USC holds first Town Hall on tuition hike, student handbook revision, Magna Carta for Student Rights
The University Student Council (USC) 2017-2018 held the first Town Hall meeting of their term on Wednesday, February 21, at the College of International Hospitality (CIH) Kitchen Demo Room, where USC President Israel Pajarillo led the discussion on the recent student handbook revision updates, the administration’s tuition hike proposal, upcoming Equality Week, Magna Carta of student rights, as well as other matters. Attendees of the Town Hall included representatives from the various student college councils, student organizations, and regular DLSU-D students.
Noting that he didn’t observe a town hall meeting taking place last year, Pajarillo explained that USC 2017-2018 officers initiated the recent town hall meeting as a means of gathering the input of their constituents regarding institutional concerns and administration matters.
“We should always be democratic when it comes to that decision, because we were voted into position, so dapat, may say din ang students, ” he said.
In order to maximize the insights and observations of the student body, Pajarillo furthered that students should expect more town hall meetings in the future, with the next town hall set to tackle enrollment concerns.
5% tuition hike
As explained by Pajarillo, the administration plans to implement a 5 percent tuition hike for undergraduate students of academic year (AY) 2018-2019, which would affect incoming frosh students. 70 percent of the increase would go to academic and non-academic personnel, while 30 percent would go to funds for the facilities.
This breakdown is in line with the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) Memorandum Order No. 3, Series of 2012, Enhanced Policies, Guidelines and Procedures Governing Increases in Tuition and Other School Fees, Introduction of New Fees, and for other Purposes, which states that 70 percent of tuition increase shall be used for personnel purposes and at least 20 percent to facilities and other costs.
According to Pajarillo, the admin’s proposed increase intends to address the national inflation rate of 4.0 percent recorded last January, lower enrollment rate of undergraduate students from “15,000 to 8,000” enrollees due to the aftermath of the K to 12 implementation, and the need to sustain campus operations.
However, USC questioned this reasoning due to the decrease in faculty numbers, decrease in facilities being used by fewer students, and the influx of senior high students whose tuition also funds the school.
In addition to the tuition fee increase, Pajarillo presented the administration’s proposed rate increases under the miscellaneous fees as of the second multisectoral meeting, such as Lasallian Community Development Center Fee (LCDC), Parents Organization La Salle Cavite Fee, Academic Mobility Fee, Library Fee, Botanical Garden Fee, Development Fund Fee, and College of Science and Computer Science Fee. He also mentioned the proposed addition of a Php 50 Schoolbook fee due to the increased cost of NEO LMS, the learning management system of the DLSU-D Schoolbook.
Following the completion of the third and final multisectoral meeting on Friday, February 23, the HF is currently reaching OVCFAS to confirm the reasons for tuition hike and the final lineup and rates of increased fees, which are yet to be approved by CHED.
Standing by their belief that tuition fee should be within a “reasonable amount” as quality education is a right, “Ang stand of the USC as the representative of student body is no [to tuition fee increase],” stated Pajarillo.
“I would like to have, as much as possible, more students and more Filipinos be able to reach quality education. Once we say yes to tuition fee increase, once maakyat ang tuition fee, much less ang makaka-afford ng tuition fee natin, much less ang magbe-benefit sa scholarship fund…. Lasallian education should be more accessible,” he explained.
Considering the future, Pajarillo posed the question, “Paano ‘pag na-normalize na ang student population. Bababa ba ang tuition fee that we rarely see?”
Students in attendance of the Town Hall reacted to the news of the proposed tuition fee increase, with political science student Ian Homer Pura stating, “Very unfair na [‘yong] ipinangakong improvements this year, hindi nangyari, pero they’re more than willing to push the tuition higher. Parang, why do you deserve our money?”
Meanwhile, civil engineering student Macauly Lofgren noted that he has observed a “downgrade in our environment. ”
“Before we can include another increase, we should see first the benefits we have paid for and the improvements that should have already come,” Lofgren said.
Other pressing matters discussed in the tuition increase portion of the Town Hall were the upcoming transfer of administration offices to Ayuntamiento in AY 2018-2019, a proposed renovation of Gregoria Montoya Hall (admin building) into a student center, and the extension construction at the Retreat and Recollection Center (RCC).
Student Handbook revision update
On the topic of the current DLSU-D Student Handbook Revision, Pajarillo updated the participants of the Town Hall with the proposed major changes in the handbook:
- Traffic related offenses have increased in number.
- Changes have been proposed in the offenses, depending on the gravity of the offenses.
- Gender related and gender preference discrimination will not be tolerated.
- Lasallian shirts in any color, not just green, can be worn on Fridays.
- The Physical Education (PE) shorts provision requiring males to wear uniform pants after PE class has been removed.
- Shorts and ripped jeans are now allowed to be worn, but at a maximum of three inches above the knee.
- Crop tops will also be stated as one of the garments that will not be allowed to be worn.
- The uniform will undergo redesigning.
