The University Student Government (USG) held a press conference yesterday at the USG office in Br. Connon Hall to discuss the status of the proposed shift of the University Break (U Break) from Friday to Monday.
USG President Mikee de Vega and USG Vice President for Internal Affairs Brian Chen were present to talk about the proposed shift, the events that transpired leading to it, and a counter-proposal that the USG is drafting in response to the University Academic Council’s decision. De Vega and Chen also answered questions and clarified misconceptions about the proposal during the conference.
The main change in the proposal is that the Monday class scheme will be transferred to Friday. “Think of it like flipping the schedule. Monday simply becomes Friday,” Chen explained. However, instead of following the usual 7:30 am to 9 pm schedule, Friday classes will be cut short and will run from 7:30 am to 4:15 pm.
“There will be no classes beyond 4:15 pm on Fridays. The rationale behind it is that the administrators wanted to meet halfway with the students who would want to continue their org-related works on Fridays,” Chen said.
However, unlike regular hour-and-a-half Tuesday classes which have equivalent counterparts on Thursdays, classes which will be held from 4:15 pm onward on Wednesdays will not have their corresponding meetings on Fridays due to Fridays being cut short. The solution proposed was having three-hour lectures for Wednesday classes which will meet from 4:15 pm onward to compensate for the lack of Friday meetings.
“Think of it like this. If I have an accounting class on Tuesday, I should have another one on Thursday on the same timeslot. The problem is, classes that fall on 4:15 pm onwards during Wednesdays wouldn’t have equivalent timeslots on Fridays because Friday classes end at 4:15 pm. Now, the solution that the admins thought was to make Wednesdays [classes beyond] 4:15 pm into three-hour classes. So instead of having 1.5 hours [on] Wednesday and 1.5 hours [on] Friday, you’ll have three hours [classes on] Wednesday instead,” Chen clarified.
However, this does not literally mean that students will have to sit through lectures on Wednesdays for three hours straight. According to Chen, professors will be required to insert a 15-minute break within the three-hour class timeslot.
At what point in the lecture the professor will insert this break period will be up to their discretion. “The professor is required to insert a 15-minute break within the three-hour timeslot. So basically, it will be just like having two instances of one-and-a-half hour classes with a 15-minute break sandwiched in between, just like how the students are used to. The professor may also opt to move the break to the end of the class so he or she may dismiss them early,” Chen said.
In addition, classes within the three-hour timeslot may start at any time within the timeslot as decided upon by the academic programming officers. “If you start by 4:15 pm, your class should end by 7:30 pm. If your class is scheduled to start on 6 pm, it should end by 9:15 pm. The academic programming officers have freedom to specify what time the three-hour classes would start,” Chen expounds.
The approval process
The main governing body that confers, votes, and decides on the status of the proposal is the Academic Council.
The Academic Council is composed of the Vice Chancellor for Academics (VCA), Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation (VCRI), the Deans of all the colleges, the Dean of Student Affairs (DSA), the University Registrar, Quality Assurance, and a representative from the faculty association.
The entire council, however, does not get to take part in decision-making. “The only people with voting power are the college deans, the DSA, the VCA, the representative from the faculty association, and if I’m not mistaken, the VCRI,” de Vega clarifies.
Headed by the VCA, the Academic Council votes whether or not to approve the proposal. Once the proposal is passed, it moves up to the Chancellor’s Council. The Chancellor’s Council is made up of the Associate Vice Chancellors and Vice Chancellors of the University, and is chaired by the Chancellor himself. Once it gets approved by the Chancellor’s Council, the proposal is placed into effect.
In addition to the Chancellor’s Council, the President’s Council, headed by DLSU President Br. Raymund Suplido, also serves as a decision-making body for the University. Chen explains, however, that due to the proposal’s “operational nature,” it need not to move up to said council. “The only reason it should move up is to inform the President’s Council of the changes,” Chen shares.
What transpired so far
De Vega mentions that the USG was first informed of the intention to move the U Break when they met with the Chancellor early on in the term, wherein he gave them the data supporting the proposal.
“We then called the first Convention of Leaders (COLE) meeting on September 25. There, the organization presidents expressed their opposition against the proposal, mainly due to the conflicts it will make with their organization’s planned operations for the rest of the year.”
