In May 2014, I started to serve as Chairperson for the BA Multimedia Studies program of UPOU. It was strange every time a BAMS student congratulated me for my promotion. I would thank them, but I would explain to them why it was not a promotion. I had already been serving as the Chair for the Diploma in Computer Science program and I was quite content over there. Students over there need very little guidance and there isn't a lot of things in DCS that needed guiding. Whereas BAMS.... ugh. Let's just say there is an unending supply of issues that need addressing.
At best it was a move sideways. If anything, the only thing the move adds is workload... a heavy workload. But the previous BAMS PC was leaving UPOU and my colleagues seemed to believe that I was the one left who was suited to take over.
My first trimester as BAMS PC was particularly draining. Aside from my predecessor, another colleague went on hiatus and I had to assume his role as well, and that included handling Multimedia Studies 100, the first major course all BAMS students have to take. Before I even realized it, I was doing the work of two faculty members.
This was also the first time we admitted passers of the most recent UP College Admission Test who explicitly wanted to come in. The influx of more students fresh out of high school has led me to believe major changes for UPOU are in order, but that is something for me to write about in another time. What I will say right now, however, is that this was a new frontier for me in so many ways.
I thought MMS 100 went as well as I could hope. But it wasn't bereft of kinks. Most of the people in the class were new students, a few of which couldn't seem to grasp a few things, including what the word deadline meant. Others had trouble following instructions, and yet hope, or worse, expect that I turn a blind eye on it.
While I couldn't be bothered to be angry with the students, I did find the whole thing exasperating. That prompted me to write the following for them:
The hard lesson of accountability
Class, this will probably be the most serious post I will ever write here, so please pay attention. I might be tired right now, but rest assured, I do not write this out of anger or any other negative feeling.
I can imagine I'm probably not very popular right now in class because of my seemingly hard-line stance with regards to your most recent assignment. But let me tell you.... none of this is new to me.
You are all talented and intelligent people. You wouldn't be here otherwise. But that is only half the battle.
There was this time when I found myself in a similar situation. I didn't know any better back then. So, out of exasperation, I actually went to Facebook and mulled in the open, that went something like this:
If there are students making excuses and asking for consideration about deadlines and submissions, and giving failing marks. Should I be lenient?
The answer was an overwhelming NO.
And mind you, many of my friends are alumni from UP and other prominent universities who know exactly what some of you are feeling right now. This is a reflection of a harsh reality:
Nobody feels sorry for UP students having trouble with their academics and schedules.
While some of you might be complaining of high tuition fees, the fact of the matter is that despite that you are still largely subsidized by revenues from taxes. Nobody likes the feeling of strangers wasting their money. When you slack, you waste other people's money.
Soon enough you are going to be vocal social commentators on what is wrong with this country, this university or even me (yes, it's happened in the past). And if you aren't already, one day you will be an angry taxpayer reading and watching about graft and corruption. And then you will understand where I'm coming from to the fullest.
Here is the thing. I set ground rules right at the beginning. Nobody complained back then. That means you unconditionally accepted my terms and I hold you to that, even if you didn't bother reading them.
Again, excuses are supposed to be made prior to a deadline, to help ensure that I can work a compromise with you. I even gave consideration to someone who asked for it two hours before the deadline. In a previous class, a student even messaged me literally five minutes before the deadline about his difficulty in uploading his assignment (something which I will no longer entertain again). I relent as long as I think I can work something out with him or her. But alas, that is no longer possible after the deadline lapses. Just like you, I have my own deadlines to meet. I compromise my own ability to meet them everytime I accommodate you.
Now, how about understanding instructions? Same thing. The support forum is more than just for asking why this quiz item or youtube link isn't working. It's for seeking clarifications about how to go about with your requirements, not just with me, but with the entire class. Let me tell you, collaborative learning is a thing of beauty to witness when it happens. It's a little sad that it's only really picking up right now, in the wake of the mishaps in [your last assignment] and with less than a month left in the trimester.
Now, while it doesn't really anger me because I believe they still have a right to do so, I really can't help but roll my eyes and smile when students who didn't bother reading instructions intently or seek clarification or failed to meet a deadline they implicitly agreed to still has the nerve to ask for consideration.
Now, please, stop sending me messages asking me to reconsider crediting assignments that are either late or are not displaying properly. I've read them all. In turn, I will point out to you that both aspects are completely your responsibilities.
Looking back, I don't know if I got through to my students. To a handful, I most likely did. But as for the rest who remained silent, I guess I'll only know if and when I see them wearing their sablay. But in some ways, I really am glad I caught this early on in this batch of students' residency. I can only hope that this early lesson in accountability is well-learned for all our sakes.