#CompassionforThomasians: UST students call for suspension of online classes amid COVID-19 quarantine

April 16, 2020 - 1:11 PM
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UST Main Building
The main building of University of Santo Tomas in España, Manila. (Wikimedia Commons/File photo)

A group of students of the University of Santo Tomas sought for the suspension of the university’s online class programs amid the novel coronavirus pandemic via an online signature campaign. 

The UST chapter of the League of Filipino Students initiated this online petition through Change.org on April 15 wherein a four-point outline of their demands were crafted for the benefits of the students and the teachers. 

This petition came after the university announced that it would continue its online classes for graduating and non-graduating students until the end of its second semester.  

In the schedule posted, the online classes for graduating students will end on May 16, 2020 and their final exams are slated on May 18 to 23. Non-graduating students will end their semester on May 23 and will take their final exams on May 30. 

Such decision was believed to be no longer conducive to all members of the student body, the LFS-UST said in the petition, as it sought for “compassion” for the remaining duration of the enhanced community quarantine 

Yes, we must strive for competence. But in these extraordinary times, what we need most is compassion—compassion to those who don’t have the same means and capacity as others. We must commit ourselves to serve the marginalized and collectively act to uplift the lives of every Filipino from this crisis,” part of the appeal read 

Several students have also echoed this on local Twitter through the hashtag #CompassionForThomasians.

 

The Luzon-wide quarantine directive strictly prohibited all types of social gatherings and mass transportation as part of the national government’s stringent measures to curb the transmission of COVID-19 in the country.  

The Commission on Higher Education previously encouraged educational institutions to come up with alternative solutions including online classes.  

However, student councils and youth groups later raised the concern that such program is not applicable to all students.  

Ateneo de Manila University recently heeded to its students’ needs and decided to give them passing marks, refunds to tuition, and automatic promotion the next school year.  

Requests to the UST administration  

As of press time, LFS-UST’s online petition earned 9,575 signatures.

The Thomasian students’ demands are: 

End the semester, suspend online classes and thesis defense

Stable and reliable internet connection, well-being of the students and their families, and other financial problems are the primary concerns the students and their parents have raised to the university for consideration.  

“Students and their families, teachers, staff, and workers are now focused on their health and basic needs amidst the absence of immediate medical solutions and aid (financial or otherwise) in the fight against COVID-19,” the group said.

Refund underutilized tuition of students

The group pointed out that the fees paid by the students for the semester, which include laboratory and other miscellaneous fees, were not used since the quarantine was imposed.  

“Students and their families, teachers, staff, and workers are now focused on their health and basic needs amidst the absence of immediate medical solutions and aid (financial or otherwise) in the fight against COVID-19,” it said.

Ensure the salaries and benefits of teachers, non-teaching staff and health workers employed in the university

The salaries of the university workers, particularly the teachers and other staff members, should not be compromised during this crisis. The LFS-UST also hoped the university would provide for the needs of their health workers.  

“The University should also help in demanding and facilitating the government’s cash assistance program for its employees (CAMP, TUPAD, or any applicable government assistance), especially displaced workers (“no work, no pay” scheme),” the group said. 

Promote student empowerment

The LFS-UST also emphasized the importance of student participation in policy-making whether it may affect them directly or not 

“The University should promote openness and cooperation, and show compassion to the needs and demands of its students and the Thomasian community as a whole.” 

Show cause notices vs students

Meanwhile, the National Union of Students of the Philippines also called on the UST administrators to listen to the legitimate calls of its students and practice compassion amid the health crisis.

In a Facebook post, the group said students who have spoken against the UST’s decision to carry on with the semester through online classes “have reportedly received show cause notices saying that their actions may incur disciplinary action.”

“This is a form of student repression and a manifestation of UST’s refusal to heed its students’ concerns,” the NUSP said.

 

It likewise urged students to sign an online petition created four weeks ago.

This was also course through Change.Org that states the five-point demands of student councils. These are the following:

  • Suspend online classes and ensure inclusive educational alternative
  • Stop collection of school fees and impending tuition and other school fees increase
  • Sustain teaching and non – teaching staff salaries
  • Preserve student representation through genuine student councils
  •  Stop rail-roading anti-student, repressive policies

“These demands represent the unity of students in response to the health crisis we are facing right now, which encompass our solidarity with the demands of other sectors of the society,” the group’s petition read.

More than 2,800 people have since signed the online petition of NUSP.