May 23, 2020 (1:28 PM)

7 min read


Ateneo students are seen gathered at the University’s Roxas grounds.

Amid student petitions to move classes in August, university president Fr. Joel Tabora, SJ, said starting in June is what “we have been used to” and March and April are “very hot” for students.

Tabora said starting the classes on June is important “to keep up the rhythm of the school year.”

“That’s the school year that we have been used to.

“I’ve consistently refused [moving classes to August] because I really believe that in March and April, which are very very hot, we shouldn’t be in the classrooms,” Tabora said Wednesday afternoon during the SAMAHAN Townhall Conversation via Zoom.

 “[O]r if we’re still in an online platform, we shouldn’t be trying to study online when it’s 40 degrees plus in our homes as some experienced in summer,” he added.

Tabora said he always believed summer is “for beaches” and “for having fun.”

Aside from that, Tabora also reasoned the financial adjustments made by the administration in the tuition and other school fees, and the school’s efforts to address internet connectivity issues through the distribution of home pocket wi-fis.

Students online pointed out classrooms are air-conditioned; summer classes are still held in the said months; and classes were still pushed through despite typhoons.

The meeting with the University president as the lead discussant entitled “Coming Together as One Ateneo: Plans and Promises of AdDU amidst COVID-19 Pandemic” involved members of the administration and faculty and representatives of different campus clubs and organizations.

Student petitions

Last May 15, students of AdDU’s Interdisciplinary Studies (IDS) program sent a petition to Tabora to consider moving first semester classes on August after Tabora published a letter declaring that the school year 2020-2021 will begin on June 22.

IDS students emailed him, attaching a piece titled ‘Position Paper on the Opening of Classes on June.’

It argued that the decision to start classes on June 22 is questionable citing two ‘basic plumblines’—issues on “financial difficulties of the students and their families” and “overall quality of education.”

The proponents also called the decision unreasonable and unjust saying students, along with their families, are still suffering and/or recovering from financial paralysis.

“Education is meant to serve people and not the other way around. Yet as a society, we have so perverted the virtues of education that we have twisted it to fit business models of profit and loss. As sad as this may be, it is the reality of our world today,” it said.

The 46-page PDF file also encloses 105 verbatim responses of students from different courses regarding the resumption of classes on June.

“Nonetheless, the request to postpone classes is not a demand to halt learning altogether. It is a humanitarian plea to allow the University’s constituents to heal,” it stated.

Shyne Briones, the chief architect of the petition, also a scholar, said they felt the admin was not fully convinced of the student’s plight.

“[W]e tried to gather specific experiences and stories of struggle so there would be concrete evidence to urge the admin to postpone the resumption of classes. I mean, a lot of students are even opting not to enroll for the upcoming semester kasi masyado pang maaga. There is hardly any time to recover financially. We wanted the admin to realize how serious this was. That we’re not just rambling,” she explained.

Tabora replied to them that evening.

He said the school is trying its best under the circumstances to help the parents with their financial problems.

“In the end, administration must make decisions with its best lights – also considering our responsibilities to our faculty and staff through the education we can only offer now online,” he concluded.

Via Zoom meeting, Tabora revealed the discontinuation of the services of 200 AdDU employees.

“To keep the University operation going, means that we would also have the cash flow to keep our employees paid. In order to make the discounts we did, we had to make very painful decisions and discontinue the services of almost 200 people in the University,” he said.

“But I did to make the online classes more viable for students and to be able to peak the employees of our university salary,” he said, calling all of it a “part of rhythm of operation that they have to keep going.”

Online summer classes

The petitioners were among those 1,722 enrolled in AdDU’s online summer classes, which started last April 22 and will end on May 20.

Interdisciplinary Studies Association (ISA) president Shania Simon said her experience with the classes was a struggle. She believes the systems were rushed and not properly planned.

“As a student going through Practicum, it has hindered us in practicing our actual internship because there was no substitute planning,” she said.

Another student expressed: “It doesn’t matter if we’re the most equipped students to embark on online education if we can’t focus on schoolwork because of a pandemic.”

In the meeting, the University president advised students with difficulty in attending online classes to not enroll but assured to help such student when the situation “comes back to normal status.”

“For any student who would have extraordinary difficulty getting a minimum amount of connectivity, then we would have to advise the student not to enroll. I’m afraid that we may sound like we’re leaving students behind but that’s the better side of honesty,” he said.

SAMAHAN survey

The day after the petition was sent, SAMAHAN President Renz Lacorte tweeted they lobbied to Tabora the reassessment of the final date of classes and feedbacks on online summer classes.

“[We submitted] the comprehensive feedback reports from our nine clusters straight to the university president,” he tweeted.

Last May 14, he tweeted that there is a lot to improve from the online setup. He said on a tweet:

“Needing to rethink our pedagogy and improve from the pros and cons of summer online classes.”

Last May 6, the student council conducted a survey on ‘The First Semester Enrollment and Start of Classes’ where it collected 2,658 responses.

According to Secretary-General Samantha Cayona, the answers suggest moving the classes to July and August with reasons stated being financial struggles and lack of resources.

However, Tabora revealed Academic Vice President Ms. Gina Montalan, whom he called “in her own way an expert in reading and interpreting surveys,” called the survey “contaminated.”

“She showed me a full analysis of the SAMAHAN survey with comments on certain types of data that were—her term was “contaminated”,” he said.

He stated there were problems in interpreting the survey once it is properly analyzed.

“The basic datum that was given she said the significant data between those who felt that they could start June 15th and those who felt they could not was statistically similar,” he said.

“It wasn’t the case that there was an overwhelming ‘No’ even though those who said that they were not ready were less or those who said that they were ready or the other way around. So the difference was not significant,” he added.

He said it would not be irresponsible to start the classes on a compromised date due to “the fact that other voices have not been surveyed”.

“One group said July [and] we originally said June 15, so we chose the middle date,” he said.

The university president advised Atenews to inquire Montalan on the matter for full detail.

Montalan has not answered Atenews’ email.

End the silence of the gagged!

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