For ‘viable’ 100% in-person classes, UP student regent says bigger budget is better

University of the Philippines (UP) oblation in Diliman, Quezon City.
The 39th student regent of the University of the Philippines (UP) Siegrfred Severino welcomed the decision for 100% in-person classes to take place in the second semester of AY 2022-2023. But, he emphasized that unclear COVID-19 and academic guidelines, as well as insufficient student support programs, would only bring more problems. (Photo: University of the Philippines/Facebook)

Is the University of the Philippines (UP) ready for full-blown face-to-face (F2F) classes? Not without a proper budget, explained Siegfred Severino, the university’s 39th student regent.

Severino, in a Facebook post from Thursday (September 29), welcomed the decision for 100% F2F classes to take place in the second semester of AY 2022-2023. But, he emphasized that unclear COVID-19 and academic guidelines, as well as insufficient student support programs, would only bring more problems.

“Instead of placing the burden on professors, local college administrators, and administrators of Constituent Universities, we believe that systemwide administrators must be clear and firm in their policy making. It must not only declare that it allows 100% face-to-face classes but must also be firm in implementing mechanisms and asserting for funding to make it viable,” he discussed.

He, however, clarified that “this does not guarantee and ensure the occurrence of more face-to-face classes by next semester,” and blended (a mixture of both physical and virtual activities) and purely online ones can still be held by that time.

UP broke the news a day after Sen. Pia Cayetano slammed them, Cagayan State University, Northern Iloilo State University, South Cotabato State College, and Mindanao State University for not holding F2F classes. In a Senate hearing on the proposed 2023 budget for the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and state universities and colleges (SUCs), she dared UP President Danilo Concepcion to do so and have the university’s budget be spared.

“My challenge remains. You want budget? Show me that you’re making an effort to do the most basic: Allow the students to have face-to-face classes. Show me that you’re making that effort. Otherwise, I’ll focus my efforts where they’re more appreciated,” Cayetano demanded.

Speaking of budget concerns, UP announced last August 31 that their whole system may see the funds they proposed for the fiscal year of 2023 reduced from P44,149,240,000 to P21,853,587,000. P1.959 billion were meant to be spent on Philippine General Hospital (PGH) in UP Manila.

Meanwhile, in the Department of Budget and Management's (DBM) proposed national budget for 2023, UP's funds would be reduced from this year's P6.3 billion to P5.9 billion (for PGH, it's from this year's P6.302 billion to P5.412 billion).

If the slashed funds are restored, hospital spokesperson Dr. Jonas del Rosario (despite saying that they have “more than enough”) told the Inquirer in an August 31 story that PGH could use them for their facilities.

Additionally, the university that sums of their proposed budget would be used for “requests for additional items for faculty, REPS (research, extension, and professional staff) and administrative positions, retirement gratuity and terminal leave benefits, lump-sum for casual/contractual honoraria and allowances, and provisions under the Magna Carta for Public Health Workers.”

Severino and Cayetano may be on the same page when it came to the need for F2F classes, but the student regent highlighted the national government’s “mismanaged” COVID-19 pandemic response and the aforementioned recent budget cuts as hindrances

Due to these, Severino said in another statement that if Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. and the rest of the national government are “sincere in its platform to ‘ensure the safety of the students and the entire academic community’ and utilize the youth in proper nation building, then it must not be the first in line to deprive the youth of this opportunity.

“If it wants our Iskolars ng Bayan to embody the emblematic Honor and Excellence, then don’t siphon off the funding which grants them the opportunities and liberties to do so,” he concluded.

Reuben Pio Martinez is a news writer who covers stories on various communities and scientific matters. He regularly tunes in to local happenings. The views expressed are his own.

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