To push through only after student consultations
By ANDREW ESTACIO
Chancellor Fernando C. Sanchez, Jr. agreed to delay the renovation of the second floor of the Student Union (SU) building, which houses the offices of the Office of Student Affairs, student institutions University Student Council (USC) and UPLB Perspective, and the USC-run Textbook Exchange and Rental Center, until consultations with students are conducted.
The said postponement was put forward by the USC, college student councils, and this publication during their dialogue with the Chancellor on Friday, March 13.
“Klaro na there were no clear consultation [with] USC and [P], given in the previous admins, [there was] no communication [between admin and the student institutions],” USC Chairperson Allen Lemence said in the meeting.
“Ayaw n’yo rin po kaming paupuin sa mga meeting n’yo dahil sabi n’yo po ‘it’s purely engineering and managerial stuff’ which is not valid dahil karapatan po naming malaman yung napagpaplanuhan,” Jil Caro, Perspective Editor-in-Chief, told Sanchez.
The renovation plan was initiated during the term of Chancellor Luis Rey Velasco and was an original scheme of the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Planning and Development (OVCPD).The plan was to renovate the SU second floor and remove the USC, [P], and TERC offices to pave way for the extension of the OSA-Counseling and Testing Division (CTD) office. The said renovation has already an allotted budget worth P 27 million. The three offices will be relocated to the Student Center, a new building to be constructed at the Post Office area.
Sanchez said that he could not answer yet the specific time frame for the construction of the Student Center for he needed the availability of funds to justify the feasibility. “There’s a restriction of monetary resources. Kailangan kong makakuha ng external funding. When the money comes, there’s already a plan,” he said.
Caro asserted that the student institution offices should remain at the SU Building, considering the apparent problems with the specifics of Student Center, lack of democratic consultation, and the consensual refusal of the student institutions.
Sanchez gave an assurance, if ever the renovation would push through, the USC, Perspective, and Textbook Exchange and Rental Center (TERC) offices would still return to their original locations after. Temporarily, these offices would have to move to the basement of the SU Building.
Prof. Genaro A. Cuaresma, Assistant to the Vice Chancellor for Community Affairs, presented the body two choices for the temporary locations—at the rear of 7-11 or at the inner basement. The student representatives abstained from the decision and claimed that they be given until next week to consult the studentry.
Sanchez then included Caro, together with Lemence, in the Terms of Reference, the committee in charge of planning and management for the SU renovation and Student Center building.
‘Providing Basic Services, Not Commercializing’
Prior the dialogue, the USC spearheaded a manifesto signing to relay the issue of SU commercialization to the students. They gathered 1,417 signatures supporting the campaign to reclaim Student Union building as genuine student center for the promulgation of the students’ rights and welfare. In line with the campaign, a blackout protest was also held at the Humanities, which was convened by USC, Perspective, SLAM Aquino and other progressive alliances.
“Ang naisip dati namin, yung 2nd floor, may offices yung commercial establishment. Kapag commercial establishments, students are not in favor. We are interested in the renovation plan kung walang commercialization na magaganap,” Lemence said to Sanchez.
Sanchez pointed out, “we disagree on the definition of commercialization on the context na gusto n’yo. Ang sa akin, yung business establishments [are there] to serve the studentry. Basically, we just want to provide the basic needs. We need to have private individuals. Kaya may coffee shops, barber shops.” He added that there would be no commercial space in the second floor of SU.
The USC, in their statement, stands firm that the SU renovation is not merely relocation of their office but “a part of a grander scheme of commercialization of education.” Their call is to “re-orient SU to serve the students’ rights, welfare, and potentials” [P].