The University Break (U Break) schedule, which was originally moved to Monday last year amid backlash, will be returned to Friday starting Term 1 of Academic Year (AY) 2019-2020, according to a Help Desk Announcement sent by the Office of the Chancellor last July 24.
The Academics Council, according to the email, decided to move the break to Friday from 2:30 pm onward to “provide students the opportunity to participate more fully in extracurricular activities.” The President’s Council, on the recommendation of the Academics Council, approved the new schedule.
In an exclusive interview with The LaSallian, University Chancellor Br. Bernard Oca FSC revealed that the decision came after their research showed student participation in organization activities drastically declined after the shift.
The review of the U Break schedule was part of the administration’s promise to assess the shift and decide on whether to retain it a year after its implementation. “This review is not just going to be arbitrary, not just going to come from administration and faculty,” Oca previously stated in an interview in 2018, making it clear that student sentiments “will be taken into consideration.”
Revisiting old arguments
The Monday U Break schedule, which first took effect on Term 2 of AY 2017-2018, was the result of research based on 11 years’ worth of data that showed class suspensions occurred most often on Mondays, a key argument that administrators gave when the schedule change was first announced.
But an analysis of suspensions in the past year showed disagreeing results. For Term 1 and 2 of AY 2018-2019, class suspensions were more frequent on other days of the week compared to Monday, Oca revealed. It was only on Term 3 of AY 2017-2018 that class suspensions fell most frequently on Mondays. To manage future class disruptions, Oca explained that Animo Space will be used so that classes can still push through “with the help of technology.”
A potential decrease in reported incidents during Happy Thursdays was also an argument raised in support of the proposal back in 2017. But data obtained from the Security Office and the University Clinic, Oca said, showed that those involved in these incidents were actually “mostly outsiders”.
“We discovered that whatever problems or violence or safety hazards [that took] place during Happy Thursdays during the Friday U Break, there were not really La Salle students involved,” he explained.
Despite this, the shift did have an impact on Happy Thursdays. A U Break assessment report prepared by the University Student Government (USG) in 2018, which was recently released online by former USG President Mikee De Vega, concluded that bar sales dipped on Thursdays. Fridays, however, did not see an increase in sales, the report claimed, as students would instead “utilize the early dismissal to travel to other commercial districts such as Makati or Bonifacio Global City.”
‘Makes more sense’
The decision to return to the old schedule was a culmination of insights from different offices, Oca revealed. The combined sentiments of students, faculty, and administration convinced them to approve the change at the Chancellor’s Council meeting. Oca also noted that most of the data used was gathered by the USG.
“The USG was really instrumental in having this decision to change [back to] the past U Break,” he added.
According to him, Dean of Student Affairs Nelca Villarin told the USG to survey the student body on their opinion of the U Break shift, with the results indicating that “it makes more sense to have the U Break on Friday than on Monday.”
The decrease in student participation in organization activities was highlighted as a major concern. The previous U Break assessment report made a similar finding, noting that for USG-related activities, the participation rate of USG officials dropped by 24 percent, while the rate for non-officials dropped by 16 percent during Term 2 of AY 2017-2018.
Oca expressed that organizations struggled in preparing for events scheduled on a Monday since organizers needed to make preparations as early as Saturday or Sunday, which he theorized may not be optimal for those with prior commitments on weekends, such as “family obligations”.
Aside from organization events, Oca also explained that students attending retreats and recollections that start late in the afternoon on Fridays would often arrive late at the venue. With formation activities being hindered by such factors, the University Chancellor deplored, “That’s one whole day wasted which would have been already a full day of the retreat or recollection.”
Emphasizing on the importance of student and faculty formation, he hopes that their decision to revert to the old schedule will be able to increase the holistic learnings of the community.
“Going back to this schedule, there’s more opportunity for more formation,” he stated.