The proposal to shift the University Break (U Break) from Friday to Monday is a hotly debated topic this term, prompting a townhall meeting last October 6, as well as various signature campaigns and student surveys. The U Break change was proposed to remedy the multiple Monday suspensions that the University suffered in the past terms. The LaSallian looks into various sectors of the University, and their sentiments regarding the change.
Previous U Break revision attempts
The proposal was met with strong opposition when it was first announced. However, this is not the first time that the U Break was slated a shift.
During AY 2007-2008, the U Break was changed from a five-day schedule to a four-day schedule. It was later revised in AY 2011-2012, which offered a six-day class scheme from Mondays to Saturdays, with a U Break from 2:40 pm to 5:50 pm during Wednesdays. Also known as the Rationalized Classroom Utilization Scheme (RCU), the change was later reverted a year after, back to the four-day schedule.
In the first term of AY 2017-2018, the U break schedule is again put to debate. Previous attempts to change it were made early in 2016, carrying the rationale of excessive drinking among students during Thursdays. Similarly, the proposal was to move the U Break from Friday to Mondays in hopes of decreasing reported incidents during “Happy Thursdays.” The U Break shift was subsequently disapproved. However, a similar schedule was formulated in response to a new problem that emerged.
Data that the administration provides show a sheer number of Monday suspensions. This prompted the administration to take action and propose a calendar shift to reduce this number.
Breaking down the current U Break shift
Presently, the class schedule is made up of a four-day week, with classes starting from 7:30 am and ending at 9:00 pm. Most laboratory classes are held on Fridays, ending at 2:30 pm. In the newly proposed schedule, Tuesday and Thursdays remain the same. However, the class schedule on Wednesdays and Fridays were revised to make up for the Mondays being off.
Friday classes will be held strictly until 4:00 pm only to allocate time for student activities. Instead of having two 1.5 hour classes, a three-hour class will be held on Wednesdays from 4:15 pm onwards to cope with the shortened class hours on Fridays. Roleda clarifies that the U Break schedule is not merely switching Fridays to Mondays, but simply adjusting the current schedule enough to give less load on Mondays in case of class disruptions.
The proposal, however, came into conflict with various sectors of the University. Since the U Break would greatly affect all sectors within the University, several efforts were made in order to express everyone’s perspectives before reaching a final decision.
Roleda shares that during the townhall meeting, only a limited number of professors voiced out their opinions. He adds that the President of the Faculty Association, a member of the Academics Council, has not heard any opposition from any individual from the faculty regarding the U Break shift.
Students have raised the concern that some professors, specifically the part-timers, might be greatly affected with the changing of the schedule. However, Roleda attests to this saying, “Some part-timers may not be available on Friday, but you can also say the same thing about part-timers who will not be available on Monday. So, you win some, you lose some.”
Aleksandr Castañeda, a part-time lecturer from the Communication Department, is a faculty member who teaches only once a week, solely on Fridays. “As a professional lecturer who initially assured that my Friday mornings will be focused on my teaching schedule, the Friday break did affect my decision to accept a part-time teaching job,” he says.
However, Castañeda adds that the changing of the U Break also has its advantages, especially with traffic. “As someone who spends a good three to four hours everyday on the road, I find Monday traffic worse than the other days. I think the Monday shift will provide students, professors, and other University personnel [with] a considerable break from the stresses caused by it,” he adds.
On the initial announcement of the U Break shift, the proposal was met with heavy student opposition. In a survey conducted by The LaSallian, 100 out 105 respondents were against the proposal, with the most common reasons being the effect on student activities and Friday traffic.
Josh Tiongco (IV, CIV-CTM) points out that Fridays hold the most bearing for student organizations, as seminars and other major activities are held during this particular day. “If the U Break will be moved, then there is a high chance that fewer participants will go to the activities since they might just go with their families and loved ones,” he says. Students have also highlighted that speakers are less likely to attend activities held on Mondays as it is the busiest day of the week.
The administration presented data that indicates that class suspensions affect Mondays the most compared to other days of the week. Fifty-one Monday suspensions have occurred within the last 10 years, compared to 38 suspensions declared on Fridays. This excludes typhoons, the APEC Summit, H1N1 breakouts, and the Papal Visit.
Students have raised the unpredictability of class suspensions, and that certain situations are beyond control. Alex* (II, AB-CAM) strongly opposes the changing of the U Break schedule, highlighting that the change is unsustainable. “We can’t compete with mother nature. If this is the excuse the admin will decide to use later on, and Fridays end up being more suspended, does that mean we’ll go back to having the break on Friday then?” she shares.
