Words by Noreen Donato and PB Yapjoco
In a [P] Live interview last August 26, chancellor hopeful Dr. Jose Camacho, Jr. once more promised the UPLB body of his vision of a “future-proofed” university.
“Ang ibig sabihin ng future proofing UPLB ay mapaghandaan natin ang mga pag-gambala – ang mga tinatawag nating disruptions, mga dislocations, disturbances,” the current Graduate School (GS) dean said.
Aside from being a future-proofed UPLB, Camacho aims to help, as the national university, in developing the country.
“Habang inihahanda natin ito, ang ating angking talino at kagalingan ay s’yang maging susi ng kaunlaran ng bansa at maiangat ang mas nakakarami na mahihirap at makita ng buong mundo ang kagalingan ng UPLB,” Camacho added.
He emphasized that in future-proofing UPLB, human resources such as the students, faculty, staff, and researchers should be the center of it.
BOR to support student welfare
Amidst the fear that the Board of Regents (BOR) will be tone-deaf again with the concerns of the students, UPLB chancellor nominee Camacho believed that the board still values the welfare of its constituents.
“Sa aking palagay ang mga rehente, hindi naman ‘yan mga bato. May anak din ‘yang mga ‘yan,” Camacho said when asked of his opinion with the tendency that the BOR would make an anti-student decision.
Camacho then cited UP President Danilo Concepcion’s consultation with UPLB students regarding the Maximum Residency Rule (MRR) and Readmission cases, where he was said to be also present on the day of that consultation.
He assured to review the matter first if the policy made by the BOR badly affects the welfare of the students before initiating sending a letter of concern.
“Bago ko gawin ‘yon ay pag-aaralan ko muna nang mabuti. Kukuha tayo ng mga datos at impormasyon para talagang mapasubalian kung ano man ang naging posisyon ng ating mga rehente. Hindi naman tayo basta-basta susugod at sabihing mali kayo,” Camacho said.
Should the letter be ignored, Camacho said that he will continue to express his concerns to the BOR until all parties reach a compromise.
On April 11, the students called out the BOR to end the second semester and give all enrolled students passing remarks. The board, however, still pushed to give a “deferred grade” scheme wherein the students should comply with the adjusted requirements in order to get a passing grade.
Meanwhile, regarding the MRR and readmission cases that became a big issue under incumbent chancellor Fernando Sanchez Jr., Camacho said that he will immediately harness the existing system and guidelines to avoid delays.
“I-meet agad natin kasi urgent ito e. Bawat pagdelay at pagdiscard ay nakasalalay ang kinabukasan ng bawat estudyante. Magkakaroon tayo ng sistema, magkakaroon tayo ng meeting kaagad-agad, i-convene natin kaagad ito,” he pointed out.
However, for the possibility of mass approval, Camacho said he will still weigh on this as the applications of the students still have to be reviewed before they are approved.
“Pero andun pa rin ‘yung kaisipan na kapag in-allow natin ang mga estudyante na magpatuloy sa pag-aaral, they still need to comply with the requirements and the standards of the university, the honor and excellence,” he added.
Stand on CHED response
Aside from the BOR, students also called out the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), claiming them to be tone-deaf and inconsiderate with their decisions.
With that, Camacho, the Chair on Technical Working Group and Co-Chair on Equivalency Accreditation on Graduate Education in CHED, was asked how a pro-student figure like him who ‘understands’ the concerns of the students deal with this perspective.
He said that the complaints of the students were forwarded to the administration and directors of CHED.
“Sa tingin ko, ang CHED ay nagreresponde ngunit may mga kailangan pang ayusin sa pagresponde, sa mga sistema na minsan ay nagiging balakid para maging responsive pa s’ya sa mga estudyante,” he explained.
Open for reconsiderations
Despite his decisions and stance in some issues like the freshmen recruitment ban, Camacho stated that he is willing to discuss it with the constituents to achieve a better conclusion.
“Hindi ako magmamatigas ng ulo na isulong na i-ban ang freshman recruitment. Kung ito nga ay makakabuti sa mental health at wellness ng ating mga estudyante, then we push for it,” he said.
Camacho says that he will use data as a support to have a second look on the freshmen recruitment ban policy, reiterating the importance of it in decision-making.
During Pagliyab 2020, a forum for chancellor nominees, Camacho had expressed that he was in favor of the socialized tuition system (STS). He affirmed his stance in the [P] Live interview but stated that it is already impossible given the existence of free tuition law.
“Nandito tayo sa free tuition law, ‘yun ang polisiya natin na sinusunod. There’s no room for a socialized tuition system now,” he said.
Should he be granted the opportunity to become the next UPLB chancellor, Camacho promised to conduct a meeting every two weeks with the executive committee and the University Student Council (USC).
