We will ensure a more genuine relationship, centralized actions this term — 43rd UPM USC
By Jo Maline D. Mamangun and John Paul S. Cristobal
The 43rd University of the Philippines Manila University Student Council (UPM USC) began its term on August 30 as the new academic year started. In an exclusive interview with The Manila Collegian, 43rd UPM USC Vice Chairperson Mark Angelo del Rosario stated that the council’s priority in its first week is to organize its Constitution & By-Laws, internal governance, and standing and executive committees.
The current Academic Year (AY) 2022–2023 is expected to be more challenging for the 43rd USC, as the UP system transitions to blended learning and pre-COVID-19 academic policies — the lifting of the No-Fail policy, as well as the enforcement of the 15-unit minimum course load and the Maximum Residence Rule (MRR) — are now implemented.
After more than two years of online setup due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs (OVPAA) released Memorandum №2022–88, which contains the new learning delivery modes for the UP system, in its first semester of AY. 2022–2023.
“In general, learning delivery is either face-to-face (f2f), at a distance, or a combination of both. These learning delivery modes are differentiated in terms of where (place) and when (time) teaching and learning occurs,” the memo reads.
Meanwhile, as part of its Open the Schools Now campaign, the 43rd USC and its predecessor, the 42nd USC, held a campaign meeting with the All-UP Academic Employees Union UP Manila Chapter (AUPAEU UPM), through their re-established alliance, UPM Kilos Na!, last August 15 to discuss issues such as school opening and student return.
According to del Rosario, their alliance is preparing to release a statement that will include details such as their demands, which are part of their campaign’s minimum and maximum goals.
“Kabilang dito ang demand for centralized guidelines and roadmap for blended and face-to-face learning, pagkakaroon ng physical audit ng mga facilities ng UP Manila upang ma-sense ang possible distribution of facilities sa gitna ng kaliwa’t kanang mga renovations, reappropriation ng state funds to education, [at] transparency sa development plan ng UP Manila,” del Rosario specified.
Furthermore, del Rosario stated that the statement will reiterate their calls to uphold academic ease policies, initiate a dialogue with the UPM administration, and condemn the state’s neglect of education.
‘The decision is unsympathetic’
Just a day before the start of classes for the UPM, OVPAA issued another memorandum, stating the UP academic policies for the first semester of the current academic year. Aside from the aforementioned policies, the academic delinquency and degree program retention rules are now in effect.
“The decision is unsympathetic sa lumalalang sitwasyon ng mga estudyante at faculty sa gitna ng pandemya at mabagal na transisyon sa face-to-face classes,” del Rosario said when asked about their views about the memo.
According to their statement, the UPM USC, along with other local councils, strongly oppose the decision contained in the memo, organizing a protest with other student formations last August 30 at the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) Oblation Plaza to demonstrate their dissent.
Furthermore, del Rosario stated in the interview that they have already mobilized the college councils, through their representatives to the USC, to conduct sensing to their respective colleges and update their academic easing data, which is a project that their Students’ Rights, Welfare, and Basic Services (STRAWBS) committee began last year.
“Gagamitin natin ang datos dito upang agarang makapagbaba ng referendum-backed na statement at demand na ifoforward natin publicly and to the UPM admin. Magiging useful din ang datos upang makasa natin ang susunod nating pagkilos moving forward,” del Rosario mentioned in the interview.
Del Rosario went on to say that if the dialogues with the UPM administration fail, the USC will immediately contact the AUPAEU UPM and try to start a conversation at the college or departmental level in the hopes of finding common ground.
“Pero band aid solution lamang ito. Ultimately, makikiisa ang UPM USC alongside other UP student councils and the Office of the Student Regent upang bumuo ng resolusyong mas nakatuon sa UP admin mismo,” del Rosario clarified.
The UPM USC and other college student councils (CSCs) were able to conduct an online dialogue with the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs (OVCAA) yesterday, September 23, with regard to the re-implemented academic policies.
Other important priorities
As the institution shifts to blended learning, del Rosario said that we can expect that the terrain of students’ needs will also change. He stated that the council will push for a greater budget to meet the anticipated changes and cater to those students who are in need.
The USC currently has a project called ISKOnnected 4.0, which aims to help students with their gadget and load needs for remote learning. For students who have f2f classes, del Rosario stated that they are continuously collaborating with Dormy PH to provide them with a platform for easier access to housing on short notice.
“Isa sa tinitignan nating pagkilos sa ngayon ay ang on-ground inspection ng malalapit na dormitoryo sa UP Manila, pag-collate ng mga information nito for easy access ng mga estudyante, at pagbuo ng partnerships with these dormitories to hopefully get discounted rates and ensure the security of our students,” del Rosario mentioned.
The council is also concerned about on-campus hazing and fraternity violence. Last July 8, the UPM USC and the League of College Student Councils (LCSC) requested that the Office of the Chancellor and the Office of Student Affairs (OSA) investigate this long-standing issue, which was allegedly perpetrated by the Upsilon Sigma Phi fraternity in the most recent case.
“Nasa proseso pa lamang tayo ng re-establishment ng Coalition of Fraternities and Sororities (COFS) na siyang magiging platform natin sa pinopropose natin [na] feedback mechanism for Hazing & Fraternity Violence,” del Rosario said when asked about the latest developments in this matter.
Furthermore, the UPM’s seemingly ‘dead’ political climate — consistently low voter turnout, dwindling number of candidates, and two consecutive USC elections with no chairperson nominee — also adds to the council’s responsibilities.
The USC has already conducted a joint meeting with the University Electoral Board (UEB) last September 13 with regard to the upcoming special elections, which are held when the chairperson or vice chairperson seats are vacant during the first three months of the USC’s term.
Del Rosario also stated that they are currently formulating programs to encourage student-leaders to run for the council.
Since the start of the 40th USC elections, the average number of candidates in the previous seven USC elections, from the 33rd to the 39th, of 15 nominees has been reduced to nine, for reasons that remain unclear.
As of writing, the 43rd UPM USC is composed of one vice chairperson, two councilors, and seven college representatives.
Additional channels for the USC
“Through the efforts of the 42nd UPM USC ay mapalad tayong nabigyan tayo ng additional channels upang mas paigtingin ang ating mga kampanya at proyekto,” del Rosario said when asked how the 43rd differs from the previous councils.
Del Rosario mentions the UPM Kilos Na! as an example, citing that the alliance will serve as a direct platform for more easily holding comprehensive dialogues with UPM faculty, conveying the students’ demands while taking the faculty’s situations into account.
Moreover, del Rosario stated that the recently held f2f setup of the 53rd General Assembly of Student Councils (GASC), after two years of only using online platforms, was advantageous to them because they had the opportunity to meet the other local college councils in person.
“Through this term, ie-ensure natin ang mas genuine, understanding, at streamlined na relasyon with our college councils. With this and with more centralized actions, ay sana mas mapadama natin sa student body ang ating pagkilos,” del Rosario concluded.