Friday, April 8, 2011

The Role of the Student Regent in Defining the University of the People

By Krissy Conti

There are many ways to define the University of the Philippines (UP), but it is most compelling to call it the “University of the People.” After all, we have staked a claim on “socially responsible and relevant education” for the better part of a century.

The university is in a prime position today to realize, if not reconstruct, the notion of service to the people. By sheer overuse over time, it may have become trite and confusing.

In the generic sense, “people” pertains to the public. It is more familiar to say that UP serves public interest via its legions of alumni serving in government, people’s organizations and yes, even private institutions which have social responsibility programs. Any outward form of public activity not tooled for private interest thus becomes public service. Here, the common values are altruism and selflessness.

Without proper grounding, this could become a dangerous declaration. Public service becomes an instrument of charity, rather than of responsibility; an undertaking after graduation, rather than during matriculation.

The people we seek to serve have been identified by our own studies, surveys and reports. Majority of the Filipino people are rural-based workers who do not enjoy economic equality (conservative data say 18% of families go hungry and 49% rate themselves poor).

UP knows that the service is urgent and already offers tailored co- and extra-curricular programs, such as barrio-based community work, legal aid to indigents, and return service obligations for medical students. These immersion activities and direct services underscore that public service entails physical closeness and self-effacing productivity to be most effective.

As the public epitome of the UP student, it is the task of the Student Regent to help every student imbibe this spirit of service in applying his holistic education. After all, the training in UP is precisely designed to equip every student with the values of integrity and excellence, not only in academic endeavors. The Student Regent must show how it is to learn, not simply study.

The Student Regent must be well-meaning in pursuing people’s interests, and in the course of the task not merely represent, but protect and advocate for the students. As the students’ spokesperson, together with other student leaders, he has the responsibility to campaign for pro-student policies that ensure quality and accessible education, principled participation in campus activities and university decision-making.

As the model “iskolar ng bayan”, the Student Regent has to be the most accessible policymaker in the university. He represents the ordinary people’s investment in a better future. He is the closest and most powerful advocate the marginalized – whether cultural, political, or social minorities – can have in this university. Besides, as a public official, the Student Regent is statutorily required to be accountable in his dealings with his direct and expanded constituencies, and especially so with taxpayer funds and government activities.

Ultimately, the Student Regent’s role is to dissolve the individualism of both the student sector and the student. It has always been the Student Regent’s historic task to secure consensus among all sectors for key issues such as sufficient budget for education and democratic governance. Collective action is our – at 55,000 students we are the largest sector in the university – most potent defense against grown-up world-weariness.

Even as many paths lead us out of this University, at one point in time we will find ourselves, older and wiser, yet coming together again as our petty personal problems merge and fuse with larger political crises. If there is anything the Student Regent must show us, it is that, in the words of one of our own, “only those who choose to fight on the battlefield live beyond irrelevance."

(The quote is from Chief Justice Puno's message to the National Union of Peoples' Lawyers at its founding Congress in September 2007)

Program of action

A) To maximize participation in the Board of Regents

1) Conduct periodic policy reviews and author necessary policy reforms
     a) on system academic policies such as on admissions, financial aid and loans,curriculum reforms, faculty diversity
     b) on the University's land use plan, for the site permanency of several campuses, arrangements for masjid in campuses, assessment of demolitions of UP communities
     c) on University tie-ups with private entities and other private-public partnerships, as well as land leases
     d) on academic policies which affect the overall atmosphere of learning in the University
     e) on more gender-responsive policies in the university

2) Establish effective relations with the constituencies and enhance the level of awareness system-wide on pressing University issues
     a) Conduct regular unit hops
     b) Designate an official OSR liaison per campus
     c) Convene the local organizations
     d) Conduct Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao Students' Conventions

3) Participate in sectoral regents' caucuses

B) To strengthen the institution

1) Release regular BOR reports and quarterly summing-up papers
2) Set up a website, web portal or other new media channels for faster information
dissemination and communications across the system
3) Review and reassess the flexibility of the Codified Rules of Student Regent
4) Follow up the prosecution of former student regent Hannah Serana
5) Highlight the history of the Office of the Student Regent via a regent's reunion,
an exhibit

C) To prepare the students for their role in the people's struggle

1) Open the OSR and its resources as a mechanism for students to campaign on
pertinent national issues and concerns, such as but not limited to
• Accountability for human rights violations
• Adequate government allocations in social services, especially education
• Accountability for corruption
• Accountability for worsening economic conditions
• Education for all Filipinos that is free and emancipating
• Science and technology geared towards national industrialization
• Mass-oriented culture
2) Encourage alternative, supplemental or complementary education inside and
outside the classroom
3) Expand capacity-building efforts with student leaders' trainings, discussions on
operating a student council, and the like
4) Link up with external sectors and organizations in advancing causes
     a) Convene the Multi-sectoral Assembly

(Krissy Conti is the newly-elected University of the Philippines Student Regent)

1 comment:

  1. this article would resonate well with UP students of two or more decades ago... i wonder if it will with the current students......


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