12 March 2020Dear Members of the UP Diliman Community,
Yesterday, the World Health Organization officially declared COVID-19 a pandemic. Since my statement two days ago, the Department of Health has reported a rise in the number of COVID-19 cases in different parts of Metro Manila. Sadly, UP Diliman has not been spared by the growing epidemic. As of today, three members of our community have been identified as PUIs and are confined in nearby hospitals. Rest assured that we will inform you of the test results as soon as these are available.
We have to remain calm, alert and vigilant as the epidemic moves fast through our communities. UP Diliman must do its part in containing the spread of the epidemic. In this regard, we will continue to suspend official travel and public events until further notice. Beginning Monday, March 16, all classes will shift to online mode. These are drastic, but necessary measures that universities in other countries, such as Singapore, Thailand, South Korea, the US and Italy, have also taken to protect the health of their communities.
These containment measures, however, need not paralyze us as an institution. Thus, we have asked our faculty to adjust their syllabi and requirements, and shift to online teaching. The UP Open University will be holding a webinar on Google Classroom tomorrow. There are no more available slots, but the webinar video will be streamed and be made available for download from the UPOU website.
Students are also encouraged to explore alternative modes of learning with their instructors. Faculty are reminded to refer to the online instruction guidelines issued by the OVCAA and the OVPAA. To support research, access to our online library services will continue. Student support services will likewise carry on. Our University Food Service are providing meals to students who are staying in the dorms and our offices will remain operational with a minimal workforce.
Work and classes in UP Diliman should continue, despite COVID-19. We just have to shift to a different mode- one that is resilient and agile. Heads of units are requested to work out the details of these arrangements at the level of their offices and disciplines.
There is another important reason for the measures we have taken, apart from ensuring our collective health. In delaying the spread of disease, this containment period will allow UP Diliman to prepare its units to better respond to COVID-19. It is a time for assessing and building our capacities, and planning for long-term preparedness. Here, we are ensuring that our health service and workforce and other services are equipped and supported to be able to effectively and sustainably do their work.
More critically, we want to prepare our communities – faculty, students, REPS, staff, barangay residents– to respond collectively, rather than individually, to the crisis. We hope to set up mechanisms that will engage everyone in shaping community-based and community-led responses. We have to involve the barangays within and around UP Diliman, our contractual workers, Ikot jeepney drivers, ambulant vendors, and informal settlers, who are more vulnerable than many of us. These include the women in our communities who oftentimes serve in the frontlines providing care and support to their families, and our healthcare systems.
As I emphasized last time, the most effective response to public health emergencies is our ability as a community to come together. And I now wish to add: in any public health crisis, the burden of risk falls more heavily on the vulnerable and the marginalized. The university must also respond to COVID-19 with a view to addressing the inequities that have been deepened by the pandemic.
Finally, amidst news of a possible lockdown, we hope that restrictions will not unduly undermine academic freedom, individual liberties and community life. Mobilizing people’s cooperation and participation through public information and health education is still key in a public health emergency.
Our campus will continue to be open to joggers, bikers and those who wish to relax and destress during these most stressful times, for as long as they practice social distancing and other precautionary measures.
I will continue updating you as we get more information about the developments on the local epidemic. I thank everyone for your cooperation and your commitment to our work in spite of the challenging situation. Please keep safe and healthy.
Fidel R. Nemenzo