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MANILA, Philippines – University of the Philippines (UP) students and faculty members called for an early end of the second semester for academic year 2019-2020 as the country continues to fight the coronavirus outbreak.
Partly acknowledging the clamor, the UP President’s Advisory Council (PAC) recommended to the UP Board of Regents (BOR) to end the semester on April 30, among other guidelines, to ease students’ concerns.
The UP Office of the Student Regent (OSR), however, believed the PAC proposal – which includes giving students deferred grades until they complete their course requirements by May 31, 2021 – would not ease students’ anxieties.
“It is imperative we recognize the fact that a lot has already changed and that these extraordinary circumstances justify and call for exceptional yet truly necessary solutions. This is why we cannot accept the current content of the recommendation of the UP Presidential Advisory Council for the future of this semester,” it said in a statement on Tuesday, April 14.
The UP OSR, which called for “education with compassion,” said that “the proposed policy has only considered some concerns of ours while leaving us with many unanswered questions causing widespread anxiety.”
“UP, as the national university, should set itself as an example of decisively choosing the welfare of its constituents during a crisis like this…. Having an extended deadline of completion set to a year after does not ease anxieties,” it added.
It said that academic institutions “need not obsess over grinding through calendars, obligations, and outputs during a national emergency.”
“Our education goes beyond the classroom and into the communities as we devote our knowledge, skills, and talents as Iskolar ng Bayan in providing solutions to overcome the pandemic,” it added.
Students and faculty members have been echoing calls for the end of the semester and the mass promotion of students prior to the PAC’s meeting on Monday, April 13.
Mass promotion entails a universal pass that will allow students to proceed to the next academic year regardless of their academic status throughout the second semester.
Many have struggled to adjust to online learning due to financial constraints, mental health issues, and unstable internet connectivity and resources during the Luzon-wide lockdown that began on March 17, and had been extended until April 30.
Student councils from UP Diliman, UP Mindanao to Visayas, along with the UPOSR, have amplified a unified call, urging the administration to prioritize the welfare of students and faculty.
They asked for students to receive a passing mark, and for changes to the syllabi and course curriculum in the next academic year to catch up on missed lessons from the second semester.
Graduating students, meanwhile, should be given ample time and consideration to complete requirements, they said.
There should also be a moratorium on fees during the crisis, continuation of financial aid and benefits, and refunds for students who paid tuition and are not covered under the free tuition law.
With accessibility being a major hurdle for students across the UP system, the student councils added that alternative learning might not be doable when a health crisis is ongoing.
“More than thinking of saving the semester, it is imperative we think about saving ourselves first,” they said.
Meanwhile, all local college-based student councils in UP Diliman have worked together on submitting a position paper to the Office of the Chancellor and Office of the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs in a bid to stop online classes.
Not just the students
Even faculty members and employees have joined the call to end the semester, with the All UP Academic Employees Union highlighting how both the government and the university should not operate like it’s business as usual when there’s a health crisis.
The Office of UP Faculty Regent also noted that several teaching personnel across the UP system are not emotionally and psychologically prepared to conduct online teaching or do not have the means to do so, based on findings from their online survey.
“It is anathema for us as educators to focus on academic requirements even as society is fighting for its future. We will not only be remiss in our duties to direct the real education of our students from the great and urgent social issues of the day, we also become remiss from our duties as citizens of this country,” All UP Academic Employees Union added.
Making their calls heard
After the release of PAC’s proposed policy, Rise for Education Alliance-UP Diliman led an online petition on Tuesday night, April 14, urging the BOR to end the semester and implement mass promotion of all students, regardless of their academic status.
As of Wednesday, April 15, more than 3,000 have signed the petition.
All UP Academic Employees Union also bolstered its call with an online petition asking the administration to end the semester, renew temporary and contractual teaching and non-teaching personnel, and adjust the university’s academic calendar to include a period of transition after the pandemic.
“We urge the UP Board of Regents, the highest decision-making body in the university, to truly listen to the collective outcry of the UP community and to heed our legitimate demands. It is only fitting that we choose the path where our safety and well-being is prioritized,” the UP OSR said.
The Board of Regents is set to tackle the PAC proposal on Thursday, April 16. – Rappler.com