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DLSU students call for academic break after disasters

Thousands of De La Salle University students signed a system-wide petition calling on the university administration to implement a two-week academic break, following the onslaught of Typhoon Quinta (Molave), Super Typhoon Rolly (Goni), and Typhoon Ulysses (Vamco) in parts of Luzon.

One La Salle for Human Rights and Democracy, which spearheaded the petition, said it has so far garnered 7,682 signatures, as of 5:10 pm on Sunday, November 15.

One La Salle for Human Rights and Democracy is an alliance of different organizations aiming to voice out their views on national issues. While One La Salle is not a recognized organization in DLSU Manila, its petition is supported by several organizations, student councils, and publications in the De La Salle system such as the Lavoxa Group of Publications and DLSU-Integrated School Laguna Student Council, among others.

In the petition, One La Salle for Human Rights and Democracy called for a two-week suspension of both synchronous and asynchronous classes with no graded requirements.

They proposed that the academic break also cover the postponement of university activities, such as the collection of tuition and other fees, as well as the online undergraduate pre-enlistment scheduled from November 16 to 20.

The petition also stated that professors and other school employees must not be deprived of their salaries and wages throughout the proposed academic break.

The petition comes after a series of powerful tropical cyclones that battered Luzon, the latest one being Ulysses. With the death toll from Ulysses rising to 67 as of Sunday morning, it is now the Philippines' deadliest tropical cyclone for 2020, so far.

These disasters, petitioners said, are enough reason to grant an academic break that would help students, teachers, and other school employees recover.

"The recent calamities have posed a grave threat not only to the safety and well-being of students, but also to the infrastructure that are a requisite to the students' access to education and the teachers' and administrators' ability to fulfill their duties," the petition said.

The petition puts pressure not only on the university administration, but also the national government, as it called on officials "to be proactive" especially in managing disasters and implementing mass coronavirus testing nationwide.

"To continue synchronous classes while the current state of our nation is in immediate and continuous crisis is a shame, as millions of students are left behind due to the tragedy that is both the super typhoon and the government's neglect," the petition said.

"Due to the national government's inability to address the needs of the Filipino people in view of the pandemic and recent calamities, the basic human right to education is harshly compromised and remains vulnerable to unprecedented disasters."

The petition also called on both the Department of Education and the Commission on Higher Education to implement a "no fail" policy nationwide to "alleviate the burden of the students and to give a more humane policy especially to students struggling since March."

Acknowledging the massive impact of recent disasters, the De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde set an academic break for its students from November 17 to 21. The announcement was made via Benilde email on Monday, November 16, according to The Benildean.

By Tuesday, November 17, De La Salle University suspended classes at all levels in all its campuses until November 21.

DLSU said it made the decision after assessing conditions in typhoon-hit areas and conducting "several consultations with the University Student Government, faculty, and other members of the academic community."

Students from De La Salle University are not alone in speaking up following the onslaught of the tropical cyclones.

In a bold move, students from the Ateneo de Manila University pledged to go on academic strike starting Wednesday, November 18, by refusing to submit school requirements until the national government "heeds the people's demands for proper calamity aid and pandemic response."

By Sunday, Ateneo had suspended synchronous and asynchronous classes from November 16 to 21. The University of Santo Tomas soon followed suit, heeding concerns of students and faculty about remote teaching and learning in light of recent disasters. –