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No ‘abstain’ in upcoming CSC elections; students develop new electronic voting system

In a press conference on Thursday, Central Commission on Elections Medicine Commissioner Ivan Pulanco elaborated that they have removed “abstain” in the new system developed by Computer Science students, but voters could leave their ballots unanswered.

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(UPDATED March 10, 1:10 a.m.) There would be no “abstain” option in the upcoming Central Student Council (CSC) elections as the polls switch back to an electronic voting system developed by the University’s Computer Science students.

In a press conference on Thursday, Central Commission on Elections (Comelec) Medicine Commissioner Ivan Pulanco elaborated that they have removed the option—which won the CSC posts for president, vice president, auditor and treasurer in the last elections—but voters could leave their ballots unanswered.

“Unanswered means unanswered. That is our official stance. We are following the procedures conducted by the local elections in the Philippines for voters are allowed to leave positions blank and we don’t feel that it is proper to compel a student vote for an individual… So it’s not abstain, its unanswered,” Pulanco said.

This move is in accordance with the order of the Central Judiciary Board last year, which stated that including “abstain” in the ballots was a violation of Article X Section 5 of the UST Student’s Election Code of 2011 as ballots should only contain “the printed names of candidates, their positions and their parties , a box before each candidate’s name, serial number and the instructions” with no mention of an “abstain” option.

 

Thomasians develop new voting system

The Computer Science Society (CSS), in partnership with Comelec and the UST e-Service Providers (STEPS), developed the Evosys system, the very first electronic voting system developed by Thomasian students which they said would ensure fast, reliable, accurate and secured canvassing of votes through the use of the University’s local servers provided by STEPS.

“For this upcoming elections,  we will be hosting it with STEPS [with their] local servers…. It’s intranet, [meaning] within the internet of UST, so transferring of data will be fast,” CSS President John Regalado told reporters.

The elections last year became manual after the proclamation of elected officers in the 2016 CSC elections were delayed due to technical glitches with the Blackboard e-Learning Access Program, where the polls were hosted.

Evosys Project Manager Angel Luis Santos said the system would be more reliable than manual voting since “it requires a login to access the system and it automates the canvassing of votes” and that “the counting will be done by the system.”

Comelec Vice Chairman and Evosys Project Head Mely Cherrylyne Cruz said that Comelec, Potato Codes, an organization of Thomasian developers, and the Office for Student Affairs (OSA) decided it would be best that CSS would develop the system.

“There is no other competition… outside UST. [Developers outside the campus] cannot develop the software for UST because that would bring about concerns on outside influence, etc. This is why we chose specifically and only CSS,” Cruz added.

Santos also ensured the election’s security, saying that the system “underwent rigorous testing from developers and some faculty members of the Computer Science department.” She also said the system is secure from hacking since votes can only be accessed within UST’s local servers.

 

Security, technical concerns

Santos demonstrated the new voting process, which involves verification of voters by assigned deputies, the actual voting of students, submission of all votes and upon completion, and the acquisition of reference numbers as proof that a student has finished the entire voting process.

While students would be using their student numbers as theirs username in voting, Comelec Chairman Arvin Bersonda said that the password would be unique in every voting session and that it would come from verifiers.

“Malalaman lang namin yung password nila on the day that they will vote, on the day they were verified as a Thomasian voter kasi we have verifiers, sila yung mag-eencode and ‘dun palang nila makukuha yung access code nila sa elections upon entry sa [computer laboratory],” he added.

Bersonda said that if computer units crash during the voting period, the system would only process finished and submitted ballots so that students could still resume voting.

To accommodate all voters,  there would be an allotted time for every individual to vote, according to Allan Theo Hernandez, OSA’s staff for student activities.

University-wide mock elections held to earlier today to test the system. The filing of the certificates of candidacy would be on March 21; elections are set to be held in April .—B. Laforga

EDITOR’S NOTE: Dates regarding the exact schedule of elections and proclamation of officers were removed due to disputing claims from officers of Comelec.

 

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UST crisis management committee green lights F2F bacc mass and graduation rites

The in-person graduation ceremonies shall be for the Classes of 2020, 2021, and 2022 from the tertiary, post-baccalaureate, and graduate levels.

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The University’s Crisis Management Committee approved the conduct of in-person graduation ceremonies, including Baccalaureate mass, a memorandum from the Office of the Secretary-General (OSG) said on Saturday, May 7.

The in-person graduation ceremonies shall be for the Classes of 2020, 2021, and 2022 from the tertiary, post-baccalaureate, and graduate levels.

Only the Class of 2022 will have in-person rites for Senior High School graduates.

Two Baccalaureate masses for the said batches will be held in June. 

According to the OSG, this year’s mass will be “solemn and austere” to express solidarity with the “plight of many people who are still recovering from the ill effects of the pandemic, Thus the traditional fireworks display at the conclusion of the mass will be scrapped this year. 

The solemn investiture shall be conducted starting June 6 either on the Quadricentennial Pavilion or the Medicine Auditorium, schedules may vary per college or faculty. 

Only two companions are allowed to be with each graduating student.

Local graduation committees shall conduct respective orientations for the said batches.

The University, however, shall “strictly abide” by the regulations of the Inter-Agency Task Force, should there be changes in the alert level status in the National Capital Region. 

