The University of the Philippines Open University (UPOU) Provisional Committee (ProvComm) and the University of the Philippines (UP) Office of the Student Regent (OSR) held a hybrid meeting on 30 June 2022, with UPOU Officials at the UPOU Audio Visual Room and online via Zoom. The meeting aimed to discuss the ProvComm accomplishment report and the ratified constitution of the students of UPOU.
UPOU officials who were physically present are Dr. Melinda dela Peña Bandalaria, Chancellor; Dr. Joane Serrano, Dean of the Faculty of Management and Development Studies; Dr. Ria Mae Borromeo, Director of the Office of Student Affairs; Dr. Myra Almodiel, Director of the Office of Public Affairs and Assistant to the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs for Instruction and Special Projects, in behalf of Dr. Primo Garcia, Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs; Mr. Rodolfo Pullian and Ms. Betina Paula Cardenas, OSA Support Staff members.
Together with them are Provisional Committee Members Isaiah Athanasius Crisanto, Ma. Dangiela Javier, Beatrice Castillo, Angela Denise Lauzon, Elisha Abigail Dela Cruz, and Student Regent (SR) Renee Co, and Iñigo de los Santos from the OSR.
Additionally, online attendees via Zoom are Faculty of Information and Communication Studies (FICS) Dean, Dr. Diego Silang Maranan; Faculty of Education (FEd) Dean, Dr. Ricardo Bagarinao, and University Registrar, Asst. Prof. Rita Cui-Ramos. At the same time, those from the Provisional Committee are Miki Yobel Tolentino, Isabella Maria Katrina Fojas, Jhenly Asedillas, and Joemer Prado.
To officially start the meeting, Chancellor Bandalaria welcomed the ProvComm and SR to the University. She recognized the face-to-face meeting as a significant progress, especially for the students who are willing to serve for the betterment of the academe, attributing them as the hope of the nation. Attendees were then given the opportunity to introduce themselves.
ProvComm Chairperson, Isaiah Crisanto, served as the host of the meeting. He read through the agenda of the meeting, then the singing of the Philippine National Anthem followed.
SR Co gave the opening remarks of the program, mentioning that when her term as Student Regent started, she submitted a document about the need for UPOU student representation. This is a continuation of the initiative by former Student Regent Isaac Punzalan, following the OSR mandate on the democratic representation of all students in the University.
SR Co explained that students need a representative to advocate and voice out their needs and concerns, which will then translate into a policy. She added that Student Council officers have a great responsibility to mold themselves and their constituents to have the heart to serve the nation, especially amid these trying times.
The initial step that the OSR, ProvComm, and UPOU Officials took to establish the University’s Student Council and form student organizations is said to help UPOU students realize their right to organize and exercise the right to suffrage.
Crisanto presented the Provisional Committee Accomplishment Report, starting with the timeline of events. Crisanto mentioned that efforts started back in 2015, in the hopes of UPOU establishing a student council. He also noted how monumental it is to get the participation of the students and the UPOU administration to create a committee and deliver results in the most transparent embodying of honor and excellence.
He reported that the Ratification of the 2016 Constitutional Referendum via the Tagpuan platform resulted in a total of 672 voters where 96.58% voted in favor while 3.42% voted against the ratification. Crisanto also mentioned that analysis of the data revealed that the actual number of votes cast is almost equal between undergraduate and graduate, despite graduate students representing about 2/3 of the student population.
Crisanto also presented some of the main concerns of UPOU students during the student consultation, namely, the late release of grades, the lack of sense of community and student representation, unresponsive offices for form requests, unresponsive faculty-in-charge (FIC), outdated references and broken links used in course modules, and concerns regarding the academic load, requirements and the mode of delivery. SR Co also added the untimely feedback and comments of FICs on assignments and academic reports to the list.
Chancellor Bandalaria requested for a copy of the data to be able to identify how the administration will respond to the said issues. Crisanto promised to submit the data. He added that the UPOU Helpdesk helps address some of the concerns mentioned, and that the first two tickets submitted by the ProvComm were addressed in less than 24 hours.
Crisanto introduced the present constitution of UPOU students. ProvComm Writing Subcommittee members Daniela Javier and Angela Lauzon shared insights while writing the said constitution. Javier mentioned that they have collected constitutions from different UP units and were aided by the Consultations Subcommittee to translate findings of the students’ needs and address them in the present constitution.
Lauzon, on the other hand, shared that the constitution states that there should be an online platform for student activity, which was made possible through the establishment of the Tagpuan platform. She mentioned that besides the list of councilors, a Technical Officer is also assigned to handle the Tagpuan platform.
Tagpuan is the official student hub of UP Open University and functions as a tambayan and tagpuan for all students of UPOU. It is envisioned to serve as the official platform for the Student Council and a hub for Student Organizations. Chancellor Bandalaria later added the importance of student councils to help address and communicate concerns within the Tagpuan platform to the administration.
Chancellor Bandalaria mentioned that most of the information in the constitution is similar to the other constitutions except for Article IV: Online Platform for Student Activities. Crisanto added that the said article is unique to UPOU and enshrined within the constitution, designed to protect the students’ online space. He also reiterated the need for a technical officer or programmer in the student council to address software-based and other technical concerns.
Crisanto shared that while other constituent universities voluntarily make open accounting or open records, open-sourcing is required to prevent corruption at the Student Council level. “It is not just something nice to do. It is something that must be done.” He also added that many students complained about the red tape issue addressed in Article VII of the present constitution.
Chancellor Bandalaria requested for the ProvComm to present the entirety of the ratified constitution. Crisanto explained that ProvComm wrote the whole constitution from scratch to address the student concerns mentioned in other constitutions they have read. He added that the copy of the constitution is an open-access document for UPOU constituents to view and comment on.
Other topics discussed in the presentation unique to the present constitution include students’ fundamental right to be safe in an online space, with the emphasis on the colloquial term “doxxing” or revealing one’s identity or location; the right to a prompt correction of their official records is found and duly proven; to fair access of services and facilities; and to be treated with dignity and respect regardless of sexual orientation, ethnicity, disability, and age. SR Co shared that one of the issues in other Constituent Universities (CUs) is the use of dead names, adding that some students would prefer the use of their living names during graduation ceremonies.
Crisanto also discussed Article XI: USC Adviser. Chancellor Bandalaria suggested an addendum to the constitution to state that since UPOU has no Office of the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs (OVCSA), the OSA Director will serve as the adviser of the UPOU Student Council.
The hybrid meeting ended with the endorsement and approval of the ratified constitution and Committee for Accrediting Student Organizations (CASO) proposal by the Provisional Committee and Student Regent to Chancellor Bandalaria and UPOU officials.