March 17, 2022 (5:56 PM)

5 min read

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To say that the student body is disappointed with the admin’s decision for a fully online graduation ceremony would be an understatement. We expected that the University would have been more considerate and reflective of our interests, as we have been outspoken and united about the latter.

Earlier, the Office of the Academic Vice President (OAVP) released the AVP Memorandum No. 2022-03, which explained the due process that transpired on the deliberation on the conduct of graduation ceremonies for Undergraduate and Graduate students.

While they considered the proposed mechanisms of the Graduation Committee for hybrid graduation ceremonies, the University Academic Council (UAC) recommended a fully online ceremony instead because of “the persisting danger of CoViD-19 infection to either vaccinated or unvaccinated persons, especially in large-group gatherings.” This was, in turn, affirmed by University President Fr. Joel Tabora, SJ, in context of the easing restrictions, testing, and rising number of cases in China and ASEAN nations.

Although Atenews understands the apprehensions of the admin in holding large gatherings in the midst of a public health crisis, we cannot help but be alarmed by the implication of the deliberation process that took place—a deliberation that did not materialize the majority of the students’ and parents’ sentiments despite being the primary stakeholders in this situation.

As evidenced by public clamor on social media, official statements by various school organizations, and surveys conducted and petitions lobbied by the SAMAHAN, majority of the graduating students prefers to have a blended graduation ceremony.

In figures, as responded by 889 Undergraduate students out of the total population of 1,426, 96.74% agreed to a blended setup. Similarly, as responded by 115 Graduate students out of the total population of 253, 90.30% also preferred the blended setup. The petition lobbied for the preference of the parents and guardians of graduating students garnered 570 signatories, according to SAMAHAN.

Despite the realities reflected by these figures, however, the admin remained firm in its decision to pursue a fully online graduation. The petition lobbied was rejected, and the Ateneo community was instead provided with an AVP memo that lacked substantial explanation on the admin’s final decision.

Surveys and petitions are valuable in creating University-wide policies and directives because they reflect the interests of its stakeholders, particularly the students and parents in this matter. But the outright rejection of the proposal begs the question of the surveys’ and petitions’ significance, and if they are actually considered by the decision-makers in the first place when they end up falling on deaf ears and disregarded. Whose interest, then, do these decision-makers serve?

Ironically, the University advocates for dialogue among its community, but the lack of genuine consultation among the concerned parties is alarming. The UAC, composed of representatives from different stakeholders in the admin, departments, faculty, and students, held its closed-door deliberations for the graduation ceremonies. If the Ateneo wants to uphold the spirit of dialogue, then what hinders them from extending the conversation outside the UAC through Townhall meetings? It can be recalled that the concern on the conduct of graduation ceremony was raised at the third Townhall meeting last March 7 during the open forum, but it was not elaborated further, and AVP Dr. Gina Montalan said that the deliberations were still ongoing. The following day, the proposal for hybrid graduation was officially rejected. 

And if the admin continues to disregard valid surveys, petitions, public clamor and statements, and chooses to limit the conversation, what does this say about our admin who does not listen to the sentiments of the students? [READ: AdDU pushes for fully online grad despite backlash]

Atenews believes in the capability of the University to hold blended graduation ceremonies despite the risks posed by Covid-19 infections, because it had successfully held open-to-public activities in the recent past. The Ateneo de Davao University (AdDU) Jacinto campus had been a vaccination site last July and August 2021 [READ: AdDU’s vax process ‘fast, organized’, says EVP Eliab], and also opened its doors as a satellite voter registration site [READ: AdDU conducts satellite voter registration]. The public had commended AdDU’s processes for being organized and smooth-sailing, having little to no complaints in their experiences for both instances.

For the proposed mechanisms of the Graduation Committee, they had suggested ways to negate wide-scale infections in accordance with government regulations and memorandums. These mechanisms include: limited number of participants through batches, submission of vaccine certificates and health declaration forms, physical distancing seating arrangements, signages and assigned Marshalls to facilitate movement and traffic of people, disinfection after every graduation rite, and directives to limit contact during hand-over of diplomas and medals, among others.

And if the University claimed to be “prepared” for blended learning next academic year [READ: AdDU to open blended learning system next acad year], then what limits them from conducting graduation ceremonies in a short span of three days?

Since the graduation ceremonies would finally and irrevocably be held fully online, we urge the administration to be transparent about the deliberations that took place and how other stakeholders contemplated on the matter. There must also be clear accountability on the graduation fees paid by the students since the graduation ceremonies would be held virtually. Lastly, we sincerely hope that in the future deliberations, all stakeholders will be involved in the conversation and their interests be genuinely considered and reflected in the admin’s decisions, as we continue to uphold the spirit of dialogue in the Ateneo community.



End the silence of the gagged!

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