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MANILA, Philippines– In an act of compassion, several University of the Philippines (UP) teachers canceled their class requirements and automatically gave their students a passing mark, despite a decision from the Board of Regents to continue academic work during the outbreak.
UP’s highest decision-making body approved on Thursday, April 16, the policy proposed by the Presidential Advisory Council (PAC) to end the second semester for academic year 2019-2020 on April 30. The proposal comes with the condition that academic work for students and faculty will continue under the deferred grade scheme.
PAC’s proposal said students will have until May 30, 2021 to complete their course requirements.
The decision comes after massive clamor both from the students and faculty for mass promotion and early end of the second semester due to the coronavirus outbreak.
The UP Office of the Student Regent earlier asserted that extending the deadline of requirements by a year would not ease students’ anxieties.
‘We’re in the middle of a crisis’
UP teacher Kerbz Alvarez, along with 10 others from UP Diliman College of Social Sciences and Philosophy’s history department, made a personal decision to pass their students as they acknowledged the challenges posed by the crisis.
“Nagdesisyon kaming kanselahin ang mga rekisito sa aming mga klase, at bigyan kayong lahat ng markang Pass (P) ngayong semestre. Aminin natin, mahihirapan tayong lahat maglatag ng komunikasyon at matuto sa pamamagitan ng online learning mechanisms dahil ang mga ito ay ginagamit sa ‘normal’ na sitwasyon. Nasa gitna tayo ng krisis. Hindi ito posible,” they said in a statement.
(We decided to cancel the requisites of our classes and give all of you a passing mark this semester. Let’s admit it: we will struggle to communicate and learn through online learning mechanism because these are used in normal situations. We’re in the middle of a crisis. This isn’t possible.)
The teachers added that students may not be able to focus on their academic requirements as they will prioritize their health, well-being, and survival during the pandemic.
While they will not be giving academic requirements, the teachers will be providing videos, reading materials and handouts for students who may want to study at their own pace.
They also invited students to sit in their classes in the next academic year, so they can catch up on their lessons through personal lectures.
Safety over academic excellence
Even before the Board of Regents made its decision, some teachers from UP Departamento ng Filipino at Panitikan ng Pilipinas from the College of Arts and Letters have also announced passing their students as early as Wednesday, April 16.
“Wala nang intro-intro: ipapasa ko ang lahat ng estudyante ko ngayong sem,” UP teacher Arlo Mendoza said in his Facebook post.
He pointed out that institutions such as UP should not be limited by rigid concepts of academic excellence, and that these should not be prioritized over the well-being of the community it serves.
“Nasusukat ang integridad ng isang institusyon sa paraan ng pagtugon nito sa mga pinakamatinding krisis ng panahon at sa pagpapahalaga nito sa kapakanan ng kaniyang mga kasapi. Ayokong maalala ang UP bilang isang institusyong sangktimonyong nangunyapit sa konsepto ng husay, samantalang malinaw na hinihingi ng sitwasyon ang isang mas makataong solusyon,” Mendoza said.
(An institution’s integrity is measured by how it responds to the worst of crises, and how it values the welfare of its members. I don’t want to remember UP as an institution clinging to a concept of excellence, when the situation calls for a more humane solution.)
Mykel Andrada, another teacher from UP College of Arts and Letters, also passed his students this semester, saying the safety of his students and other members of the community matter more to him than the grades and output.
“Hindi ginagraduhan at sinusukat ang buhay. Ang buhay at kapakanan ay inaalagaan at ipinaglalaban. UP, mahirap bang magmalasakit?” he asked in his Facebook post.
(You don’t grade and measure a life. You fight and protect life and welfare. UP, is it hard to be compassionate?)
UP Diliman educator Danilo Arao maintained that he will still waive all requirements and give his students a passing mark, even after the approval of the PAC recommendations.
URGENT MESSAGE TO MY UPD STUDENTS (J 117, J 122 and J 201): The decision today (April 16) of the BOR to approve the PAC recommendations DOES NOT change my decision to waive all requirements and give you a grade of Pass. Focus now on your bigger personal and political challenges.
URGENT MESSAGE TO MY UPD STUDENTS (J 117, J 122 and J 201): The decision today (April 16) of the BOR to approve the PAC recommendations DOES NOT change my decision to waive all requirements and give you a grade of Pass. Focus now on your bigger personal and political challenges.— Danilo Arao (@dannyarao) April 16, 2020
In UP Manila, Speech Pathology Department Chairperson Michael Valdez announced in an email on Thursday, April 16, that students taking speech pathology, and occupational, physical and speech therapy courses for the 2nd semester will merit a passing grade.
Valdez explained that the department and course teams deemed it the best response after careful consideration of the psychological impact and economic burden caused by the pandemic.
The department hopes to offer a non-graded bridging program a month before the start of the next semester to ensure that students will be equipped with the knowledge and skills needed for the next year level.
Act of protest
In UP Visayas, among those who are passing students despite the deferred grading scheme is ethics professor Clyde Gacayan, who did so as an act of protest.
Gacayan described the deferred grading scheme as a “targeted attack” to students who struggle with internet connectivity, loss of family’s daily income, anxiety and fear due to the outbreak.
“I then protest, and our class will. I will use my academic freedom to promote en masse each one of you enrolled in Ethics 1 Sec 8, 9, 10 for the second semester,” Gacayan said in an emailed notice to students.
Gacayan invited his students to read online and offline modules if they’re interested, and sit in future Ethics 1 classes which he will be handling.
The UP Office of Student Regent remains firm that the immediate end of the semester and mass promotion are the “most humane and inclusive responses” to the situation.
“Purely academic output and performance metrics which supposedly determine excellence have been prioritized above the very real financial, physical, psychological and emotional anxieties of students, faculty and staff… Despite this, we will continue facing this battle as a UP community united in the mission to uphold honor and excellence for the people,” it said. – Rappler.com