After UP Diliman (UPD) flat out rejected previous appeals to move the opening of the second semester of A.Y. 2021-2022, the University Student Council (USC) urged UPD Chancellor Fidel Nemenzo anew to suspend synchronous and asynchronous deadlines until Feb. 19, the fourth in the council’s series of petitions for academic ease.
As the semester opened on Feb. 7, ten days after teachers submitted their students’ grades last semester, Nemenzo suspended synchronous and asynchronous deadlines in the first week of the second semester.
The USC requested Nemenzo to extend the suspension period from one week to two weeks, so class activities could instead start on Feb. 21. This was also the date initially proposed by the USC as the semester’s formal start.
In a Jan. 26 statement, Nemenzo said that the University cannot move the semester opening because of students who are delayed, applying for their first year, or will be taking licensure exams. The staff would also be “working triple time to evaluate the credentials of thousands of students.”
Reminding the faculty to “take it easy” in preparing for the next semester, Nemenzo said in his statement that “touching base with our students via email would be more than enough” by the first week of classes.
The OVCAA advised the faculty in a Feb. 2 memorandum to use the first week of classes to distribute syllabi to students. Although the office affirmed Nemenzo’s decision to cancel synchronous and asynchronous activities in the first week, the OVCAA left the second week of class activities to teachers’ prerogative.
“The faculty are reminded as well not … [to] give assignments and require submissions during the first week (and the week after, if possible),” the memorandum read.
However, UPD’s final word on the one-week easing into the semester was shorter than the two-week break that both UP Kilos Na Multisectoral Alliance (MSA) and its member union All UP Academic Employees Union (AUPAEU) said was decided in a Jan. 25 dialogue.
The MSA was joined in the dialogue by UP chancellors, sectoral regents, the Offices of the Vice President for Academic Affairs (OVPAA) and for Administration, the All UP Workers’ Alliance and Congress of Teachers/Educators for Nationalism and Democracy (CONTEND-UP).
Various UP sectors have joined the USC in urging the administration to start the second semester on Feb. 21 to give students, faculty and staff at least a month to recover from the last semester’s back-to-back crises of Typhoon Odette and the highly transmissible COVID-19 Omicron variant.
READ: UP COVID-19 Watch
As of writing, a total of nine campus-wide appeals were lodged by the UPD USC, Rise for Education – UP Diliman (R4E-UPD) and members of the MSA. Earliest appeals calling to move the semester go back to Jan. 17, when R4E-UPD launched an online signature campaign that has garnered over 1,000 signatories two days after its release.
It has a total of 6,863 signatures from students, faculty, staff and formations as of Jan. 31.
In two separate letters sent the day after the R4E-UPD launched their petition, the USC and the MSA requested Nemenzo and UP President Danilo Concepcion respectively to move the second semester and implement a “recovery and wellness break.”
“The UP Diliman community is not immune to worsening conditions, as countless students and faculty members handle cases of COVID-19 in their families or report COVID-19-like symptoms otherwise,” the UPD USC said.
“The constituents of the university have raised difficulties in managing deadlines and deliverables within the recommended timeframe of the university, as they have to prioritize other personal and health concerns,” the MSA said on Facebook.
Also on Feb. 18, CONTEND-UP issued a statement calling for a two-week health break and financial aid for employees. A week later, AUPAEU launched a signature campaign and wrote a petition to the Board of Regents demanding academic easing and economic relief.
On Jan. 25, UPD USC sent a letter to Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte asking her to declare a two-week break in the University “due to the COVID-19 surge with the threats of the Omicron variant and Typhoon Odette’s onslaught.” But Belmonte turned down their request, saying she “respects the independence of the University.”
As Nemenzo raised concerns for graduating students who could benefit from his decision to retain the original schedule, the R4E-UPD initiated a sensing form for graduating students, which found that 96.7% of 451 respondents were in favor of pushing back the semester. The UPD USC later used their findings in a position paper to appeal to adjust the timeline for the third time.
The administration replied with the same OVCAA memorandum mentioned earlier, according to the USC.
While the student council’s efforts to request for academic ease until the third week of February were gridlocked, colleges and offices have backed student-led calls to move the semester, including the UP College of Mass Communication (CMC).
“It is important to note that conditions that affect welfare and wellbeing issues of teaching and administrative staff also affect the teacher and learning conditions of the students, whether remotely or in-person,” said the UP CMC in a statement.
As UP Diliman officially started its new semester two days ago, the UP CMC Student Council (CMCSC) said they would reiterate the “no class policy” to the college administration and send grievance forms to students.
“Kung hindi man kayang aksyunan ng CMC Admin, ang CMCSC na ang mangunguna sa pag-email sa mga professors para ipaalala sa kanila na sundin ang memorandum,” said Kjoy Adriano, UP CMCSC chairperson.
When asked to comment on the university-wide decision, Adriano expressed her dismay as the one-week break does not count as “real rest” for students, faculty and staff.
“Kahit na nakapagpadala ng request letter at position paper ng mga konseho, pilit na nagbibingi-bingihan ang UPD admin sa hinaing ng komunidad ng UP. Pagod pa ang bawat isa para magpatuloy sa pagbubukas ng semestre,” Adriano added.