On stormy day, students wait in vain for tweets from CHED
JM TUAZON, GMA News08/02/2011 | 12:16 PM
As the rain poured Tuesday morning and flood waters rose in streets around Metro Manila, college students stared at mobile and computer screens waiting for word.Wake up CHED. Everybody uses twitter coz it's faster than text and its faster than your website.
Many were glued to Twitter for news of class suspensions before they attempted to venture into the wild wet yonder.
There was a drizzle of information from various sources, but none came from the central authority for the nation’s colleges and universities, the Commission on Higher Education (CHED).
“CHED wake up, wake up!" exclaimed student Marshall Murillo in one of the milder comments on Twitter about CHED’s absence on the Internet’s public address system.
Unlike the Department of Education and various other front-line agencies, CHED does not tweet, nor does it use any other social media to inform its tertiary-school constituents, who happen to be among the web-savviest demographic groups.
Several million Filipinos use Twitter, a large fraction of whom are college students who can access the micro-blogging site on their mobile phones or computers.
At the height of Typhoon Juaning last week, Malacañang used Twitter before any other media to announce the cancellation of university classes, ignoring CHED’s directive that only individual colleges and universities can do so. That is unless Storm Signal Number 3 is hoisted, in which case college suspensions are automatic.
CHED weathered a Twitter storm of criticism for its slowness in using web tools to reach the public.
At midday Tuesday, Malacañang again bypassed CHED and announced a blanket suspension of classes in all of Metro Manila's tertiary-level schools. Lacierda and his deputy Abigail Valte used their Twitter accounts again as their first option for delivering the information.
Fake CHED Twitter account
Not surprisingly, the vacuum of official information last week was filled by a fake CHED account. As the online clamor rose during Typhoon Juaning for CHED to issue advisories, a Twitter user decided to create an account bearing the name "@OfficialCHEDph," which posted several announcements purportedly coming from the commission itself.
One tweet, saying classes will resume the next day (on Thursday), even got more than 1,400 retweets on the platform.
The government, after verifying with CHED officials regarding the existence of the account, announced that the account was fake and was not set up by the commission.
The account has since been removed from the social networking site.
Decidedly analog in networked world
After these setbacks, CHED officials vowed they would soon get their digital house in order. But as college students awaited word Tuesday about class suspensions, a check with CHED’s web site showed that its last update was on July 25, an advisory about President Aquino’s State of the Nation address.
Information about storm-related class suspensions was trickling out through colleges’ Twitter accounts and then retweeted by students and news organizations, but no central authority was verifying and collating it for easy online access.
On television Tuesday morning, CHED’s executive director Julio Vitriolo appealed to students to call his office’s hotlines (441-1224, 468-0213) for updates, a decidedly traditional method aired via old media. Students tweeted that they couldn’t get through.
After the Typhoon Juaning debacle last week, when Malacañang essentially performed CHED's function, the agency announced that it would meet with stakeholders and consider the possibility of finally setting up its own social accounts.
In a phone interview Monday with GMA News Online, however, CHED’s Vitriolo said that they are not yet keen on setting up their own social networking accounts.
"Okay pa rin naman ang mga colleges and universities with the existing system," Vitriolo said. "Inaayos na lang iyong system of notifying CHED and their students."
The agreement during the meeting, Vitriolo said, was that the schools would have to notify CHED as soon as they decide to suspend classes, which the commission will then collate into a running list to be posted on its official website. As of Tuesday, however, its web site did not contain such a list.
He added that during the meeting, some schools shared their best practices when it comes to informing students of class suspensions, which include text blasts and social media accounts.
Still no Twitter
Asked if this meant CHED would now create its own accounts, Vitriolo said: "Pinag-aaralan pa iyan. Meron na kasi kaming official website, ang redundant naman."
Despite recent studies showing that social networking users are mostly Filipinos aged between 15 and 30—the age group of most college students—CHED still refuses to use the medium for spreading information relevant to them.
Vitriolo explained that their apprehension stems from the probable loss of control over their social media accounts.
"Alam mo naman iyan, magulo, minsan hindi mo ma-control," he stressed.
Asked why it wouldn't follow the lead of the Department of Education (DepEd) in its social media practices, the CHED official said: "Eh iyon ang kanilang style. Kami, iba ang style namin. Right now we don't have a directive about that," he said.
He wanted to assure the public that during typhoons CHED will make sure that its website is updated about the schools that have already suspended their classes.
As of Tuesday afternoon, when monsoon rains were making many roads impassable, the CHED web site's most recent information was about colleges that cancelled classes on the day of the SONA more than a week ago.– HS, GMA News
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