Monday, October 12, 2009

ateneo de manila calls off its final exams: noble or naive?

for those needing background, here's the optimistic, fuzzy-hearted letter from ateneo's philosophy department chair that's been making the facebook rounds lately, to unanimous and even fuzzier-hearted acclaim from ateneo alumni everywhere. and here's the original memo from VP cuyegkeng cancelling final exams this semester and encouraging the student body to do volunteer work instead.

now let me clearly state my contention: instead of calling off the exams altogether, why not offer volunteer work in place of them? hi kids, your "biology finals" will be held at the covered courts, where you will be packing relief goods for a minimum of three hours, or longer if you so choose. it won't be graded but your professor will be there, checking attendance. you won't have to study and you get to embrace your "infinite responsibility for the other." isn't that nice?

compared to this (or any other practicable solution), simply calling off exams and leaving the students to their own devices feels like a copout. the message seems to be: we won't expend our resources, we won't be responsible, you just go do what you like.

no, if the ateneo's true objective was to increase the number of bodies doing good work for typhoon victims, this clearly isn't the best way to go about it. so why then? these folks aren't dumb, there must be some other reason for this honesty-system approach.

taken at its word, the ateneo doesn't want its students simply helping others per se. what it wants is for its students to be free to decide, and to help others of their own accord. it doesn't want to volunteer its students; it wants its students to volunteer. it's on a point of principle that this whole thing turns; and it's by all means a gesture worthy of ateneo's grand jesuit tradition.

but is it worth it? and what does it offer in real-world terms?

a bag of groceries packed by a genuine volunteer will do just as much good as one packed by a conscript. with this unprecedented string of disasters before us, this dire need, is it socially responsible to free a student population of its usual responsibilities, and then simply allow whoever wishes to be idle do as they please?

don't embarrass yourself, ateneo. you didn't call off the UAAP finals games or the victory bonfire that followed for humanitarian reasons, and the need for volunteers then was every bit as urgent and even more immediate than it is now. calling off final exams and hoping for the best might be made to look good on a memo or an uplifting open letter, but the real world expects, and deserves, much, much better from you.


Wing said...

the vp memo is actually stronger than canceling the final exam. it suspends all academic requirements (long exams, projects, orals) after Ondoy. Thus, the grade of the student is the current CS.

I also believe that the memo could have been more decisive. But different classes have different collective experience. Internally it was decided that the best way to implement the strength of the memo was best done on the department level, classroom level or even the student orgs level.

PE classes have all been converted to work in the covered courts. In one of my classes, no one was affected by the flooding so i also accompanied to the covered courts. My other class was a prereq to a course next semester so i decided to continue with the lesson. I told them they can volunteer but not during my class. hehe.

in ateneoville where i live which was submerged in chest high waters during the flooding and knee-deep mud in certain areas was 'normalized' in 3 days time due to student volunteers. they have since moved to other areas (mostly in marikina and qc i believe) for clean-up operations.

yes, there are those who are still lost in their psp's and laptop games whenever i walk around the campus.

yes, i also have my objections about the UAAP games and the bonfire that followed. hopefully that energized many who attended to do more volunteer work. that's me being naive.

though all things considered, i believe that the real world has seen the magis of ateneo.

i had my own pessimism about the memo but with the amount of volunteers working inside and outside the school that i have seen for the past 2 weeks, i do believe that the gambit played out surprisingly well.

dedpish said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
leroy said...

sa up nagpa-take home exam na lang yung iba. yay!

erasmusa said...

though your points are valid, i agree with wing. in the end, ateneo trusts that it has taught its students well enough to instill the kind of values we need in these times.

macoy said...

@erasmusa - but trust isn't really the issue, is it? the admin could have just as easily trusted its students to volunteer despite their academic responsibilities.

@k.winfer - obviously the issue looks different from the inside. but look at the national context: all the other filipino students have to choose between being a student and being a volunteer. and here ateneo allows its students a third option: do nothing. how is that magis?

kawso said...

i agree with you k.mcoy.

the meaning and intention of canceling the finals is really noble. but look at the situation from a logistics perspective and you'll see how much manpower has been wasted.

eto pa ang masaklap:

volunteer nga di ba, ibig sabihin, kusang-loob mong gagawin, at aakuin mo yung panibagong responsibilidad bukod pa sa kung anong meron ka ngayon. hindi ba mas makahulugan yun kesa sa "binigyan" ka ng pagkakataon (oras) na mag-volunteer.

in the end, parang madaya na rin yung nangyari. hindi ka naman talaga nag-volunteer, wala ka lang magawa sa oras mo kaya nakigulo ka na rin. kung gusto mo talagang tumulong, tutulong ka kahit na kelangan mong mag-aral. sabi nga, magbigay ka hanggang masaktan ka. ang nangyari, pinadali ng ateneo ang pagbibigay.

they absolved the students of their responsibilities so that they can become man-for-others. di ba parang may mali dun?

Pao_B said...

I think that you don't give your school enough credit (not that it needs any from you).

But I see that you do understand the school's motives well. And I agree:

"..the ateneo doesn't want its students simply helping others per se. what it wants is for its students to be free to decide, and to help others of their own accord. it doesn't want to volunteer its students; it wants its students to volunteer."

