by Teresa Barre and Danielle Isaac
The University of the Philippines administration cited miscommunication as a cause of the recent dormitory conflict, in a meeting with student leaders in Quezon Hall, Thursday.
“Communication lines are not clear. People don’t seem to know where to ask,” said Chancellor Michael Tan regarding the students who had to stay at the All UP Workers’ Union office and even at the Sunken Garden while waiting for the results of dormitory appeals.
All appeals pending at the Dormitory Oversight and Admissions Committee (DOAC) were approved and announced yesterday, according to USC councilor Tolits Tanaka.
Appellants and other students also held a vigil in front of the Kalayaan Residence Hall on Wednesday to hasten the DOAC in processing the remaining 186 out of 300 dormitory appeals.
“Nagmumukhang tanga tayong mga Iskolar ng Bayan. Paulit-ulit na mga pangako pero wala namang kasiguraduhan kung ibibigay nga ba itong mga slot sa ating mga dormitory,” said Rojeno Soringa, a third year Architecture student who joined the protests as he waited for the appeal results.
Soringa always get dormitory slots for the past two years in UP Diliman, since he comes from Cebu and belongs to the lower income financial bracket.
This year, he was assigned to the Centennial Residence Hall with rate of P1 500 a month. However, he said he cannot afford to pay the monthly rate, because he has to spend on food, school equipment, and other expenses.
He appealed to stay in the residence halls with cheaper rates. Everyday, he had to return to the Office of Student Housing (OSH) as it announced the release of the results but only extended it even as classes started.
Soringa said he was recently accepted at the Ipil Residence Hall, but he is yet to check if there are available slots.
“I still have to check if there’s available space since we have residents who were denied because there are no more spaces in the residence halls,” Soringa said in a press conference Friday.
Meanwhile, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Neil Santillan said student leaders failed to give him the list of names and contacts of students displaced by the ongoing dormitory appeals thus hindering the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs from immediately giving aid to them.
“There were media networks outside the Kalayaan (Residence Hall). I feel that this issue was blown out of proportion even though we could have solved it amongst ourselves. Even President Pascual was alarmed by it,” Santillan said in Filipino.
In a dialogue after the meeting, students demanded that the officials should be in charge of the situation.
“You should have the names since you have the list of appeals,” said Josiah Hiponia, College of Mass Communication representative to the University Student Council (USC).
The officials, meanwhile, admitted the demand for university housing exceeds supply. “You have been attacking the admin but I think you should see the bigger picture,” said Tan to the student leaders present at the meeting.
As of 2013, there are only 3 600 bed spaces at full capacity available at the 13 residence halls in the university compared to the 4 000 online dormitory applications that the OSH received at the start of the school year.
Tan admitted the Diliman campus accommodated 800 more freshman students because of the decrease in no-shows this year. This caused dormitory processes to prioritize more of them over upperclassmen.
“We have more than 20 000 students. How many dorm slots do we have? Less than 4 000. We cannot accommodate the needs of the students,” Santillan said.
However, USC Councilor Bryle Leano said the dorm slots is not necessarily the problem.
“Yung Acacia po, hindi naman talaga pagkukulang, mas mahal lang talaga ‘yung bayarin sa kanya,” Leano said.
The newly-built Acacia Residence Hall rents for a rate of P3 000 a month, which most students claim they can’t afford. Similar to the rates of the Centennial 1 and 2 dorms which is P1 500 a month, the rates at Acacia are relatively higher than those of other undergraduate dormitories and are also semi-privately owned.
But OSH Director Shirley Guevarra said the office had no choice but to implement the monthly rate since they are already pushing limits with the Commission on Audit (COA) initially prescribing a P5 000 a month rate.
Student Regent Mico Pangalangan said the expensive fees is due to the need for a return of investment for the P30 million cost of constructing the new dormitory, as well as the maintenance and other operating expenses.
“It would look like the students paid for the construction of the building, which is not right. Then they said the Department of Budget and Management has a capital outlay for those kinds of infrastructure development,” Pangalangan said in Filipino.
Santillan also cited the Adopt-a-Student Program of the OVCSA, wherein student fees would be shouldered by willing UP alumni and faculty as a solution to this.
“Merong intervention, merong faculty na kapag hindi kaya magbayad sa Acacia, pwede niyang i-adopt,” he said.
Student leaders, however, pointed out how housing the displaced students goes beyond the responsibilities of the individual faculty members.
“Hindi po tayo umaasa sa benevolence ng kung sinu-sinong tao, prayoridad po dapat ng UP ‘yung estudyante niya,” former KASAMA sa UP National Chairperson Eds Gabral said while confronting the officials.
Pangalangan also urged OSH Director Shirley Guevarra to disclose the breakdown of the point system used in the assessment of dorm applications and to allow a student representative to sit in the DOAC.
Guevarra replaced Dr. Gerry Lanuza in June as the director of OSH but Santillan clarified there were no changes in the policies of OSH and the office is still using the same guidelines since 2010.
Guevarra assured the OSH would polish the dormitory application processes after all current conflicts are settled.