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Unite to fight COVID-19! Suspend online classes! Fight for our well-being, livelihood, and democratic rights!

The University of Santo Tomas has just recently announced the resumption of online classes following the extension of the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) until April 30. Online classes will resume starting April 20 until May 16 and 23 for graduating and non-graduating students, respectively, despite concerns and admonitions from students, parents, and members of the Thomasian community. 

As students, we value the pursuit of knowledge. Yet we must also take into consideration the varying circumstances which are not ideal for continuing online classes. Moreover, the ECQ has put limitations and has affected the well-being, livelihood, and democratic rights not just of students, but also of parents, teachers, and workers.

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. 

As such, we have outlined these demands on how we can collectively move forward from this situation, which we hope the UST administration considers in its crafting of policies and guidelines. 

1. Extend compassion to all: End the Sem! Suspend online classes!

Students have previously forwarded their concerns regarding online classes, particularly regarding stable and reliable internet connection. Parents have also petitioned the University to come up with practical alternatives. Though the University adjusted its guidelines and opted for “self-paced” learning, students still face problems in dealing with their studies. Difficulties brought about by this pandemic have also caused unwarranted stress/anxiety to students.

Resuming online classes raises further concerns than advocate solutions. Moreover, 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. We’re also not closing the possibility that this situation will continue beyond April 30. At this point, we must all unite and focus our attention on fighting this pandemic and helping those in need of assistance. 

The University should acknowledge that policies and guidelines must be grounded on concrete conditions especially in these extraordinary times. The most practical option now is to end the term, in particular: (1) suspend online classes, (2) do away with burdensome requirements, and (3) suspend thesis defense while adopting sustainable and practical solutions to the concerns of students, teachers, and workers.

2. Refund Tuition Fee!

The ECQ is extended til April 30 but, as a precautionary measure, the University decided to continue with online classes til May 30. At that point, it will have been more than 2 months since the suspension of onsite classes. As such, the fees paid for by students like laboratory fees and other miscellaneous fees are thus underutilized. 

With that said, it is justifiable to demand a refund of (a sizeable amount of) the tuition and other school fees. And those with outstanding dues should be given a reprieve. This would be of great help now since families need resources to avail of food and basic necessities.

This, however, must not be used to justify tuition and other school fees next academic year. 

3. Ensure the salaries and benefits of teachers and non-teaching staff! Protect the rights and well-being of health workers! 

Another compassionate thing to do is ensure the salaries of teachers and non-teaching staff (both regulars and contractuals) to help them with their needs and necessities. We are one with them in demanding safeguards and assistance amidst this crisis.

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 University must also heed the demands of its health workers in providing them with personal protective equipment (PPEs), just compensation, and adequate medical assistance (provision for mass testing, treatment, etc); while still respecting the rights and providing adequate services to patients. It’s the least we could do to safeguard our health workers who are at the forefront of fighting this disease. 

4. Promote student empowerment! Uphold democratic rights!

Students are the largest stakeholder in the University. As such, we must ensure that students have active participation in policy-making especially in the crafting of guidelines and policies that directly or indirectly affect them. 

Student councils play a leading role in articulating the interests and demands of their constituents. But students also have a right to air their concerns and grievances thru different forms and avenues. 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. 

We still have our democratic rights as students and we must persevere in preserving and upholding these rights.

As Thomasians, let us show compassion, not just to one another, but to those who are part of the bigger community--the Filipino masses. What we need now is to direct our time, energy, and resources in helping to combat this disease and provide assistance to those in need. In fact, it would be more fulfilling to encourage everyone to go to the communities (of course while observing health and safety measures), practice what they’ve learned, and extend help as much as we can—this way, we can learn more and truly embody our core values of Competence, Compassion, and Commitment. 

Through our unity, we must continue to demand what is beneficial for the students and the Thomasian community. It is only through our collective action can we guarantee our well-being, livelihood, and democratic rights. 

Show your support and sign this petition! 


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