Statement on the University of the Philippines Board of Regents decision regarding the Second Semester of Academic Year 2019-2020

Department of Art Studies
College of Arts and Letters
University of the Philippines Diliman
20 April 2020

We, the faculty members of the Department of Art Studies (DAS), urge our academic leaders to put a definitive close to the Second Semester of Academic Year (AY) 2019-2020 by enabling every currently enrolled student to immediately either: (1) earn a grade of “Pass” without additional requirements or numerical equivalents; or (2) be considered dropped, without prejudice to their enrollment for credit in courses to which their present ones are prerequisites. We further urge our leaders to gesture beyond administrative and procedural matters and apply themselves, with due timeliness, diligence, decisiveness, and creativity, to the urgent task of engaging the whole University of the Philippines (UP) community in democratic dialogue about our possible futures, amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. As far as we can tell, this pandemic will not be a short-lived disruption; it is set, instead, to be a protracted crisis. We cannot afford to look ahead only one step at a time.

We would have liked to fully welcome the 16 April 2020 decision of the UP Board of Regents (BOR)  regarding the Second Semester AY 2019-2020, which declares the Second Semester ended on 30 April 2020. We are dismayed, however, at the prospect of implementing a numerical grading scheme, with an option for deferred grading, and call on the BOR to reconsider it. No matter how well-intentioned, the approved scheme needlessly complicates an already complex situation, and is detrimental to the well-being of our students, who are already suffering, if not directly from COVID-19, then from such related problems as economic distress, social displacement, and psychological trauma. If honor and excellence stand as the fundamental virtues of the University, we submit that the excellent thing to do in this harrowing time is to respond to the situation with ethical sensitivity and practical intelligence, so that we can transform ourselves with honor through and beyond this pandemic.

Moreover, it is looking increasingly improbable that on-campus teaching and learning can safely resume by the end of this year, at least to the same extent that they had been conducted prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. Students would thus be entering the Midyear Term 2020 and the First Semester of AY 2020-2021 with workloads made significantly heavier by requirements carried over from the Second Semester of AY 2019-2020. At the same time, they and their teachers would be struggling with the pedagogical and logistical challenges posed by the delivery of education, including bridge, remedial, and audit courses, in distance mode. Our collective energies ought to be focused on making the transition into the coming academic terms, as efficient, as inclusive, and as supportive of everyone’s welfare as possible.

We understand that our leaders aim to uphold the institutional values of honor and excellence in their decision-making, which often takes place under intense pressure. It is incumbent upon us all to ensure that these values are considered and lived out in a manner that is finely attentive to context. It is, therefore, not only a matter of merely adjusting to the radical pandemic; rather, it should be a matter of letting the pandemic serve as a radical opportunity for us to decide how we should humbly exist henceforth in a rather diminished planet.