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Against the tide: Students’ clamor for disapproval of U Break proposal, a success

The University is retaining its four-day schedule.

The decision comes a month after the proposal to move the University Break (U Break) from Friday to Monday was first bared to the community in a town hall meeting held last June 10. According to Vice Chancellor of Academics (VCA) Dr. Robert Roleda, the proposal is intended to control the “excessive drinking” brought about on Thursday evenings, otherwise known as “Happy Thursday.” University Chancellor Dr. Gerardo Janairo heightened the discussion, stating that at least once a month, the police notifies him of the misconduct of students during Thursday nights.

Students, faculty, staff, and other sectors of the University were vocal about being against the proposal, citing that the shift of the U Break would not necessarily solve the drinking problem. Other concerns raised included the conflict of schedule with activities of University organizations on Friday mornings and afternoons, as well as the severe traffic on Friday nights.

Weeks later, the Academics Council revised the previous proposal to a five-day class week that arranges the schedule of classes into Monday-Wednesday, Tuesday-Thursday, and Wednesday-Friday time blocks. This proposal was yet again received negatively by students, as reflected in the survey #BreakNaTayo conducted by the University Student Government (USG). From a total of 3,338 respondents recorded in a span of 48 hours, 95.06 percent were against the revised proposal.

U Break Headline by Marinel Mamac

On July 13, the USG presented the student body’s position against the proposal before the Academics Council. The USG’s presentation included a discussion on the implications of the proposal as well as alternative solutions to address the problems pointed out by the administration. A few hours after the meeting, the decision to retain the four-day class week was made by the administration after several weeks of consulting with University sectors.

“I feel that the reasoning behind the proposal was already problematic,” shares Angelica Ilustre (V, CAM-ADV), “and to have almost pushed for it despite the cry of the student body seemed worrisome to me.” She says that she is happy with the decision to not push through with the five-day schedule, saying, “It just created problems where there weren’t any to begin with.”

Louie Clamor (III, AB-OSDM) comments, “Of course, we can’t blame the admin for making such a proposal regarding this alarming issue, but it seems like it’s not the most effective solution, since students can easily create a new culture of drinking if a new schedule were to be implemented. If ever the U Break will be moved to a Monday, the situation will probably get more out of hand, seeing as students from other universities will be more willing to make their way to Taft on Fridays just to be immersed in the students’ drinking culture. Whether or not the change will be implemented, students will always find a way to drink.”

On the issue of the proposed five-day school week, however, Helena Chuatico (I, FIN), remarks, “I’m just thinking that the four-day school week works because it improves performance as compared to the five-day school week and we spend less on commute. What we have works. Why change something that clearly doesn’t need to be changed?”

Clamor adds that the admin should always consider the feedback they get from other sectors of the University. “Before you implement change, you must know how it will affect the people on the receiving end. Resistance to change will always be present, but the gravity of this particular resistance from the students, faculty, and others means something. I suggest that they should just tighten the security around the areas surrounding the drinking places near DLSU in order to prevent untoward incidents while under the influence of alcohol,” he furthers.


A lot to consider 

During their presentation, the USG indicated several implications of the proposed five-day class week to the Lasallian community. As for the students, USG President Pram Menghrajani projected that the proposal could decrease the attendance of students in extra-curricular activities, dedicating the two-day weekend for family and academics.

Menghrajani also mentioned other effects for Friday classes, such as off-campus activities, venue reservations, and practice and rehearsals, among many others. The USG also took into consideration students who live far away from the University, as well as students who work part-time.

The USG also took into account the sectoral effects of the proposal to faculty members, stating that research work is done mostly on Fridays and Saturdays. In terms of research output, DLSU was named as the most productive research university in the Philippines last 2014 and 2015.

Despite being against the proposal to change the class schedules, the student sector recognizes the problems which the proposal had tried to solve, pointing out several possible courses of action to address the issue.

On the part of the students, the USG suggested greater efforts in coordinating with the administration and the rest of the Lasallian community in lobbying for the implementation of laws that regulate the serving of alcohol near schools. The USG is also looking into conducting a signature campaign for the closing down of liquor-serving establishments around campus.

Greater support for student activities towards responsible drinking education is also suggested, as well as the promotion of the counseling services offered by the Office of Counseling and Career Services (OCCS). An anti-drugs campaign for the students is also in the works, as well as plans on activities for students to be better oriented on how to detect modus operandi, date rape drugs, and other safety and security risks present on Happy Thursdays.

The USG is also looking into increasing Thursday activities “that provide social atmosphere,” in order to give alternative events for students to attend on Thursday evenings.


Not the first time

It is not the first time the University implemented drastic changes to its schedule. On the third term of academic year (AY) 2007-2008, the University transitioned to a four-day schedule from a five-day schedule in view of the implementation of the Transformative Learning scheme institutionalized two years prior. The U Break, designated as a free time for all and a time when no make-up classes could be scheduled, was moved to Fridays, from 2:30 to 6:00 pm.

Four years later, at the start of AY 2011-2012, the U Break, which was then renamed the University Activity Period, was moved to Wednesdays, from 2:40 to 5:50 pm, brought about by the change to a six-day schedule under the Rationalized Classroom Utilization (RCU) scheme. Classes were held from Mondays to Saturdays under the scheme.

In 2012, a survey conducted by the USG showed that out of 800 respondents, 87 percent were against the implementation of the RCU and the six-day schedule. As a result, the University reverted to a four-day schedule just a year after.

Since then, the University has followed its four-day schedule with U Break falling on Fridays, until a new proposal by the Academics Council surfaced.


A collective effort

In addition to proposed student-led initiatives, USG President Pram Mengrajhani several recommendations formulated by the student sector after consultations with different student groups and through the #BreakNaTayo survey, which was disseminated earlier this month.

The USG called on the administration to work closely with the Manila Police Department and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency to address the problem of rampant drug use and underage drinking on Thursday nights. Moreover, suggestions on the management of the campus were also made, such as opening the Enrique Razon Sports Complex and the Learning Commons until 10 pm on Thursdays, coming up with more social spaces on campus, and installing CCTVs in hidden areas in the University.

Aside from these, the USG also suggested the inclusion of responsible drinking education in the school curriculum, as well as a mandatory self-defense module in Physical Education classes. According to the USG, it might also be good to look into required counseling consultations as part of PERSEF classes, and for professors to give incentives for Thursday activities held by student organizations.

On the part of parents of DLSU students, the USG suggested trainings for parents on how to deal with children who drink or do drugs, as well as closer ties with student groups that undertake initiatives for responsible drinking education. On the other hand, the alumni sector was encouraged to use alumni relations to negotiate with Lasallian owners of several drinking establishments around campus in June this year.

A Sector Leaders Meeting will be held today for student leaders to discuss how best to move forward with the establishments around campus.

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