USC Treasurer Karen Buenaventura noted that the changes addressed the vagueness and outdatedness of the student handbook, as for her, “Mas nagiging malinaw siya and napapanahon na din siya.”
Meanwhile, USC logistics head Jace Collado praised the changes, saying that, “Most of them are progressive… Medyo nagiging lax na kami sa damit, paunti-unti… ‘Yong penalty mo is proportional na siya sa violation mo.”
However, Pajarillo noted that changes such as the increase of skirt-length from two inches to three inches above the knee are “very minimal” in retrospect.
“Dapat nagiging concern natin is kunyari… dati (in the history of DLSU-D) nakapag-ano tayo (protests within school)—it’s a freedom of expression, so the provision itself contradicts another provision,” Pajarillo explained.
This is in relation to a question posed from a member of the crowd regarding the failed Naruto run and the admin’s restrictions on holding mass assemblies within the school, from Naruto runs to protests, as the DLSU-D Student Handbook 2014-2018, Code of Conduct, Category 2, subsection v. clarifies that “deliberate disruption of the academic function…” is forbidden within campus.
While Section 25, Accord of Understanding, in the Student Handbook states, “Students have the right to peaceful assembly for the redress of legitimate grievances and to petition the school administration for the redress of legitimate student grievances,” USC Vice President Angelo Dela Cruz explained that only “silent protests” will be tolerated within campus, according to the admin.
To address this issue, Pajarillo shared that “Makakapag-help din siya labanan ‘pag in-act na namin ang Magna Carta of Student Rights. ‘Yon ‘yong defense namin para sa students if ever may na-oversee na provision.”
The Student Handbook Revision committee (SHRC) is comprised of representatives from various student councils and organizations, with the number of students matching the number of administration that compose the committee. Any changes are a result of a particular member of the committee proposing the change, with the majority voting in favor of the change.
As of the moment, the Student Handbook Revision is yet been approved by the academic council. As such, the proposed provisions may change without warning.
Magna Carta of Student Rights
In addition to future Town Hall meetings, USC announced their undertaking of a Magna Carta of Student Rights, which will expand the existing Bill of Rights in the USC Constitution to encompass all the rights and civil liberties of students in DLSU-D.
“Pinaka-inspiration as to why we would like to enact a Magna Carta of Student Rights is so that the students will now be more informed of their rights and will not be afraid to raise their concerns with the administration. If they see something wrong, they can easily address it. They will know how to defend it,” Pajarillo explained as to the reason behind initiating the project.
Through the Magna Carta, the USC’s objective is to fulfill the responsibility of “enjoining the students to act as one in advancing their rights and welfare,” which is one of the tasks of the USC as stated in subsection f., Section 18.1, Student Government, of the Student Handbook 2014-2018.
Pajarillo also shared the goal of USC to take upon themselves the role of mediator between students and the administration when issues arise.
“All concerns of students sa mga violations, dapat may representative of students. ‘Pag may grievance na, p’wede kami pumasok,” Parajillo stated. “Ang weird lang na nagkamali ‘yong estudyante, ta’s admin lang [ang] representative. Magkakaroon ng biases.”
Meanwhile, College of Tourism and Hospitality Management Student Council 2017-2018 President Denise Bolotano shared that she has observed the lack of confidence in students to fight for their rights in fear of not being heard, leading to her support of the Magna Carta as a means of empowerment for students.
Bolotano stated, “‘Yong Magna Carta maganda kasi from there, malalaman ng students, na parang bigyan sila ng lakas ng loob na, ‘ito, may karapatan talaga ako, may katayuan talaga ako, p’wede kong ipaglaban ang sarili ko.’”
Moreover, Pura noted that the Magna Carta poses the question: “How do we raise the level of discussion in this University? Kailangan hindi lang sila magiging aware—kailangan ma-develop sa students na kailangan nilang maging aware.”
The USC Constitution is also expected to be revised this academic year, as announced by Pajarillo. To be included in the Constitutional Revision is the addition of a judiciary branch of USC, which will join with the Magistrate when handling student violations.
Moreover, Dela Cruz announced the upcoming “Equality Week,” which will take on the advocacy of equality in all its facets on May 7 to 9. Acknowledging the “prevailing discrimination” on gender-related issues, activities such as the “Equality Summit” will focus on women empowerment, the LGBT community, and redefining masculinity as a “step forward to contribute to the cause.”
“We would like to break the stigma (on gender related issues),” explained Pajarillo, on what he states is among one of their advocacy-based projects this semester.
Other matters tackled in the Town Hall were the budget management of select student organizations, the lack of announcement regarding On the Job Training (OJT) tuition refund, the proposed enrollment change to schedule registration one week after pre-registration, lack of available parking slots, and sudden changes of classroom and class schedule of certain courses under the College of Engineering, Architecture, and Technology (CEAT).
As per USC, the concerns of the students raised during the Town Hall were raised to the administration on the third multisectoral meeting on February 23.
The HERALDO FILIPINO will further investigate and report on these stories in the coming weeks.