By Justine Anjanique Jordan
Photos by UP Aperture
Updated and corrected March 13, 12:17 am
Student Regent Krista Iris Melgarejo called for an emergency meeting Tuesday to tackle the impact of the proposed academic calendar shift for the next school year.
The meeting, dubbed as the All Leaders’ Conference (ALC), involved organization leaders and student council officers within UP Diliman, held in Vinzons Hall.
The academic calendar shift proposes the transfer of the opening of classes from June to August starting school year 2014-2015. It is set to be implemented in all eight UP campuses except in UP Diliman, following the February 6 decision of the Board of Regents (BOR).
Melgarejo explained that the administration’s rationale for the implementation of the shift was internationalization, which meant syncing UP’s academic calendar with that of universities part of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) for the common goal of an integrated economic community by 2015.
The proposed shift also aims to improve partnerships with foreign schools, and to strengthen UP as an “internationally competitive” university.
Discussing the pros and cons of the shift, Melgarejo cited possible problems that could arise with its implementation: for one, the inconvenience it would bring to students who come from farming families.
“The harvest is crucial to students coming from farmer households,” Melgarejo said. “Kung ang ating mga estudyante ay galing sa farmer households, they would heavily depend on the harvest season for their tuition during the summer and sembreak.”
An argument raised in support of the shift was that it will lessen class suspensions as the rainy season falls from June to August; however, Melgarejo said that according to the country’s weather bureau, it is not the case.
“Although [the span from] June to August is recognized as the rainiest months, the strongest storms come after August. We in PAGASA admit that [the shift] needs to be studied further,” Melgarejo said, quoting a report from the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration.
While the shift would also provide more opportunities for students to study abroad, Melgarejo said it would benefit only a few who can afford to go on exchange programs.
Melgarejo also noted the argument that the synchronization of UP to foreign university calendars would not necessarily benefit Filipino exchange students, as schedules depend on the season per region.
Also, she said students could be charged with additional fees for structural changes, such as waiting sheds, cooling fans and air-conditioning units, to make classrooms conducive for learning despite the high heat during summer months. Summer classes in UP, however, are not new.
Melgarejo added that during the General Assembly of Student Councils last January held in UP Mindanao, student leaders from the different UP campuses said there was no comprehensive student consultation on the issue.
The University Council (UC), composed of UP Diliman professors, held a three-day referendum to vote on the implementation of the calendar shift to the campus from February 24 to 26. The results are set to be discussed for a final decision on March 24, according to the UC executive committee.
Meanwhile, various student groups have also organized to form the “CTRL + SHIFT Alliance” to oppose the proposed calendar shift.
The BOR is set to decide on the application of the shift to Diliman during their March 28 meeting.
The ALC also discussed plans for the first year commemoration for the death of UP Manila student Kristel Tejada, who reportedly committed suicide for her inability to settle tuition loans. Her death reportedly inspired revisions to retention policies in the Student Code.
Proposals to revise the Code of Student Conduct, as well as the newly-approved Socialized Tuition Scheme, set to replace the Socialized Tuition and Financial Assistance Program (STFAP), were also discussed in the ALC.
A protest action is set on Thursday and Friday by the Justice for Kristel Alliance.