Last week, I was in my lab class when I received a message from a friend. He asked me whether I was in the forum regarding the U Break. Obviously, I wasn’t, as I had an exam to take, simultaneous with the forum.
As I viewed the message on my phone, Chancellor Dr. Robert Roleda was midway through facing the Lasallian community. Dr. Roleda called for the forum a few days after the finalization of the U Break shift, after the announcement caused an uproar among the student body. The resolution was met with both affirmation and—for the most part—opposition. To the students, gone are the days of the four-day class week. Well, at least for next term, hopefully.
The decision didn’t come as a surprise to me, to be honest. It was something evident from a mile away, something bound to happen. It wasn’t something that was conjured up just a few weeks ago. It was planned extensively. It was a shift two years in the making.
In June 2016, Dr. Roleda, then the Vice Chancellor for Academics, brought a significant issue into light: Happy Thursday was getting out of hand. Students getting rowdy in bars proximal to school started to catch the school administration’s attention. Then Chancellor Dr. Gerardo Janairo affirmed this, saying that he receives calls from authorities at least once a month due to students’ misconduct during Thursdays.
With this, the admin proposed to alter the current Monday to Thursday schedule, moving the U Break from Friday to Monday. The proposal wasn’t, of course, brought to fruition as the different sectors’ clamor against the change, especially that of the students’ and faculty’s, prevented its execution.
It was clear that the first proposal was only a band aid solution to a more complex “wound”. Changing class schedules won’t decide when students choose to drink. If anything, it will only become a nuisance come its implementation.
Fast forward a year later, the issue still remains; the administration is still trying to (or in this case, already has) fix what’s not broken. Comparing the two similar proposals, it’s clear to see that the difference lies in the rationale between the two. The former aims to directly address the problem with Happy T while the latter looks into preventing more class suspensions—which apparently occur more often during Mondays—from taking place.
While you can’t blame the administration for addressing a prominent issue affecting classes, it is imperative that should a policy be applied, it should be well thought out, not only reactive to a developing trend. If it aims to benefit the whole University, its effect on all stakeholders should be duly considered.
In the townhall meeting where the proposal was initially brought out, Dr. Roleda presented data dating back to 2006, which showed that suspensions tend to fall on a Monday—51 to be exact. This data has driven the whole proposal so far.
It seems absurd that 51 suspensions would solely fall on a Monday, even if you consider that they occurred throughout 10 years. It is important to mention that the data of suspensions presented excluded typhoons, H1N1, APEC, and the Papal visit.
It is also notable that since the instigation of former President Gloria Arroyo’s “holiday economics” until its end in the Aquino administration, 16 of the 51 Monday suspensions occurred. This may be the probable cause for the surprisingly high number of suspensions.
“Hostile ng atmosphere,” my friend continued.
This year’s proposal was met with much disapproval from the different stakeholders of the University, particularly from the student body. After multiple efforts from the USG to convince the admin—and multiple dismissals from the latter—majority of the studentry took the matter into their own hands, expressing their own dissatisfaction towards the shift. These varied from the solemn silent protest to the wide-array of memes shared and posted online.
The USG initiated a U Break signature campaign where, out of the 7,171 signatories, 7,152 were against the move, while only 19 approved of it. A silent protest was also held, where different organizations, including both Tapat and Santugon, joined together to express their sentiments. It is a rare thing to see the student body rally together. If that isn’t enough to show how much the students reject this shift, I don’t know what will.
Last year, The LaSallian released an editorial during the course of the initial proposal, entitled Is anyone listening? It is scary, and all the while frustrating, to see it still holds true today. That “students were only consulted for the sake of consultation, and even more importantly, that their opinion does not matter in making a choice that is just as significant to them as it is to the administration.”
I laud the efforts of the USG, as well as the rest of the student body who showed solidarity in taking matter into their own hands. However, it is somewhat pointless to fight for student representation and for a student-centered University if the voice that student leaders drastically try to amplify are not heard by the University itself.