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Provost reassures University’s F2F capacity amid student population concerns

Provost Dr. Robert Roleda bares to The LaSallian the University’s plans to accommodate more than 24,000 students on campus without full online learning in Term 2 AY 2022-2023.

With the easing of pandemic restrictions and a mandate from the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), Lasallians are set to undergo hybrid learning for the second term of Academic Year 2022-2023 without the option for pure online learning.

Data from the DLSU Commission on Elections voter turnout report for the recently concluded Make-Up Elections had counted a total of 24,093 Lasallians enrolled throughout the Manila and Laguna campuses, when last year’s turnout recorded only 13,673 students. Questions now surround DLSU’s ability to handle full face-to-face classes with this many students; the University is set to prepare for yet another change in how to teach its students and cater to the growing population. 

Accommodation and health concerns 

“We had more than 16,000 students pre-pandemic…We are [only] dealing with 12,000 students per day during the [hybrid modality]. Plus or minus the overflow, it can go up to 15,000,” Provost Dr. Robert Roleda explains regarding concerns on the student population influx.

“For [the whole population], it’s [around] 24,000. It’s a scary number but remember, if you split it into two on a single day, we’re talking only about 12,000, not 24,000.” To manage students, campuses will accommodate 50 percent of the entire student body on a rotational basis. “[If] there are not enough classrooms, then [we] have Wednesday and Saturday classes, and then another possibility is to have more evening classes,” he shares. 

Roleda notes that, out of the entire student population, there are 3,000 graduate students who do not compete for facilities as their classes occur during the evening or on Saturdays.

He further asserts that the lack of facilities “is not a worry as DLSU has faced a similar situation that occurred during the 1990s,” when the Br. Andrew Gonzalez Hall and the Don Enrique T. Yuchengco Hall were not yet established. “We had a lot of evening classes [back then]…we can increase the 6:30 to 7:30 [pm] classes [if needed today].”

Stressing that if the student population breaches the University’s threshold occupancy rate—which he did not specify—the administration can lease spaces outside of campus as a last resort. The construction of the 10-storey St. Mutien Marie Hall is also another addition of facilities to accommodate students. 

Amid accommodation worries, concerns about the lack of faculty are also present. To this, Roleda assures the Lasallian community that they are hiring professors every term in response to the steady increase in students. 

“There are no courses without any faculty so far…and we’re actually hiring around 300 new faculty [members]. We will [continue to] make arrangements to ensure that there are faculty assigned to all the classes that are offered,” he affirms. 

Regarding concerns about COVID-19 cases, Roleda also notes that the University will continue to follow its Learning Continuity Plan. “We have a threshold number that we are looking at…if we reach that threshold, we will close the campus and go online,” Roleda states, adding that this will be regardless of the [CHED] mandate for no online classes next term. “We are justified by health reasons,” he says.

Transition concerns

CHED Memorandum Order (CMO) No. 16, released last November 11, mandates higher education institutions to scrap full online classes for all undergraduate and graduate programs. The announcement has spurred worries among students over the future face-to-face learning environment in aspects including health, internet traffic, capacity capabilities, along with transportation being one of the major concerns.

“Not everyone is living near their schools nowadays and online classes are much easier, not to mention safer. Some people aren’t able to access booster shots or even vaccinations, leaving them vulnerable to COVID during commutes or in the school itself,” Jaime Angelo Olan (I, BS-PSYC) says. 

Roleda states that transportation accommodations by the University are based on the results of transportation demand surveys. “The Las Piñas or Parañaque [point-to-point] service remains since [these have] demands [from] the students.” 

He adds that further arrangements will be made with bus companies to have services provided if there are more demands for different routes. “But as of now, demand is really just for Alabang,” says Roleda. 

Several faculty members have reservations about the CHED mandate as well. Ramon V. del Rosario College of Business (RVR-COB) part-time professor Sanchez* shares that disallowing full-online classes is not practical nor fair, whereas CMO No. 16 could have been more holistic by being consultative on the situation of parents and students.

McReynald Banderlipe II, an assistant professorial lecturer from the School of Economics, notes that the memorandum gave the impression of non-inclusivity in education; disallowing these setups apart from full face-to-face would put some students who might not be able to attend in-person classes at a disadvantage. 

Clement Ong, an assistant professor from the College of Computer Studies stresses, “I think it’s absolutely stupid if we don’t take advantage of what we’ve learned, and what we have seen that we’re capable of doing.” He believes that there should be an adjustment period like what the University has right now with the current hybrid modality.

“Let’s not deny pure online learners to get a Lasallian education…I think CHED must be more flexible enough to understand that there are specific learning needs of students,” Banderlipe asserts.

*Names in asterisks are pseudonyms. 

ERRATUM: January 22, 2023
The article has been updated to reflect the correct rankings of McReynald Banderlipe II and Clement Ong. The publication apologizes for the oversight.

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