Here’s to continue with my Top 13 things that made UP different from what it was 13 years before:
5. Chainsaw Massacre
Narra is our national tree, known for its sturdy wood that can survive the elements. But there’s one Narra that didn’t quite make it. Two or three years ago, smart people in the UP administration closed down Narra, the dorm under the pretense of its weak structure and asbestos ceiling. To emphasize further that it is no longer safe as a living quarter, a fire gutted out one of its wings.
Narra’s closure is similar to wiping out an entire community. It is genocidal. Narra is both witness and participant in the making of hictoric events in campus. It has not only provided shelter to many student leaders and scholars, it has provided the cheapest decent shelter. Without Narra, poor students would find it a lot more difficult to survive in campus.
4. SAMASA Wala Na
Of my four years in UP, the student political alliance SAMASA dominated the University Student Council for three years with chairpersons Ibarra Gutierrez (1996), Percival Cendaña (1997) and Cielo Magno (1999) at the helm. SAMASA’s candidate for chair during the 1998 elections was disqualified due to some unmet academic requirements but nonetheless, the council then, as far as I can remember, was dominantly SAMASA. In a somewhat unfortunate twist of fate, the alliance disbanded in the early 2000s, halting a tradition of enlightened activism that created a great contrast then with the other student alliances of either red (true left) or yellow (as in shallow). SAMASA was carrying the orange banner, fierce but reasonable; creative and open-minded; scholar and activist.
3. Ayala Technohub
In 1996, I joined a protest march from UP to Malacañang to condemn the mixed-used development of one of UP’s idle properties: the Commonwealth Property Development Project. Today, the Ayala Technopark stands there hosting business process outsourcing firms, laboratories for start-ups and commercial establishments. Whether this is a form of commercialization of education or a manifestation of the government’s tacit withrawal of responsibility in providing free higher education or UP’s enterprising solution to be financially independent from state budget and state politicians, I do not have the answer. Let history be the judge.
Ikot are jeepneys that shuttle UP populace around the campus. In my freshman year, fare was at P1.25. Today, one has to shell out P6.00 to get around the campus. That’s another reason why walking should be embraced as a preferred mode for getting around. Unabated oil price hikes and subsequent fare increases of public transport are symptomatic of a failed policy of deregulating the downstream oil industry, enacted into law in 1998.
The most dramatic change in UP education system is the adoption of the Revitalized General Education Program IN 2002. Its precursor, the then General Education Program (GEP) laid down the meaning of a UP Education: “to cultivate a capacity for independent, critical and creative thinking, and to infuse a passion for learning with a high sense of moral and intellectual integrity. This is the liberal arts education that makes the U.P. student a well-rounded person and ready for lifelong learning skills.” All UP students therefore, in their first two years in UP, share a common core of multidisciplinary courses- Arts and Humanities, Natural Sciences, Mathematics and Social Sciences- that serves as the building blocks for eventually choosing one’s own specialization.
Today, the noble objectives remain the same. But the process has been dramatically modified. In the spirit of liberalized education, students are given free choice to pick the subjects of their own choosing from three prescribed domains: Arts and Humanities, Social Sciences and Philosophy, and Mathematics, Sciences and Technology. The RGEP is summarized thus as “the entire R.G.E.P.’s freedom of choice concept aims at infusing a passion for learning among students as they are expected to respond more eagerly to courses they choose instead of courses they have no interest and required to take.”
Interestingly, students have become motivated not to expand their passion for learning but to only choose courses that are either sexy or easy. The free market of ideas is distorted by inept faculty handling some courses, and the students’ insatiable thirst not for real knowledge but for high grades.
To end this trip down memory lane, I must say that UP has indeed changed during the last decade- some changes were unfortunate and quite restrictive of the freedom once felt by the people in the university: gates and tight security, UP ID, billboards, closure of Narra, tuition fee increase, etc. The other changes are quite progressive: carless oval, bike lane, expanded ROTC, and oh, I forgot to mention this but the Maninindas are now prohibited to sell cigarettes inside the campus.
The remaining changes that I’ve mentioned particularly RGEP and UP-Ayala Technohub can only be judged by history as to whether these are steps forward or backward.
UP in the last 13 years shares the lot of the last lost decade of this sad republic: one step forward…and downward.
Part 1 here