isaac Punzalan’s term, which was also extended because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Intensifying calls for #LigtasNaBalikEskwela and academic freedom
With all UP campus areas now under Alert Level 2, USCs further intensified the calls for the safe and genuine reopening of UP campuses. UPD USC added that part of the resolution must forward calls for a genuine academic ease, recognizing the heavy effects of remote learning on the physical and mental health of students.
“With the increasing drop out and LOA [leave of absence] rates, we should clamor for Ligtas na Balik Eskwela that genuinely represents the students’ demands,” UPD USC said.
In UPLB alone, LOA and dropped cases rose significantly between two semesters of just the first online academic year.
The resolution proposed that the GASC will exhaust all means to collaborate with local government units and their respective campus administrations to implement a well-consulted plan of action for the limited face-to-face classes.
In UPLB, the campus administration had already convened with the UPLB USC and the Perspective regarding the plans for the possible resumption of face-to-face activities. With a committee already crafting a roadmap for campus reopening, UPLB Chancellor Jose Camacho, Jr. said that limited face-to-face activities will start as soon as the university gains approval from the Commision on Higher Education (CHED) and the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF).
Meanwhile, the SCs also highlighted talks on the institutionalization of the UP-DND Accord, citing the need for a systemwide mobilization against the threats to the university’s security and academic freedom.
(RELATED STORIES: UP-DND Accord is unilaterally ‘terminated.’ UP community strikes back with an indignation protest the next day; Why Defend UP? SR Renee Co and Hon. Sarah Elago talk acad freedom, campus security)
Part of the resolution includes plans to conduct an on-ground protest on January 18, 2022 to mark one year since the unilateral abrogation of the UP-DND Accord.
“Hindi natigil ang red-tagging sa paglipat natin sa online set-up kasi ang mismong FB page ng UP Clark Subic SC ay nakaka-receive ng messages and threats from trolls,” UP Diliman Extension Program in Pampanga (UPDEPPO) SC stated.
[“Red-tagging persisted even in the online setup, with the Facebook page of UP Clark Subic SC receiving messages and threats from trolls.”]
A few months after the abrogation of the accord, UPLB students were alarmed by the sudden presence of police in Brgy. Batong Malake, Los Baños, Laguna. Students emphasized that police presence makes them feel “vulnerable [to] attacks against democratic rights”.
“Amidst the growing threats towards us, this should be the time to unite and use our voices through collectively broadening and strengthening our alliances,” UP Cebu USC asserted. [P]