De La Salle University is an institution that prides itself on being a leader in the development of pedagogical methods and progressive methods of instruction. A key example is when DLSU developed the Lasallian Pedagogical Framework for Transformative Learning (TL) after the University’s implementation of TL in 2005, a bold move that set the University apart in terms of trust in its students.
One of the key facets of transformative learning is trust that faculty give students who are capable of operating in a University setting and looking after their own learning. This trust is a relationship that is made possible by the integrity of the faculty who are the students’ guides not only in honing their own talents, but in allowing them to flourish in their studies and in the conduct of their own research.
TL supposedly empowers students to develop their own avenues for learning creatively and independently. And where students fail to do this, or do this incorrectly, the faculty should be ever-present to guide them, by simply being in class or attending consultation. Students have to trust their professors, and learning occurs where there is trust and consistency.
There is then a great risk when the institutional integrity upon which this trust is based suffers from what might seem to be small lapses in the day-to-day interactions of student and faculty and administrator. The tiny details in a University’s operations, after all, would dictate the bigger picture, the De La Salle that wants to project itself as a world-class University.
Therefore, the interaction between each student and each faculty member counts as an experience where learning can occur, and should be valued thusly. When this is distorted by a faculty member’s slightest action, such as, say, the waiving of accountability for a clear fault from the faculty’s end, or when a student does not file a complaint where his or her rights are slighted, then no learning can happen, because trust is destroyed.
The situation worsens when those with the power to deliver due justice egg on these erring faculty, and with nary a trace of consideration for the situation of aggrieved parties support clear wrongs committed by people who claim to be loyal to the Lasallian mission. This situation festers, and the learning experience stagnates and devolves, until it becomes learning and level IV pedagogical certification confined to paper and PAASCU accreditations untranslated into action.
Indeed, how stern are department chairpersons in monitoring that their faculty use the proper syllabus, and receive the same merits and penalties that they deserve from conspicuous absences and activities outside the University, or that departments with faculty who consistently fail student evaluations still receive Pillar of Lasallian Educator awards for best faculty evaluation?
Students should be empowered to learn in a system that avoids arbitrary decisions where objective metrics are present and available. But then again, how can professors who have been absent for at least a quarter of the term measure the performance of a class they scarcely know, and whose work they cannot pretend to evaluate, given that they clearly do not even follow the prescribed syllabus?
Where is the learning, where its very contract is breached at the onset?
It may remain as an issue to live with for students who do not know better; students who forfeit their corresponding responsibility to raise these cases to the necessary levels of concern. From this forfeiture results grumbling from students that does not reach the appropriate venues, because the advocates of the students in the student government are unaware of grievance cases, presuming that the respective authorities expediently address these.
Not that it would matter if they did care. The fact that students only have faculty grievance as their institutionally-supported venue to air their concerns to allegedly abusive faculty is self-defeating if the student is not after a change of grade but rather the quaint concept of justice where it is due, a sincere apology and compensation for an opportunity to learn that was absent where it was necessary.
Grievances cannot materially provide students who win with anything other than a change of grade. It effectively restricts the definition of student justice to a grade, that the grade or measured learning be increased on a metric even if the experience implicitly dislodged any such learning from the source, as well as all trust in the system. The students become fatalistic, resigned to just complying, the very case of disempowerment.
It might be said that these described conditions are only exceptional cases, isolated incidents that the system is not geared towards replicating for the majority. But if these exceptions are forgiven or allowed to foment and pass for the sake of ‘harmony’, then the very fabric of due process in the University is no longer justice. It becomes the purest form of legalism stifled by documents and hours wasted in hearings and tedious processes that amount to mere whispers and dissent without resolution, and a lot of bad blood after graduation.
Given all this, the entire University community should not lose sight of its goal, and strive to restore its definition of learning to what learning is really about: humility, dialogue, and trust, for all its meager worth.
After all, where the University claims to trust its students to learn and to transform their own lives, can the students trust it to learn from its own mistakes and mete out justice where it is due, for the sake of learning?