And you're also right about another thing. Ateneo's gesture probably doesn't yield anything significant in real-world terms. The additional volunteer work resulting from the cancellation of exams probably amounts to just a small drop in a bucket. But I don't think that this should be the measure by which you judge the the Ateneo and conclude, "the real world expects and deserves much more/better from you."

The Ateneo is not the military, it's not the government. The school is concerned with the formation of its students. And in this time wherein each Atenean is suddenly gifted with an opportunity to give of himself for the benefit of others, Ateneo's act of standing aside to allow that personal decision to blossom on its own in the hearts of its students is EXACTLY what we should expect from the school.

It is not the school's duty to do good. It is there to lead the way, to show us the way. The duty to do good is no one else's but ours. The duty belongs to Ateneans.

macoy said...

@albert, parang bineybi nga ang mga atenista.

@pao, i find it ironic that you defend the ateneo by saying its gesture didn't yield anything significant and that it's not its duty to do good. these statements are harsher than any of my own criticisms-- and also not true. the ateneo did (and continues to do)a lot of good, and doing good is everyone's duty.

Anonymous said...

hindi parang. talagang binebeybi ang mga atenista - sa maraming bagay. kaya "pagbaba ng burol", ayun, lutang pa rin.

ateneo has a penchant for romanticizing things. part of my being an atenean has died a long time ago.

- lucy

Anonymous said...

"...don't embarrass yourself, ateneans. you didn't call off the UAAP finals games or the victory bonfire that followed for humanitarian reasons, and the need for volunteers then was every bit as urgent and even more immediate than it is now. calling off final exams and hoping for the best might be made to look good on a memo or an uplifting open letter, but the real world expects, and deserves, much, much better from you." - fix'd

Ateneo is a school. I believe that the Ateneo didn't do anything wrong.

You have a point. But you exaggerated on some. The Ateneo doesn't embarrass itself by not calling off the UAAP games or the victory bonfire. It is celebration for the Ateneans but it doesn't mean that the Ondoy mark left their hearts.

And I think that the cancellation was partly for those ravaged by Ondoy. Or it's just me...

Please. Just delete the "don't embarrass yourself" part. It sounds as if the world requires.


macoy said...

hi mil,

the reason i used the word "embarrass" is because i feel it's shameful that the ateneo would rather cancel academic finals than postpone a couple of basketball games.

and the reason i used the word "ateneo" instead of "ateneans" is because the decisions came from the ateneo. or the administration, at least.

yes, ateneo is a school, it is an institution. but it is still run by people. and when those people make bad decisions, the shame falls partly on the name of the institution, as well.

macoy said...


pagbaba ng burol, lutang parin. so true it hurts.

as for romanticizing... yeah. my absolute worst fear is that this is all just a prettied-up excuse for an early sembreak. though i don't think that's the case.

Anonymous said...

yung sa laro, hindi lang kasi ateneo magdedesisyon dun e. nasa uaap yun kung gusto nila ipostpone yung mga laro.

and i don't think it's about an early sembreak - the sem is even taking longer than the usual. finals have been called off but some teachers are still holding classes/finals/consultations. k. winfer was right - the memo could've been more decisive. basta. that's another issue altogether.

- lucy

ps: i'm free after the 30th *crosses fingers*


Anonymous said...

this is months too late but coming from the perspective of an atenean who was there when the VP herself and the rest of the school board decided to cancel the final exams and being one of the proponents of task force ondoy in Ateneo, I would like to say a few things.

1) ATENEANS (students, faculty, staff) were also affected by Ondoy. A significant number of community members lost their homes and worse, loved ones during the flood. Though the option of requiring everyone to join the relief operations was considered, it was scrapped in order to be sensitive to those who were really affected. In the words of our deans, faculty members and highest ranking officials, Ondoy affected everybody and not just those who lost possessions because all of us knew of at least one family or person who was hit by the floods. Requiring everyone to volunteer negates the very essence of volunteerism itself.

2. Ateneans went to the covered courts to volunteer. In fact, too many ateneans volunteered that there were points that we had to send some people to other relief ops venues like cubao and in pasig because there was a surplus of volunteers already. the outpour of student, faculty and alumni support was there and it was overwhelming.

those who did not go to our covered courts volunteered and even headed relief efforts in their own areas.

I believe that it is unfair that we be judged as babies for not being required to go there and help out. WE volunteered and WE helped out. We shoveled mud for hours on end, we carried dead animals, we cleaned roads and homes, we packed goods, we delivered goods.

Fact is, ATENEO TASK FORCE ONDOY was the biggest and most organized relief operations center in manila and government officials can attest to that.

We did not hope for the best. We did our best. The real world received much from us and you can ask the communities that we have helped and we have adopted to rehabilitate. even until now, months removed from the disaster, we still help in the rehabilitation of communities that were really affected.

please. suspend judgment. we did our part. do not judge us based on a memo that you read. you should have been there and we could have shown you that we aren't naive, we aren't spoiled and we aren't babies.

thank you.

macoy said...


read the post again. i wasn't criticizing the volunteers, task force ondoy or even ateneans in general. i was criticizing the school admin's decision to call off finals.

as for "you should have been there", i was there. for two days.

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