“Pero kung kinakailangan magmeet (emergency meetings) anytime of the week, ipapatawag sapagkat ‘yun naman ay nakasaad sa university code that any time pwedeng magpatawag ng meeting ang execom, ang university [student] council,” he said.
The chancellor nominee also vowed to make the Student Union (SU) building a safe place for the students and to open it 24/7.
“Mananatili ang mga estudyante nang walang pangamba at intimidation. Andon ‘yung pleasant atmosphere na ‘di kayo natatakot dahil merong security. Hindi n’yo na kailangan pang lumabas,” Camacho said.
He added that the students will have a sense of accountability and ownership of the SU building.
“‘Pag alam n’yo na inyo ‘yan, iingatan nyo ‘yan. Iproprovide ang security, may ilaw na ‘di ino-off,” he said.
Camacho also mentioned that the offices of the student institutions such as the USC and UPLB Perspective will not be removed, should there be a renovation of the SU building.
“Siguro magkakaroon muna tayo ng evacuation plan kung maapektuhan ang mga opisina ng student organizations. ‘Pag nalinis na ito, pababalikin natin,” he stated.
In his vision paper, titled “Future-Proofing UPLB: A Vision-Mission Statement,” Camacho discussed how with the advent of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, most students and faculty are hampered from gaining access to quality education and livelihood.
“With these stresses and uncertainties, it is important that UPLB is future-proof and lays-down a strong foundation to anticipate and adapt to change and confront the ‘next normal’ head-on with sheer determination and resolve,” Camacho wrote, while promising in his paper that there will be emphasis on the values of honor, compassion, and excellence.
In a critique of Camacho’s vision, the College of Economics and Management Student Council (CEMSC) commented that his approach is about improving leadership in initiatives such as knowledge generation, research application, and public service.
“Acknowledging the limitation and challenges the University faces, he aims to sustain UPLB’s relevance through the development of methods, approaches, and frameworks while minimizing the possible costs and impacts caused by unforeseen events, such as the COVID-19 pandemic,” the council wrote.
In addition to promises of an inclusive “university of choice,” with the “best and brightest” being recruited into the institution, CEMSC summarized a few more points of Camacho’s vision, including regular consultation and open communication with the university’s constituents and care for the students’ physical and mental wellbeing through free expression.
Camacho elaborated that he is looking into flexible modes of learning, in addition to creating the Center for Teaching-Learning Excellence (CTLE) through the integration of both the Learning Resource Center (LRC) and Interactive Learning Center (ILC).
Despite CEMSC pointing to the supposed lack of concrete plans for MRR-readmission concerns and for those who have no means to commit to remote learning, the council said that Camacho’s people-centered approach is long overdue. However, they noted that one must not put his plans in the highest regard.
“However, it is important to note that we should not put his visions on a pedestal because it is their mandate to safeguard their constituents in the first place. With this, it is vital that, as students of the University, we shall remain vigilant and anticipate that our heeds and demands do not fall into deaf ears,” CEMSC said.
Camacho leads polls
The Perspective conducted an open for all ‘Vibe Check’ poll on Twitter and Telegram last August 7, which gave people a chance to vote for their preferred chancellor candidate. With over 846 respondents on Twitter and 94 votes on Telegram, both polls showed a vast majority preferring Camacho (83.6% on Twitter, 86% on Telegram) over Azanza (1.8% on Twitter, 0% on Telegram) and Sanchez (1.8% on Twitter, 2% on Telegram). However, 12.8% remained undecided in Twitter, along with 12% in Telegram.
The All UP Academic Employees Union Los Baños also released an online survey on their Facebook page, asking, “Batay sa pagtatasa sa naging vision presentations ng mga nominado, sino sa kanila ang may pinakamaraming natuhog sa ating mga panawagan?” Out of the 243 respondents, 242 voted for Camacho, while only one voted for Sanchez. No votes were given for Azanza.
Beyond the polls, student and alumni organizations and institutions based in UPLB such as the Graduating School Student Council (GSSC), CPAf Graduate Students Association, SEARCA Scholars Association, and UPLB Economics Society (EconSoc) expressed their support towards Dr. Camacho Jr. through social media.
Along with a separate Twitter account called ‘@Dongismychancy’ and Facebook Group ‘Future-Proof UPLB Group,’ so-called Dean Dong Supporters continue to encourage other netizens to stand with Camacho, through sharing Camacho’s platforms and using the hashtag #AsensaDongUPLB.
Part of Camacho’s vision is “a future-proofed university where student welfare is fully minded, where needs are well-provided, and where the spirit of compassion is pervasive and palpable.” He also advocates for regular consultation with students as a means of upholding their rights and welfare. [P]
Screengrab from [P] Live