Words by Marian Angela Calabia
As the first semester for Academic Year (AY) 2022-2023 came to an end, students and faculty aired their struggles and calls during the First Day Fight (FDF) last February 14.
Last semester, UP system implemented the blended learning mode, a combination of face-to-face (F2F) classes and remote learning setup. This hyflex mode is intended for transitioning to full face-to-face classes after four semesters of pure online learning.
Amid this transition, the Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs (OVPAA) Memorandum No. 2022-127 was released. This memorandum reinstates such academic policies that were previously lifted since the second semester of A.Y. 2019-2020.
Furthermore, the memorandum stipulates the return to a minimum of 15-unit regular course load, removal of No Fail Policy, reinstatement of academic delinquency rules, enforcement of Maximum Residency Rule (MRR), and return of University policies on attendance and deadlines for dropping and filing of leave of absence (LOA).
“Ang pag-aalis ng no-fail policy ay hindi nakatulong, dahil maraming estudyante ang napressure at napunta ang lahat ng problema sa pag-iisip kung paano mag-aadjust at aayusin ang academics nila,” UPLB College of Engineering and Agro-industrial Technology (CEAT) Student Council emphasized during the FDF.
(The removal of the no-fail police did not help, because a lot of students felt pressured and their minds became cluttered with thinking on how to adjust and fix their academics).
The First Day Fight was held at the Carabao Park to amplify and echo the calls of the studentry on the current issues in the education system. This protest serves as a sem-starter mobilization for UP students.
FDF revealed many concerns during the last blended learning semester. Common concerns include finance, internet connectivity, lack of student spaces, and heavy academic workload (READ: Upon return to campus, students raise concerns on Internet connection, limited spaces for blended learning).
The mobilization also called out the budget cuts, the implementation of the Mandatory Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (MROTC).
(RELATED STORY: UPLB students, staff call for higher provisions amid infrastructure drive in proposed additional budget).
In the middle of the mobilization, a snake rally was formed wherein participants marched to Freedom Park where the annual protest fair “UPLB February Fair” was being held. The end of the protest marked the official start of the Feb Fair.
For this current semester, the University still adapted the blended learning model. However, there will be more classes to be delivered with Model 2 and 3, which has F2F classes as compared to last semester.
DRP and LOA cases
UPLB Perspective reached out to the Office of the University Registrar (OUR) to compare the data for drop (DRP) and LOA cases for the last two semesters. 2nd Semester AY 2021-2022 was conducted in a full online mode, whereas blended learning was implemented for the 1st Semester of AY 2022-2023.
LOA cases refer to those who enrolled and opted to go on LOA, while DRP cases refer to those who dropped at least one course.
Below are graphs showing all recorded cases of LOA or DRP for 2nd Semester of A.Y. 2021-2022 and 1st Semester A.Y 2022-2023 in all UPLB colleges as the transition to face-to-face classes occur.
For undergraduate students, a total of 1,489 DRP cases were reported last semester, while there were 3,111 DRP cases during the second semester of A.Y 2021-2022. This accounts for a 70.52% difference.
As for LOA cases, a 2.24% decrease can be observed since 221 LOA cases were reported last semester, while 2nd Sem A.Y. 2021-2022 had 226 LOA cases.
On the other hand, a total of 100 DRP cases were reported in the last semester for Graduate students. This has a 37.40% difference for 2nd Sem A.Y. 2021-2022 with a total of 146 DRP cases during the second semester of A.Y 2021-2022. Data for GS LOA cases is not yet available as of press time.
Shortly after the First Day Fight, UPLB Perspective got a chance to interview Student Regent (SR) Siegfred Severino regarding his thoughts on how to overcome high DRP cases this current semester.
“Dapat ang ating administrasyong ay gumagawa ng kondisyon na masigurado na ang pag-aaral ng ating mga estudyante ay hindi nasasagabal at nakakapag-aral sila in the most conducive way possible at sa tulong ito sa pag-eexpand ng ating mga student support services. Kailangan mas pagtibayin ‘yung mga subsidy at scholarship programs [to] ensure na mabibigyan ng oportunidad at kakayahan ang mga estudyante na bumalik sa campus at magamit ang mga pasilidad,” said SR Severino.
(Our administration should make the conditions to ensure that the learning of our students is unobstructed and in the most conducive way possible, which can be done with the help of the expansion of our student support services. We have to strengthen the subsidy and scholarship programs to ensure that we can give the opportunity and ability for the students to return to the campus and use the facilities).
Perspective also reached out to Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs (VCSA) Janette Malata-Silva about the reasons for high DRP cases. She explained that time management is one of the primary reasons why students drop a course. Aside from this, VC Malata-Silva ensured that the OVCSA is committed to addressing the issues faced by the students.
“Crucial ang datos sa mga rason for dropping. Those reasons must be the primary considerations in addressing the issues on DRP. Honestly, DRP is better than a failing grade so perhaps a bit of contextualization is necessary. Failing grades lead to a dismissed or permanently dismissed status. DRP means students did not earn the unit/s,” she added.
Unite to struggle
During the first semester of the academic year, issues like the P2.5-billion UP budget cut and the National Citizen Service Training (NCST) bill arose.
The NCST bill was passed last December 15 in the House of Representatives during its third reading. The bill mandates that the first two years of college will include “citizen’s soldier training” (READ: UPLB students mobilize to slam NCST Bill).
SR Severino states the initiatives of the campus in order to oppose the Mandatory Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (MROTC). UPLB student councils will also be assisting the Office of the Student Regent (OSR) in their endeavors until lawmakers from congress and senate heeds their calls.
Photo from Jonel Mendoza
Alongside that, the first semester of blended learning revealed many issues regarding the academic workload, enrollment, student spaces, and dorms.
SR Severino expressed the council’s plans to fix students’ concerns, especially with the return of face-to-face classes. OSR plans to talk with UP system officials to ensure that the policies for the second semester would be followed.
“Kabilang dito ang on-going negotiation namin para i-revamp yung Student Learning Assistance System or SLAS, kasi time-and-time again napatunayan natin na sobrang bagal ng release ng mga budget subsidies ng mga estudyante. Karugtong pa dito, nagrequest tayo na mapasama sa isang system-wide task force na magrereview at mag-eexpand ng mga dormitory slots on all constituent units sa buong UP system”.
(Part of this is the on-going negotiation we have in order to revamp the Student Learning Assistance System or SLAS, because time-and-time again we have proved that the release of the budget subsidies of the students are slow. Additionally, we requested to be included in a system-wide task force that will review and expand the dormitory slots on all constituent units in the whole UP system)
As the representative of the student body, SR Severino set his expectations for the new UP President Angelo Jimenez.
“Karugtong, papatak din sa simula ng kanyang termino yung pagpapalawig ng pagbubukas ng atin kampus. Kaya inaasahan natin na sa pagbalik natin o sa pagpasok natin sa new normal, na tinatawag nila, magiging bago rin yung pakikitungo ng administrasyon sa mga estudyante. Mas magiging bukas ang mga daluyan ng impormasyon at komunikasyon. At higit sa lahat, magiging prayoridad ang kapakanan at karapatan ng atin mga estudyante”
(Additionally, the start of his term is the opening of our campus. That is why we expect when we come back to the campus or the new normal, which they call it, the administration will also approach the students in a new way—channels of information and communication will be more open. Most importantly, the welfare and rights of the students will be prioritized). [P]
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