After the COLE, a townhall meeting was held last October 6 to discuss the proposal. Organization leaders expressed their issues with the proposed shift, while some individual students also shared their concerns.
According to de Vega, various student college government units also conducted surveys to determine if their constituents agreed with the proposed shift. Some of them were able to present their findings in the townhall meeting. The administration then reached out to the USG, assuring that they would take all the findings and student sentiments into consideration when making the decision.
“From the numerous meetings and the student sentiments online, we were able to pinpoint three main concerns: Traffic, impact on student activities, and impact on students who go home to their provinces,” de Vega says.
The USG also conducted its own research and surveys to get student sentiments and insights on the planned changes. However, it was not able to have an audience with the Academic Council as it had already met and made a decision. According to de Vega, it was assumed that the townhall meeting was already enough to gather students’ voices and concerns.
The Academic Council, on a split vote, decided to approve the proposal. “The status of the proposal is that, yes, it is approved by the Academic Council. But we have to clarify that this is not yet final until the Chancellor’s Council approves it,” de Vega reiterates.
The Council’s approval of the U Break shift was posted via the USG’s official Facebook page on the evening of November 5. The announcement was met with overwhelming negative feedback.
With the proposal’s approval by the Academic Council, necessary arrangements have been made by the University’s various departments and academic units to ensure that they will have proper course offerings and schedules should the newly proposed scheme be implemented. They have also, however, prepared a schedule for next term which follows the current scheme lest the proposal be dropped.
“If you notice, some people have reached out to us saying that memos have been sent out and that their professors are aware of these things, because the academic programming officers have already created a new set of course offerings that adhere to the new schedule. The academic programming officers are currently under the presumption that the new schedule will be effective by next term,” de Vega shares.
De Vega also shares that the USG has currently appealed the matter, with assistance from the DSA.
The USG’s counter-proposal
According to de Vega, the USG has secured an opportunity to discuss a counter-proposal with the Academics Council on Wednesday, November 8. “Right now, we are in the process of preparing the counter-proposal, which is why we have been more active in terms of reaching out the students,” she says.
“The Chancellor has told us that he does hear our concerns and issues on the matter. However, he also says that we have to understand that there are problems that need solving. According to the Chancellor, we need to make a counter-proposal that details how we could solve the problem, while still being favorable to our side,” Chen shares.
One of the counter-proposals that Chen mentioned is retaining the current schedule system, while giving mandatory make-up classes via online platforms once suspensions are announced. “Sakai is one of our accredited online platforms. If a make-up class needs to be scheduled, it will be held via Sakai,” Chen says.
Another counter-proposal that the USG is exploring is enforcing mandatory make-up classes towards the end of the term once a suspension is announced. “What we’re trying to explore is having automatic make-up classes on a Friday or Saturday on the last week of the term once a suspension comes up. This way, students already know that a make-up class will be scheduled towards the end of the term. Students who travel back to the province will also have a heads up to not go home yet, since make-up classes will be given around the 13th week,” Chen explains.
The third and last counter-proposal that the USG is trying to look into is what they refer to as “internal rearrangement.” “Basically, we are retaining the current schedule. While Monday is still a problem, you don’t have to transfer all classes to Friday to solve it. What we could do is to lessen the load from Monday and Wednesday, and transfer them to Tuesday and Thursday. This way, if classes get suspended on Mondays, there would be less lost class hours,” Chen clarifies.
As of press time, the counter-proposal is still being composed and finalized. Should it be accepted by the Academics Council, further talks and revisions on the proposed shift will be expected.
De Vega ensures the student body that the USG is doing all that it can to tip the scales. “We just like to assure the student body that we are taking this matter seriously,” she says, “and that we are doing everything in our power to ensure that the student’s interests are protected here, and that we reach a mutually beneficial arrangement with the administration.”
“Regardless of the outcome this Wednesday, we are exploring all positives, and we are preparing ourselves in multiple ways to ensure that we reach a mutually beneficial agreement,” de Vega finishes.
This article follows a developing story that is currently still happening. Follow-up articles will be published as a part of a series that includes this one.
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