Some “Iskolar ng Bayan” have turned to sleeping in the streets, in protest, and out of options for a place to stay.
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Students, concerned professors and staff of the University of the Philippines slammed the administration after more than a hundred students – mostly from the provinces – are still not housed a week after classes began.
The Student Alliance for the Advancement of Democratic Rights in UP (Stand UP) said at least 320 students whose dorm applications were rejected filed appeals to be accommodated in the university’s dormitories. Due to the Dormitory Oversight Admissions Committee’s (DOAC) late release of appeal results, several students who do not have relatives in the city slept at the Sunken Garden and camped outside the Kalayaan Residence Hall this week. Some stayed at the All UP Workers’ Union office and the Office of the Student Regent.
Menchani Tilendo, Stand UP chairperson said that in previous years, dorm applicants are ranked according to a points system based on their socialized tuition bracket and region of residence.
The DOAC oversees the appeals and selection process of UP’s dormitories, a responsibility previously held by the Office of Student Housing, said Tilendo. However for this year, she said, DOAC seems to have used a different system because students in need remain homeless.
“There has been very little transparency regarding the DOAC’s failure to house poor students coming from far-flung provinces. There is no student representative in the committee’s actions,” said Tilendo.
Room rate for Kalayaan is P500 a month ($11) plus an average of P85 ($2) per day for meals, electricity rates is also not included in the said rent. At the Molave dormitory, which is exclusive for males, monthly room rates range from P250 ($5) to P290 ($6). Ilang-ilang Hall charges P300 ($7) a month, while Yakal charges P250 to P350 ($8) a month.
Tilendo said the committee had earlier granted slots to those who appealed. But there are 120 students assigned to semi-private dormitories Acacia, Centennial I and Centennial II which charge P 1,500 ($33) to P3,000 ($66) a month.
Tilendo said Acacia, Centennial I and Centennial II were built through revenues from the 2007 tuition and other fee increase and donations from law and engineering alumni. She said the university has envisioned these dormitories to be self-sufficient.
“Assigning students to these dormitories will not decisively solve our housing problem because dormers cannot afford the exorbitant lodging fee. Clearly, commercialized assets have no place inside the university of the people,” said UP Student Regent Miguel Pangalangan.
Pangalangan also said the sharp increase in dormitory applications stemmed from the university’s decision to accept 840 students more than its annual average intake. According to UP Diliman data, there are 3,563 freshmen enrolled for the first semester, an obvious spike from the 2,723 students during the same period in 2014.
“While it is a kind thing to accept more freshmen, we can speculate that the University merely needed more income from tuition in light of the projected massive drop in enrolment in the following years due to the K-12 program,” Pangalangan said.
Kabataan Rep. Terry Ridon pointed out that UP charges the highest tuition among all public state universities, but its services “are far from efficient.” UP students are not exempt from class opening woes, such as the lack of dormitories and shortages in the number of offered classes, he said.
“Paying high tuition and school fees is already a heavy burden for students and their families. The least the UP administration could do is to provide efficient service to all students,” Ridon said.
Ridon also noted that there is an impending P2.2 billion ($48 million) budget cut for UP in the proposed 2016 national budget, with only P10.9 billion ($238 million) allocated for 2016, down from its current P13.1 billion ($286 million) budget.
“Students of state universities, not just UP, have for so long endured the twin burden of tuition hikes and state neglect. Long registration lines and the lack of dormitories for students, are only some of the manifestations of the worsening state of public tertiary education in the country. We will raise these urgent concerns in the upcoming deliberation of UP’s budget in Congress,” Ridon said.
Meanwhile, the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) said the situation is “symptomatic of neoliberalism.”
The NUSP Vice President for Luzon JC Sibayan said the UP administration’s adherence to policies of privatization and commercialization of education destroys the public character of UP, and deprives access to education to many students.