Ian Patrick Laqui
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UST among top universities in 2022 SDG impact rankings

Among the Philippine universities, the University placed second in Gender Equality (SDG 5), while ranking third in Good Health and Well-being (SDG 3) and fourth in Quality Education (SDG 4).

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(Photo courtesy of Aliah Danseco/TomasinoWeb)

EDITOR’S NOTE: An earlier version of this article mentioned that the University “slipped from its third local standing last year.” We sincerely apologize for this mistake. 

The University ranked sixth among Philippine universities implementing the United Nations’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

According to the data published by the Times Higher Education’s (THE) Impact Rankings 2022 on April 29, UST placed 601-800 in the global rankings and maintained its third spot in the Philippines. 

The University also improved in its overall score. From 47.6-56.5 in 2021, it now received an overall score of 57.3-64.9 in 2022.

Among the Philippine universities, the University placed second in Gender Equality (SDG 5), while ranking third in Good Health and Well-being (SDG 3) and fourth in Quality Education (SDG 4).

Ateneo De Manila University remains the top implementer of SDGs in the country, placing 101-200 in the global rankings – the highest ranking received by any Philippine university, as per the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd).

Globally, Western Sydney University led the overall ranking this year, while Universiti Sains Malaysia led the Asian overall ranking.

The THE Impact Rankings measured 1,406 universities from 106 different countries and regions. THE carefully calibrated indicators to provide a comprehensive and balanced comparison across four broad areas: research, stewardship, outreach, and teaching. 

Justine Xyrah Rennzel Garcia
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Applicants call for transparency of USTAR results

The petition addressed to the concerns of the applicants regarding the screening, exception grades, program alignments, and grading process.

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More than a thousand applicants urged the Office for Admissions (OFAD) to disclose the procedure of the University of Santo Tomas Admission Rating (USTAR) through an online petition, as many applicants were “wondering” how they earned their scores.

The petition addressed the concerns of the applicants regarding the screening, exception grades, program alignments, and grading process. 

“The USTAR admission process is new and has many gaps; nevertheless, this should not prevent the university from disclosing the rigorous process to students, as it is their right to know,” the petition says. 

Petitioners appealed to the OFAD to address their concerns and called on the University to “integrate the values that have long been teaching to its students.” 

“If the institution is committed to its values, it should guarantee that our education serves the best interests of the students.” the petition says.

Conflicts on admission

Petitioners urged to preclude any presumed strand discrimination as a basis for getting accepted into the desired programs and display their alternative program scores for transparency.

There was also an allegation that no science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) students from UST Senior High School (UST-SHS) were qualified for any healthcare courses and Health Allied students were more prioritized.

Daniela Teñoso, a grade 12 STEM student and auditor of UST-SHS Student Council, explained that “no one” from her strand was accepted from any medical-related courses as she asked all of their blocks. 

“We were also informed that STEM students would qualify to these programs through exemption grades, that’s why we were all devastated when the results came out,” she said in an interview with TomasinoWeb.

Teñoso said that she was still glad that other STEM students from different schools were accepted but speculated why “none” from her batch was given a slot in these programs despite their achievements. 

“It was such a hard slap in the face to realize that our two years of hard work had all been for vain because our strands were deemed unfit for our desired programs,” she said.

Communication problems

Petitioners claimed that the office was “unresponsive” to emails, and only a “few” were able to make phone calls while other concerns were left unaddressed. 

Kyle Kevlar, a grade 12 student and also the external public relations officer of the UST-SHS, said that sending emails was the only way to communicate with the office since face-to-face transactions were still restricted.

“As the External Public Relations Officer of the UST-SHS Student Council, I firsthand witnessed the disappointment and stress of the students who wish to apply to the university,” in an interview with TomasinoWeb.

He added that there was a delay or that many applicants were unable to get the reference numbers that are used in their USTAR applications.

Lance Alo, a grade 12 UST-SHS STEM student who took part in initiating the petition, stated that other applications were not processed due to missing requirements that were only notified at the last minute or not at all. 

“This made us realize that the problem is systemic, and addressing it at the individual level will only exhaust all of us hence, why we launched the petition,” he said in an interview.

The petition suggested having an information system to notify students of deficiencies in requirements and also having a help desk for clarification and questions about the results and application of the USTAR.

Seek for resolutions

Alo affirmed the importance of resolving the gaps or concerns in the USTAR as he said that it could “help to ease the anxieties and disappointments faced by the students” and be an example to other institutions by being pro-student. 

“It can also serve as an inspiration to students all around the country since making their voices heard and acting collectively can go a long way,” Alo said.

He said that alongside other petitioners and student leaders, they also appeal for a dialogue with the office to clarify things further.

“We are ready to explain, organize, and fight for our fellow students,” Alo said

Teñoso said that the issues were not only a concern of their strand but also applicants that were denied being admitted to programs that were “clearly” aligned with their strands.

“Everything was so disheartening, and I’m looking forward to hearing what the administration has to say.”

The UST Entrance Exam (USTET) was waived for the second straight year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Hence, the score for USTAR is derived from a developed set of algorithms to assess the academic performance and records of the applicants. 

OFAD released the USTAR results via its portal on March 31.

TomasinoWeb reached out to OFAD through email about this matter but the office has yet to respond.

Marjorie Lumapas
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