Almost every year, a number of Ateneo de Davao students oppose the increase of their tuition. Dissatisfied with the limited pool of students who are invited to the consultation on every increase, they oftentimes demand for a more genuine conversation. While this is sometimes granted by the administration, it appears that students, no matter how they resist and criticize, remain voiceless as the university continues to push for the increase, neglecting the opinions of those who pay and are burdened by the expensive cost of their education.
Last February 6, students were invited to another consultation regarding the proposed 5% tuition and other fees increase (TOFI) next school year. They asked about if expenses of offices are regulated, where excess funds would go, why there are students not consulted when new extravagant facilities are bought or built, why there is a need for late enrolment fees.
Megue Monteverde of the Buklurang Atenista asserted that most of the students do not want the increase, particularly on the miscellaneous fees. But when they were asked repeatedly if they will implement the increase, their answer was a clear cut ‘yes.’ Even worse, what will be presented to the Board of Trustees for approval will not be the minutes of their most recent consultation with a larger number of students, but that of the first consultation where only five students are invited, with the absence of any member from the faculty union and some of the department deans.
The university, however, could simply argue that while CHED requires a consultation, it does not require a consensus from the students and other stakeholders. This is true, but in the eyes of a university that promotes social justice, until when are we going to follow the order of CHED who, in the first place, is very willing to approve all TOFI proposals as long as they complied with bogus consultations? To know the sentiments of the students is one step but to not do anything about these is no different than repressing them.
What, then, can be done amidst the administration’s seeming lack of interest to students’ opinions? It would not be too late to pressure them, to show our disappointment through social media, to be united, to mobilize, and to make noise. The most saddening response a student could do is to stay silent while hundred others are struggling to find ways to pay for the increasing tuition and other school fees.
This is the time for political parties, student leaders, outgoing and newly-elected SAMAHAN officers to show that they are genuinely concerned about the welfare of Ateneo students, that they are more than colorful banners and catchy jingles, that they can fearlessly stand up against any form of oppression that targets the students.