Amid petitions of students to cancel online summer classes, Ateneo de Davao University President Fr. Joel Tabora earned the ire of students on Twitter, Sunday evening after his blog article, titled ‘Academic Freedom and Responsibility During a Disruptive COVID 19 National Emergency’ stated that students should “[E]ither stop studying or enroll to a school that can.”
According to him, the nature of universities is that students and teachers come together in academic freedom in search of truth.
“The eros for truth comes from the students and teachers, and the academic freedom is part of that eros. If some students don’t want to be part of this then they can in freedom prioritize housework to homework,” Tabora stated in his blog post.
He suggested students converse with administrators and teachers of their school to understand whether or not they can buy into the manner their school can offer online education.
“If they can’t, they either stop studying or enroll to a school that can,” he said.
Students did not receive the university president’s statement well.
Allen Clark Esparago, Ateneo de Davao Scholars Society President, said while he appreciates the university’s effort in putting weight and importance to education amidst the crisis, the means and accessibility would be the problem in pushing through online classes, which is more likely prone to cheating.
“[T]he financial means in order to cope with online classes will really be the main issue which could not possibly cater everyone. Given that we all have gadgets but still it does not suffice na we can proceed with the online classes for we do not have a stable internet connection and enough equipment,” he explained.
Esparago noted suspended jobs due to the crisis means no stable income for the family.
“[I]f ever meron man (income), it would be put first for food rather than pampaload for data para sa mga walang internet especially to those sa mga kapos talaga. Moreover, scholarship covers only kung ilang years lang ang course (as being a scholar for 5 years and was said during orientation). We all know that not all Ateneans are financially capable kaya nga need ng financial assistance,” he expressed.
Esparago then called Tabora’s statement “elitist” and “insulting.”
“Nag-enrol nga sa AdDU because of the education yet ganyan pala trato lang students,” he said.
Meanwhile, Jannies Shyne Briones, an Interdisciplinary Studies – Language and Literature (IDS-LL) student and also a scholar, tweeted her essay saying that the petition to suspend online classes is not an attack against academic freedom & responsibility but a pursuit of student welfare and rights.
“[W]e are calling universities to reconsider their decision to continue online classes. We are not asking you to put a stop to learning but to compromise and seek alternatives,” she tweeted.
Briones further stated that the continuation of online summer classes will only be beneficial to the “privileged” students who have internet access.
“We have forwarded our claims. We have appealed to your values of “social justice,” “cura personalis,” or whatnot. But you seem to turn a deaf ear to our pleas. How can it be freedom if it is defined only on your own terms? It is not freedom if only the privileged can benefit from it. It is not academic responsibility if there is no inclusivity and unhindered participation,” she added.
Meanwhile, Tabora said “it may not be fair” to suggest that all Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in the Philippines are not prepared for online education if four HEIs in Manila are not prepared, referring to UP, AdMU, DLSU, and UST which suspended online classes two weeks ago.
Last March 25, student councils of AdMU, UP Diliman, DLSU Manila, and UST petitioned to the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) to suspend online classes nationwide.
However, Briones said it is the students who are not prepared.
“Let’s shift the discourse for a while from abstractions and ideals (e.g. freedom & responsibility) to practicality. Because, practically speaking, though you claim that the systems & facilities of some HEIs are ready, ‘prepared’, and have been set up, the students are not. Their families are not. Their immediate resources are not… And what is the point of education if it’s one-sided?” she said.
Tabora said students and teachers will have to adapt to the shift to the new mode of educational delivery, albeit having “disruptive consequences.”
“If teachers don’t, they risk becoming irrelevant to the new system, meaning, they risk retrenchment. If students don’t, they risk not being able to get the professional training they desire, meaning, they risk losing out on higher education in a fast-changing world,” he said.
As of writing, the university admin has not suspended online summer classes, originally scheduled on April 6.