The U Break open forum held last November 29 at the Natividad Fajardo Auditorium in Br. Andrew Gonzalez Hall turned out to be a heated exchange of qualms and frustrations when stakeholders such as students, faculty, and parents alike raised their complaints regarding student organization activities, Friday traffic, holiday economics, and make-up classes scheduling process in line with the new schedule.
Spearheaded by DLSU Chancellor Dr. Robert Roleda, the event transpired following the approval of the U Break Shift from Friday to Monday last November 25. The forum began with Dr. Roleda providing the background of the U Break Shift.
In a short interview with The LaSallian, Dr. Roleda stated that there were initial issues in the feasibility of the proposals. “When the three councils looked at the proposals, they found that there [is] really nothing new with the[m],” he expresses.
Dr. Roleda explains that the U Break Shift will not be permanent. Changes in the class schedules will always be subject to evaluation, and that the main concern they are looking into is how the change will affect student activities. “I have actually asked for data from the [Office of] Student Affairs. [We will undergo an] evaluation before and after and look at the past data,” Roleda states.
He believes that the effect of the shift might even be positive. “My personal thinking is that it might be beneficial for student activities rather than detrimental. That is why we, the councils, voted for the change,” he adds.
The University will now have two U Breaks: Monday and Friday afternoon. “It’s just one and a half hour that is lost on a Friday, but you gain more hours,” Dr. Roleda indicates. “Changes of schedule, we understand, will always be difficult because we get used to certain things, but we will adjust. Things are not permanent.”
The situation at hand
According to the manifesto of the University Student Government (USG) against the approval of the new U Break schedule, the rationale for the proposal to change the U Break from Friday to Monday is caused by the number of suspensions that usually befall on Mondays. Roleda launched this proposal during October 6 through a town hall meeting.
“After having so many suspensions already, I asked the University Registrar that time, Sir Robles, to give me data over suspensions [in the past] ten years. After getting the data, this is actually the data that the Academic Council has seen during the third trimester, and again this trimester,” Roleda justified on the occurrence of Monday class suspensions.
In order to present complete deliberation on the U Break proposal, Roleda raised the standard procedures regarding University-wide decisions and how it came to be. A proposal is to be formed and approved by the college deans and afterwards, gather the concerns of the all the stakeholders involved through a town hall meeting. Second, once the concerns were addressed and reviewed, a new proposal is presented to the Academic Council up for approval. Once approved, it will climb up to the Chancellor’s Council and later on, to the President’s Council.
After the launch of the U Break proposal, efforts were made by the USG to counter-argue with the Academic Council’s approved U Break proposal through presenting gathered data on Friday traffic, impact on student activities, and impact on students who go home to their provinces, all of which the Academic Council duly noted. Another movement initiated by the USG was the U Break Signature Campaign to respond to the Academic Council’s proposal, resulting to 7,171 signatures of which 7,152 signed against.
On student organization activities
Recently passed last November 25, the Academic Council’s approved U Break change is now causing upheaval among the stakeholders of the community, most of which were voiced out during the forum. One of the key concerns of the U Break change is the effect on student activities as mentioned by Roleda.
During the forum, Mark Ramos* raised that cognitive learning should be present not only in the classroom but also in organizational activities. Having cited that notable student leaders such as Mikee de Vega from La Salle Debate Society and Zed Laqui from EconOrg grew into effective individuals as his forefront defense, he reiterated that the administration must not fully discredit the role of student activities in the students’ lives. In addition, Ramos* added that low turnout of attendance in activities can be resulted from the change in the U Break.
In response, Roleda argues that the U Break after Friday classes from 16:00 onwards should be enough to suffice for organizational activities. He contends that there was a drop in attendance when the U Break was moved to a Friday primarily because most of the students do not have classes and are only going to the campus for their organizations. With the new system that they are putting into place, Roleda asserts that having classes the same day student activities are held will be beneficial. He foresees that it will have a “positive impact on student activities rather than negative.” Thus, the approval of the proposal.
Cost of student life
Also one of major points that was cited during the forum is the issue on traffic congestion that occurs on a Friday. The USG has already presented data regarding Friday traffic which has been deliberated during the town hall meeting which led to a modification in the proposal.
Roleda counters by mentioning how he consulted transportation experts in the faculty. He also points out how the traffic situation around the University on days with classes is practically the same, and how traffic is something inevitable. “The kind of traffic we have on Monday and Friday will be different, but traffic is a reality of Metro Manila,” he underlines.
In line with this argument, Carla Santiago* also pressed the matter of increase in transportation expenses of students particularly those who commute and those who avail the services of transport network vehicles such as Uber and Grab. She also stated how several students are experiencing financial problems. She insists that even the smallest rise in financial cost would make a huge difference to students.
In response to the issue of increase in cost of transportation, Roleda asserts that “it is part of the things that students must bear” and that it is no longer included in the obligations of the administration which caused an uproar from the students, faculty, and parents present in the forum.
It is expressed in the last section of the USG manifesto the need for the University overlooked the importance of student involvement in the process, and the need to give the students “the liberty to have a say in how these proceedings would go.”
Also in the USG manifesto is the huge belief that keeping students out of the decision-making process will only prevent the opportunity for students to grow as it also creates a wider rift between the administration and the Lasallians. The USG calls upon the moral sense of the administration and reminds them that “every decision that directly affects us (students), made without consultation, further drives apathy into the roots of the Lasallians.”
DLSU-PUSO President Atty. Dionisio Donato Garciano further expounds on this by emphasizing that one town hall meeting is not enough. He suggests the that the implementation of the U Break Shift must be subject to the consultation of all major sectors and must have a unanimous consensus in order to avoid complications.
*Names with asterisks are pseudonyms
This article is part of a series on the U Break Shift. Read more at TheLaSallian.com.