Text by Patricia Dacanay
What you need to know:
- Several UP organizations experienced an increase in recruitment this remote semester.
- Psychology assistant professor John Robert Rilveria said that the increase may be indicative of some students’ desire to connect while in isolation.
- UP’s IT Policy regarding the use of their software resources for political use may pose a threat to mass organizations.
With UP shifting to remote learning for the academic year, student organizations were forced to retrofit their pre-pandemic events to the virtual setting as well.
Since student organizations conducted their application processes online, some have experienced an increase in students applying for membership.
The unexpected spike in applicants for some organizations can be traced to the students’ desire to connect with others and to remain aware and vocal about political issues while in isolation.
Organizations’ spike in membership
UP Radio Circle (UPRC), which only had 13 applicants last semester, now has 41 students seeking membership.
A lot of students wanted to feel a sense of belonging despite being stuck at home, UPRC Chairperson Rai Maniego said.
Samahan ng Mag-aaral sa Komunikasyon (SAMASKOM) also experienced an increase of 20 applicants compared to the previous semester.
Out of their 57 applicants, 18 of them are first-year students, which is almost three times more than their first-year applicants last semester.
“Since freshies pa nga sila… especially ngayong online setup, na wala pa silang kilalang upperclassmen, I think nag-apply sila ng org para ma-integrate sila sa UP even more,” SAMASKOM Chairperson Abby Vizcarra said.
Psychology Assistant Professor John Robert Rilveria said that the spike in recruitment may be indicative of the students’ desire to connect.
“Social support is one of the factors na nagbu-buffer ng stress levels natin,” Rilveria said. “Kapag meron tayong nasasandalan, kapag meron tayong nahihingan ng tulong, kahit ‘yung simpleng may makikinig lang sa atin, it helps in easing the distress.”
He said organizations are in a good position to satisfy that need to connect with people despite the pandemic and online learning setup.
Rilveria added that the increase in recruitment may also be connected to students’ desire to have structure in their lives and to increase their productivity levels.
Students also joined national democratic mass organizations (NDMOs) to exercise political expression in the democratic spaces provided by organizations, Anakbayan UP Diliman chairperson Jamielyn Peleo said.
“’Yung lumalalang political situation din tsaka ‘yung sa ekonomiya ang nagtutulak sa mga kabataan na sumali sa NDMOs, makiisa sa laban ng mga nasa anakpawis tsaka tumungo sa kalsada, bitbit ang mga panawagan,” Peleo added, with their organization having 29 recruits now compared to only nine new members last semester.
However, organizations like UP Advertising Core (UP AdCore) and UP Zoological Society (UP ZS) decided to skip recruitment altogether this semester.
“Last semester kasi our recruitment team had difficulties in being agile in transitioning [the application process] to the digital setup,” AdCore President Gianina Azores said.
UPZS, meanwhile, only had few members to begin with and doubted if they could adapt to interacting with applicants online, their Vice President for Membership Patrick Alipor said.
With the drop in active members from last semester’s 49 to 38, Alipor said they cannot hold the same number of events and give the members the same amount of workload.
Even SAMASKOM expressed their frustration when their flagship musical variety show “Live Ang Istoryang Dinedebelop ng SAMASKOM” (Live AIDS) usually held every midyear, had to be canceled.
Despite the lack of physical events, organizations adjusted their usual activities such as educational discussions and workshops. For the first time, the annual UP Organization and Community Fair shifted online this year.
Moreover, the unequal access to internet connection among students signals another layer of struggle in making the leap to virtual events.
SAMASKOM members’ unstable internet connection forced them to dedicate longer preparation for online events. “Performing org [kami], so we have shoots sa Zoom. Tapos maraming na-di-disconnect during the shoot, so extra time and extra shoots siya for all of us,” Vizcarra said.
Organizations have also set up certain measures to prevent deferral of applicants.
UPRC, whose application process normally lasts for four to five weeks, lengthened it to a whole semester.
Requirements and deadlines were distributed throughout the semester to give applicants adequate time to do their tasks without feeling overwhelmed with the number of activities.
They also ensured to keep their communication channels such as Discord and Messenger active so members and applicants feel connected.
“Kahit di talaga nag-uusap sa Discord and nag-aaral lang kayo pareho, it still feels like na may kasama kayo rather than completely shutting them out,” Maniego said. “Despite their large number, we still try to get to know them all.”
SAMASKOM arranged more social activities like game nights for applicants to get to know the members more.
“We’re also open to adjusting the set schedules and requirements sa app process based sa performance ng buong batch,” Vizcarra said.
Organizations found value in utilizing as many online platforms to better connect with members and applicants, to increase their virtual presence and to amplify important matters and advocacies.
Online political space
On Sept. 22, UP System IT sent an email to students reminding them that the software resources of the university could only be used for official academic and administrative purposes.
Their resources, which include the online services registered under UP such as Zoom, UP mail and cloud storage, are prohibited from being used in any partisan political and personal activities, according to the university’s Acceptable Use Policy.
What the policy deemed as partisan and political were unclear.
But Peleo of Anakbayan considered these guidelines as anti-democratic and an attack to organizations, particularly to progressive formations.
“Itong mga [guidelines], pinagbabawalan ‘yung critical thinking ng mga estudyante at nililimitahan pa ‘yung paglulunsad ng mga political activities,” she said.
She added that students are now using the resources to engage and learn more about what is happening in the country.
Mass organizations have already resorted to using regular emails, the free features of Zoom and other alternative video call applications.
Mental welfare of members
The lack of standardization in learning platforms and the growing amount of workload forces students to consistently adjust per class and prolong their online screen time.
“It’s not just about acads or the org work. Meron tayong mga responsibilities at home and most of our orgmates din have work from home and other responsibilities in life,” Vizcarra said.
With many things going on all at once, this virtual shift has become mentally deteriorating for many.
As a result, some students have opted to be inactive in their organizations this remote semester.
To address this, organizations made certain measures to prevent mental burnout by creating online tambayans, scheduling game nights and limiting working days.
“Parang andami naming considerations when it comes to burnout, because we don’t want people to get burnout naman talaga,” Vizcarra said. “And in the long run, mas okay if the members are healthy kaysa maging output heavy ‘yung org namin.”
Aside from providing students a sense of belonging and support system, organizations also serve a key role in exerting their right to self-organize.
The Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 is considered to be a threat to mass democractic organizations because of its broad scope of terrorism.
However, Peleo said that instead of people cowering in fear due to the law, it only encouraged them to be more vocal about their pleas and advocacies.
“Doon din talagang naging aktibo ‘yung marami sa kasapian, bilang nakikita nila kung anong magiging dulot [ng Anti-Terror Law] sa lahat… Ito pa ‘yung nagtulak sa kanila na lumaban, na bitbitin sa lansangan ‘yung kanilang mga panawagan,” she said.