Following a series of consistent class suspensions during A.Y. 2016-2017, a townhall meeting was organized by University Chancellor Dr. Robert Roleda last October 6 to discuss the possibility of changing the existing regular class schedule to a Tuesday to Friday system. Students and faculty members were invited to voice their sentiments on the matter prior to the deliberation of the administration.
Beginning A.Y. 2007-2008, the University implemented a four-day school week that lasts from Monday to Thursday. Select colleges like the College of Science (COS) and Gokongwei College of Engineering (GCOE) hold laboratory classes on Fridays. Under this system, the University Break shifted from Wednesdays (12:40 to 2:30 pm) to Fridays (2:30 to 6:00 pm).
A proposal backed by records
To formally open the session, Roleda began with a detailed explanation of the rationale behind the proposed schedule change. He presented data from the last 11 academic years on the number of holidays and class suspensions observed by the University, excluding those declared due to inclement weather. In each graph, the general trend of Mondays as the most common day when classes would be called off was evident.
“One reason why there are actually more suspensions during Mondays than other days [is because] there are some holidays that are [specifically celebrated] on a Monday. Then, there are things like elections which are always held on a Monday,” explained Roleda. He also added that the recent transport strikes held by jeepney drivers tend to be slated on the same day of the week.
However, records also showed that Fridays are also common days for class suspensions. In response to this, Roleda compared the number of Monday and Friday class suspensions over the same time span. Findings showed that Monday class suspensions still occurred more often, with records from A.Y. 2016-2017 showing a total of 10 Monday class suspensions in comparison with two Friday class suspensions.
Should the proposal be approved, the University Break will then move to Monday afternoon. Classes currently scheduled for Monday and Wednesday will be held on Wednesday and Friday instead.
Conflicts with student welfare, extra-curriculars
Prior to the Townhall, the University Student Government (USG), through the respective college government units, conducted online surveys to gauge the response of the students. They also encouraged students to express their opinions online by tweeting using the hashtag #ParaSaUBreak.
The results from the surveys conducted by the School of Economics (SOE), Br. Andrew Gonzales College of Education (BAGCED), Ramon V. del Rosario College of Business (RVRCOB), and COS were personally delivered by their respective officers during the meeting. Majority of the respondents from the colleges represented were against the proposed shift in schedule for reasons such as lessened personal or family time, scheduling issues for extra-curricular events, and increased inconvenience for commuters.
“We assessed the routes that are currently being used by students and generally, the high-density areas that we found are Guadalupe, Makati for those [going southbound] and for [northbound], Quiapo. When [students] are asked about Friday traffic in these areas, they said ‘Fridays are the worst, it makes you late, [and] I go to school so it’s not terrible but I’m in school too early,’” stated USG President Mikee de Vega, who took to the microphone to further underscore the difficulty that students would encounter when traveling to and from the University if classes were to be held on Fridays. Other students also lamented the additional traffic during paydays and sales in big malls.
Additionally, the Council of Student Organizations (CSO) reasoned out that having the University Break on Mondays would cause problems for events organized by its member organizations. CSO cited reasons such as a projected decrease in attendance, increased difficulty in balancing extra-curricular and academic commitments, scheduling conflicts, and logistical concerns. To a certain extent, the availability of external stakeholders such as sponsors and speakers for events may also be affected.
Roleda commended the students’ initiatives to gather responses and requested that they forward the results and relevant information to the Academics Council so that these may be considered during the deliberation process.
Faculty focus on students’ learning experience, recommend other methods
From the faculty members present, there was a unanimous sentiment to focus on the impact of the proposal on the students’ learning experience in conjunction with the goals of the University. As one professor argued: “Whatever the decision is, I hope we can really look at what is the goal of the schedule and what is the strategic purpose we’re trying to solve.”
In addition, several faculty members also recommended other data analysis methods to assist in the administration’s decision-making. A particular suggestion involved the re-categorization of the data presented to account for the practice of “holiday economics,” which refers to the practice of creating long weekends by moving holidays. While Roleda ruled the practice to be more common during the term of then-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, he took it into account for future consideration.