After the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) imposed a moratorium on all field trips and educational tours in response to a bus accident in Tanay, Rizal last February 21, DLSU temporarily suspended all off-campus activities.
By February 23, the University released a statement from Vice Chancellor for Academics Robert Roleda through the Help Desk Announcement. It states, “In view of the moratorium issued by CHED on field trips, all faculty members are enjoined to comply with the CHED memorandum and suspend all field trips and educational tours until the moratorium is lifted by CHED.”
On the same day, another statement was released by both Student Leadership Involvement, Formation and Empowerment Director Nelca Villarin and Dean of Student Affairs Amelia Galang, which stated that “the approval of all off-campus activities regardless of its nature is hereby revoked”, specifying to the affected parties to rescind the reservation, payment, or activities made.
To clarify the student body’s concern regarding the matter, The LaSallian interviews Galang and University Student Government (USG) President Zedrick Laqui and Vice President for External Affairs Reigner Sanchez.
“I understand where the students are coming from… I understand that they’re not happy, but we’re doing all of these for their safety, and eventually, this will result in something good,” Galang shares. “We’re doing what we can [to] make sure that we ensure the safety of the students.”
In response to CHED
Galang explains that she wrote an email to CHED with a list of the common natures of off-campus activities planned by student organizations, inquiring if these specific kinds of activities were covered by the moratorium. The list of the natures of activities was collated by the USG through forms disseminated to the student body, and includes teambuilding activities, community outreaches, parties, festivals, sports activities, conferences, and workshops, among others.
“Of course, we had to let our Dean of Student Affairs take the step first. Because if her appeal works, we won’t need to appeal as the USG,” Laqui explains in a mixture of English and Filipino when asked if the USG was in direct contact with CHED regarding the issue. “But we were prepared to actually file an appeal, with the direction being that CHED’s decision is wrong. The policy is inefficient [and] isn’t going to solve the real problem.”
Unfortunately, the Office of the Student Affairs is still awaiting CHED’s response as of press time.
In the meantime, Galang expresses that the administration is currently reviewing and revising different processes to ensure the students’ safety. One such change discussed is that of the ‘Parent/Guardian Permit,’ which is being revised to emphasize the parent or guardian’s consent. A previous statement declaring the University free from liability was also removed, according to Galang, on the basis that the University should not shy away from responsibility.
Galang also advised student organizations to plan for alternative activities that could be held on-campus instead while the moratorium is still in place. An example is what was recommended by the TREDTWO Community Service Program. “Some suggested activities are making of advocacy/educational/instructional materials (social media or print), t-shirt printing, improvement of partner organization’s PowerPoint presentations, etc.,” the program’s Facebook page affirms.
Galang further recommended to Villarin that if certain organizations had teambuilding activities, they could hold them in the De La Salle University-Science and Technology Center campus in Canlubang instead.
Meanwhile, Sanchez explains that the USG is discussing filing another appeal to CHED which would encompass both academic and non-academic off-campus activities. This would be coursed through the Office of Student Affairs as well, although it is still being crafted.
“Given that we have a number of activities that [have] already [caused] damages, I think it’s high time that we make an appeal for them to lift the ban,” he shares. “Of course, we’re willing to lend a hand in terms of if [CHED] needs people… who can give them a student’s perspective of how to create a better policy. We’re willing to do that.”
On reimbursements for paid off-campus activities
Sanchez explains that in terms of providing reimbursement for off-campus activities that were paid for but cancelled, the situation is tricky. “That’s where we will come in, but it will never be an assurance,” he explains. “We need to talk to certain offices and try to explain to them why we need to give the students back their money. Kung saan manggagaling yung pera, yan yung kailangan nating pagusapan.” (Where the money will come from still needs to be considered.)
In the particular case of one class in the College of Liberal Arts, students paid P12,000 for an academic trip which was cancelled and were not fully reimbursed. Laqui explains that, as of press time, the USG is still in talks with the Vice Chancellor for Academics and other related offices with the hopes of resolving this issue.
However, he clarifies that in certain cases wherein payment made was non-refundable, there is little course of action. “If there’s already a MOA (Memorandum of Agreement) between the organization and the other party, there’s not much [the USG] can do,” he laments.
Galang affirms that it would be difficult for the University to provide reimbursement if payment was made directly to an external third party or agency concerned with the trips.
“I hope they don’t take that against the University because I don’t think the teachers also [wanted] this to happen… it will also affect their subjects, the curriculum, the program,” Galang shares. “This was something that we all did not expect, that we did not want to happen.”
“I understand, especially to those who submitted payments,” she concludes. “I hope [the students] understand also from the perspective of the administration and the University, that we really want to ensure their safety.”
Laqui explains that the USG released a form in an attempt to gather the pulse of the student sector with regard to this issue. “All of the students that had planned out external activities, whether you’re a participant or you’re a facilitator or the ones implementing that activity, [were] affected by the CHED moratorium,” he shares. “Majority of these students do not understand why this was the policy implemented by CHED, considering that this will not alleviate the chances of having accidents.”
“[They’re] with [the USG] when we say that it’s a band-aid solution, and it’s not a long-term sustainable solution for CHED to implement,” he concludes.
In a survey conducted by The LaSallian, 93.6 percent of respondents indicated that they disagree with CHED’s moratorium on off-campus activities, while the remaining 6.4 percent agreed. The survey had a total of 78 respondents from all year levels and colleges.
Many were distraught when field trips and other activities were halted. Mica* (II, LGL) complained that her KASPIL2 trip was supposedly the day the University released a statement about the moratorium. “In compliance, we did not push through with the trip even though the reservations were already made and some fees were already paid (i.e. food and hotel), which cannot be refunded,” she expresses.
For Jen* (II, BS-ADV), implementing a program that will set a standard for bus rentals and accrediting only certain companies and organizations can be a solution to the issue at hand. Lea* (II, DSM) shares the same sentiments. “They should be more focused on how they can improve whatever policies they currently have or devise new strategies that will tackle road safety, such as stricter procedures for hiring public transportation drivers and required basic, comprehensive driving tests tailored for public transportation drivers,” she explains.
Majority of the students who disagree with the moratorium similarly believe that the focus should be on stricter regulation of buses and drivers, and more stringent implementation of the various rules and policies surrounding off-campus trips.
However, Mike* (II, BS-BIO) agrees with the prohibition on off-campus activities but asserts that it is only a band-aid solution. “Every time such tragedy happens, CHED implements a ban on off-campus activities. This works, but only for some time […] We should also look at long-term solutions, [such as] maybe being more strict in choosing transportation companies for outbound activities,” he laments.
*Names with asterisks (*) are pseudonyms.