Curtain call: What went down during the F2F CEs planning

After a flood of student concerns on in-person Commencement Exercises, actual plans are now finally in motion.

After a Help Desk Announcement (HDA) proclaimed that the 193rd Commencement Exercises (CE) would be held in person on September 25, Lasallians became more hopeful of the University’s plans to hold CEs for batches that had online ceremonies. However, these student expectations have been met with inconsistencies from the administration as the promise of having a face-to-face graduation was pushed back several times.

Students’ frustrations

With the recent announcement of the University Student Government (USG) regarding in-person CEs for the 188th to 192nd batches, some graduating students have raised their concerns about the delays of the University in organizing the ceremonies.

Luis Bienvenido Foronda (HIM, ‘22) shares that his transcript shows that he was supposed to graduate in 2021 yet it was only recently that he was informed that he will graduate in 2022 instead. “We were kind of holding on to the idea that my grandmother, in that particular matter, can see me graduate in person,” he says, expressing his frustration at the University’s postponement of his batch’s CE.

Similarly, Anthony Abad (CAM, ‘20), indicates that aside from the delays, there were also problems with the logistics of sending out the graduation materials such as medals, booklets, and certificates. “Personally, I am supposed to receive a loyalty award since I graduated from [De La Salle Santiago] Zobel. However, nothing was sent. No response from the administration as well,” he states.

Moreover, both Foronda and Abad hope for a better system in the face-to-face CEs for upcoming graduates. “The administration, the [University] Student Government, and all the offices of La Salle can do better than what they initially showed. You know from experience, because, I mean, it’s really frustrating to see students go through these things without any form of consolation,” Foronda conveys.

Behind the curtains

Eventually, an HDA was released last August 9 regarding the schedule of face-to-face CEs at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) even for graduates of the 188th to 192nd batches, with the requirement of all graduating students and guests being vaccinated.

According to the USG, the University administration worked closely with them in addressing student concerns and preparing for the in-person CEs, with the Office of the Vice President for Internal Affairs (OVPIA) being at the forefront of student representation in this process.

USG Vice President for Internal Affairs Britney Paderes states that preparations for the face-to-face CEs have already been in motion since 2021 and that the University has expressed its openness to conduct face-to-face CEs as early as 2020. “There were no hesitations on the part of the University to conduct in-person CEs,” Office of the University Registrar (OUR) Coordinator for Operations Atty Jeck Pamplona reassures, noting that at the time, they intended to proceed “once the situation [allowed], given that pandemic state [had] not been officially lifted.”

During the previous academic year, OVPIA released a survey for the graduates of the 188th to 192nd batches to gather their sentiments regarding the CE before communicating these with the University administration. Although the initial plan was to conduct the CEs virtually, discussions between the OVPIA and the University eventually led to the preparation for face-to-face CEs.

Paderes also states that the USG is also aiming to have the 193rd face-to-face CE within the year and the 194th next year as the current schedule can no longer accommodate it.

In terms of logistics, OUR mainly handles the diplomas and medals for the CE to prevent data privacy issues, while departmental awards are handled by the respective departments themselves. The University also cannot allow on-campus retrieval of documents at the moment in order to ensure student safety. “The best we can do is to keep following up the admin about the delivery of [the graduates’] medals and diplomas,” Paderes notes.

Addressing concerns

Prior to releasing the HDA, the University also took note of the different factors affecting preparations for the CEs.

“It generally takes three months or one term to prepare for a CE given all the details and processes which need to be completed and confirmed prior [to] the event,” Pamplona discusses.

“These include pre-activity preparations for both CE Rehearsal and actual face-to-face CE.”

Furthermore, according to Paderes, their office received student concerns via personal messages and also took note of students’ Facebook posts, such as posts on the student-led Freedom Wall Facebook page. Aside from this, the students had also already been directly contacting the University through Provost Dr. Robert Roleda, the Office of Student Affairs, and the OUR.

“I think they just really needed updates from us, which [was] also a flaw on our part. I figured that we should have been transparent [from] the start…we started [planning] early…but we didn’t get to update the community about it,” admits Paderes, alluding to the mixed responses to USG President Giorgina Escoto’s Facebook update regarding face-to-face CE plans.

“Personally I didn’t really mind the announcement. I was in no rush to have a face-to-face graduation, but I can understand the frustrations of other students who wanted more transparency on what was going on behind the scenes,” graduating student Anton Reyes (AEI, ‘21) shares. “The USG and admin took a while to give updates regarding graduation, but I was generally happy with the response we got.”

As additional support for graduates, Paderes has asked her student support committee to create a graduation kit to familiarize them with the perks of being a Lasallian alumnus. OVPIA is yet to confirm if batches that initially had an online CE would also be receiving the said kit.

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