With LASARE and NSTP classes held on Fridays and Saturdays, respectively, moving the class schedule would entail these classes to be held on Saturdays and Sundays. Ana* (IV, BS-IE) defends, “This is not beneficial because these are meant for home study, and more importantly, family time. [The time can also be used for] other events outside school.”
The University Student Government (USG) held a press conference last November 6, explaining the details of the U Break shift. They USG has stated that less units are more likely to be taken in the revised schedule due to the three-hour class. USG Vice President for Internal Affairs Brian Chen clarifies that only 31 class slots are available in this proposal, compared to the 36 class slots in the present system. USG President Mikee De Vega has added that delays are a possible disadvantage of the new proposal, given the constricted time in the schedule. Isabel Sedano (III, AB-LIM) has clearly expressed her sentiments, saying that being delayed because of limited slots cannot ever be the case.
The uproar of students against the U Break proposal extended on social media. Following the same arguments mentioned, students were vocal about their own take on the matter and publicly shared their opinions on the DLSU Community Forum group, a Facebook group exclusive to Lasallians. The hashtag #NoToUBreak was also heavily used on Twitter.
Despite the vast majority of students opposing the proposal to revise the class schedule, there are also individuals who do not mind the change. Richia Bueno (III, BS-BIO) asserts that there is no problem with the new schedule, adding that it might even be more convenient for her in terms of traveling. “As someone who used to commute everyday going to and from school, [based on experience from living in Las Piñas], the traffic is actually much worse on Mondays than on Fridays.”
In agreement with the administration, Cristina Calonia (II, EED-ECED) believes that the moving of the U Break schedule might even be a positive change for the University. “I honestly think that it would be great to move the U Break because most suspensions and transport strike[s] are usually on Mondays where the week starts. I saw that the Fridays [end at] 4 pm only, which is good because of the rush hour which is around [5:00-6:00 pm].”
The USG extended their efforts to represent the students on the case at hand.
The initial announcement of the proposal being accepted by the Academics Council was shared on the USG Facebook page. In the press conference which was later held to further explain the rationale of the administration, the USG also presented the measures it is taking to make a counterproposal.
In a meeting with the Academics Council, the USG defended their counterproposal. “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.
Some of the counterproposals that the USG highlighted are: retaining the current system while deferring make-up classes to online platforms; enforcing mandatory make-up classes towards the end of the term, and; what the USG called “Internal Rearrangement,” which is lightening the load of Mondays and transferring them to Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Understanding the administration’s standpoint
Regardless of the strong hostility of the students with the newly proposed class schedule, Roleda stresses that the plan to revise the schedule is not matter of popularity, but as an action to address an existing issue. In an interview with The LaSallian, the chancellor sheds light into the rationale behind the issue.
“What I got was 11 years’ worth of data [from the Registrar], so I used all of them. And we found that actually, in most years, the number of disruptions or holidays across the weekdays are almost the same. Except that there is what seems to be [a cycle that continued on for about three years]. [Within those three] years, there was simply so much more Monday disruptions than any other days. So, I compiled data over 11 years, and the data clearly shows that, even if we exclude this year, there were a lot more disruption of classes on Mondays than on any other day,” he explains.
With this discovery, the administration concluded that a new plan must be created that would address the class disruptions and to minimize the need to declare make-up classes. This led to the announcement of the newly proposed class schedule during the townhall meeting last month.
However, Roleda emphasizes that the issue is not about the popularity of the decision. “This is not about popularity, whether the decision is popular or not. Whether you like it or not, this is about which kind of class schedule will be less prone to disruption. After all, your parents are paying your tuition fees, and if you don’t have classes it’s not the faculty who loses out. I have to emphasize, though, that faculty in general feel bad about not having enough time to complete their lessons,” Roleda shares.
As the proposal has been passed by the Academics Council and the Chancellor’s Council, the University has already begun preparations to implement the new schedule in the second term of AY 2017-2018.
Roleda affirms that that the new schedule is highly likely to be adapted effective next term. He further points out that “People get used to something and want to continue it that way. But the thing is, we cannot continue it that way because there is a problem. So we have to try something and this is our attempt, I’m not saying this will be perfect. But if we don’t do something, it’s going to be bad,” he shares.
This article is part of a series of articles regarding the proposed U Break Shift. Read more at TheLaSallian.com.
*Names with asterisks were altered to preserve anonymity.