Words by Yani Redoblado and FJ Masangkay
At least 81 students are included for limited face-to-face (F2F) activities in UPLB for the second semester of A.Y. 2021-2022, according to Dr. Analyn Codilan, Ad Hoc Committee Chair for the Gradual Reopening and Conduct of Limited F2F Class Activities.
The number of students carried over from those approved for F2F activities in the previous semester. The final count came from the initial list of 98 UPLB students that was greenlit for limited F2F classes by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED).
Dr. Codilan said that an estimated 600 students were originally included for F2F activities, before it was finalized to 81 undergraduate and graduate students from four colleges in the university.
28 of them came from the College of Agriculture and Food Science (CAFS), 26 from the College of Engineering and Agro-industrial Technology (CEAT), 21 from the College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM), and six from the College of Forestry and Natural Resources (CFNR).
Dr. Codilan said that deans of the four colleges reported that not all of the 81 students have started going to the campus.
Meanwhile, the count of approved students will be updated once a new list of graduating students are submitted. Dr. Codilan informed the Perspective that as of press time, they already received applications from about 600 students for the upcoming semester. These applications are still subject for approval.
Critical completion of requirements and documents
According to Dr. Codilan, the only criteria that were considered were that the list should be composed of graduating students who need to conduct thesis activities and experiments, and access campus facilities.
However, she mentioned one challenge that the students faced is the compliance with the documentary requirements as stated in the Joint Memorandum Circular (JMC) No. 2021-001 of CHED and the Department of Health (DOH).
The Office of the Chancellor (OC) Memorandum No. 014 Series of 2022 listed some of the required documents.
“Critical ‘yong pag-complete ng documents; talagang napakahirap kaya ‘yong iba [estudyante] nag-back out na lang. Not necessarily pinili, basta graduating okay na ‘yon but at the same time, they have to comply with the requirements kasi ‘yon ang hinihingi ng CHED,” said Dr. Codilan.
[“The completion of documents is critical; it is really hard that is why other students backed out. They are not necessarily chosen; as long as they’re graduating is fine but at the same time, they have to comply with the requirements because those are being asked for by CHED.”]
Aside from the numerous documents needed from students before CHED’s approval, the preparation for the limited F2F activities included retrofitting UPLB’s laboratories and facilities, which were all inspected on a site visit last December 3.
Because of the new guidelines in the CHED-DOH JMC No. 2021-004, higher education institutions (HEIs) no longer need to apply for the reopening, but they still need to submit the documents required for information and further monitoring.
“Almost same set of documents pero hindi na natin hihintayin ‘yong approval ng CHED. Once na-submit na ‘yon, anytime after January 31, pwede nang mag-start ng limited F2F ‘yong mga pinasang pangalan ng mga bata,” Dr. Codilan said.
[“Almost same set of documents but we do not have to wait for the approval of CHED. Once submitted, anytime after January 31, the submitted names of students can already start limited F2F.”]
With the increase of students, she emphasized that it is a challenge for the committee to assure that they are being careful, given that UPLB’s facilities are also assessed based on the ability to handle probable outbreaks.
“Not only identifying kung pwedeng mag-offer ng courses [ang university] for limited F2F, but at the same time dapat nakatama ang physical resources, kung kaya ba to absorb ‘yong re-entry ng students.”
[“Not only identifying if the university can offer courses for limited F2F, but at the same time the physical resources should be appropriate, if these can absorb the re-entry of students.”]
Previously reported to be used by the faculty, REPS, and administrative staff, an online health monitoring system (OHMs) will also require students to be registered. The system will generate a building pass that allows individuals access to the laboratories and other permitted areas in the university, once no COVID-19 symptoms are detected.
As per Dr. Codilan, the ad hoc committee is still finalizing the guidelines that will ask students to log into the OHMs 14 days before they start going back to the campus to assess them for possible COVID-19 symptoms.
Moreover, one of the requirements asked in the CHED-DOH JMC 2021-004 is the students’, faculties’, and staffs’ proof of vaccination, which was initially not required by the time UPLB received the authorization.
The need for F2F activities
In exclusive interviews with the Perspective, students expressed their preference of having F2F classes instead of the current remote learning setup, citing stark differences.
“The online learning setup is basically not a conducive learning environment, while the F2F setup offers comfortable physical spaces that would help students learn effectively,” said development communication freshman Dyan Chomawat.
Meanwhile, third-year veterinary medicine student “Aica” [not her real name] compared the length of lectures between F2F and the remote setup, stating that several courses give lecture videos longer than the class duration.
“Chloe” [not her real name], who is also a third-year veterinary medicine student, said that during F2F, academic requirements were adjusted in times of calamities or emergencies.
“Dati, kapag hindi natapos ‘yong outline, hindi na isasama [sa exams] ‘yong hindi naturo at all. Pero ngayon kapag hindi natapos, students ‘yong nag-a-adjust.”
[“Before, when the outline is not finished, those not discussed will not be included in exams anymore. Now, students will adjust when the outline is not covered.”]
The interviewees affirmed the need for the safe reopening of F2F classes, even if the implementation is for limited and hybrid classes, only in the condition that the pandemic situation in Los Baños eases.
“Kung ano lang talaga ‘yong mahalaga, kahit lab classes lang then mixed pa rin siya ng online. Hindi rin naman lahat ng estudyante may magandang learning environment sa bahay, so tulong na rin sa kanila,” Chloe stated.
[“Whatever is necessary, even just lab classes [conducted F2F] that are mixed with online. After all, not all students have a good learning environment in their homes, so this will be a great help to them.”]
Meanwhile, another third-year veterinary medicine student “Lin” [not her real name] aired her request that the possible reopening of F2F classes be announced at least a month prior to schedule.
“Dahil nasa Negros Oriental ako ngayon, sana mag-announce din sila at least a month before kasi ang hirap bumiyahe ngayon kasi sobrang mahal ng ticket,” Lin added.
[“Because I am from Negros Oriental, I hope the admin announces at least a month beforehand because it is difficult to travel now due to costly tickets.”]
Third-year chemical engineering student “Rachel” [not her real name] echoed this sentiment, citing difficulties in finding dormitories and other needed expenses should students be allowed to return to the campus.
She said, “Gusto ko na rin makabalik [F2F] lalo na skill-based din ‘yong degree program, pero hindi ako babalik kung mamadaliin na mag-o-open habang surge at ginagawa lang para lang masabi na pinapayagan na bumalik. As long as well-prepared at meron talagang plans ‘yong [UPLB] admin at government, willing ako bumalik.”
[“I really want to return especially since my degree program is skill-based, but I won’t return if they rush the reopening amid surge and if F2F activities are only done just for the sake of saying that we are already allowed to return. As long as the UPLB admin and the government are well-prepared and has plans, I am willing to go back.”] [P]
Photo by Isabel Pangilinan
Layout by Mich Monteron