STATEMENT | Reclaiming what is rightfully ours

The following is the official position of the University Student Council (USC) on the proposed renovation of the Student Union Building. The office of USC, the Textbook Exchange and Rental Center (TERC), and the UPLB Perspective will be affected by the said renovation. This publication joins the USC in its call to reorient SU “with its true purpose – a haven for the promulgation of the rights, welfare, and holistic potentials of the Iskolar ng Bayan.”

The University has had its fair share of changes throughout the years. For years, students as well as its faculty and staff have witnessed its maternal growth and sharpening to the prestigious institution that it is today. The University of the Philippines Los Baños has always been an iconic and memorable place for much of our dear alumni and is considered a home to many of its students, faculty and staff alike. Indeed, it is safe to say that our beloved university has developed greatly since it was founded in the early 1900s.

This year, the UPLB University Student Council (USC) has been productive and abundant in activities that showcase nationalist, democratic, and pro-people advocacies to the UPLB studentry as well as advancing future plans and overcoming ordeals that will bear fruits of progress not just within the University, but also throughout local communities. Yet, in spite of it all, it will be up to the future student leaders to continue the things that we have started, to uphold the rightful promises that we have set as the highest governing body of the students. However, with that being said, we will still continue perform the mandate given to us.

For the longest time, the campaign for the reclamation of the Student Union building has been a joint effort of the UPLB USC and the UPLB Perspective, the official student publication of UPLB. But we are now faced with a dilemma that has been transpiring for years and it is of utmost concern for us, as this has been passed down for years and is now starting to become a reality. This matter falls upon the relocation of the offices of the UPLB USC along with UPLB Perspective, and the Textbook Exchange and Rental Center (TERC).

During the administration of former Chancellor Luis Rey Velasco, the UPLB USC and the UPLB Perspective were informed that the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Planning and Development (OVCPD) had proposals to relocate the offices of the student institutions to the basement of the said building. When explored further, it was found out that the university plans to construct commercial establishments within the Student Union building; after all, these would “benefit” the university as it will generate income that would shoulder the insufficient government subsidy to the University of the Philippines System.

As for the plans regarding the Student Union building, it is still unclear whether or not the offices affected by the renovations will be retained in their current locations. The UPLB USC has been officially informed of this possibility only until we requested a dialogue with the current administration, particularly with the Business Affairs Office (BAO), regarding this pressing matter. From this dialogue and subsequent conversations with concerned officials, it was clarified that the offices of the student institutions would be placed temporarily in the basement of the Student Union building until the construction of a new student center to be located in the UPLB Post Office.

In the effects that we would be moved to the basement of the Student Union building, we fear that it would bring upon us severe difficulties. Flooding that would result to destruction of materials in our offices, low level of cellular signals which will hinder smooth communication, poor accessibility which may lead to low student participation are some of the potential threats to maintain our work efficiency.

Even before we were consolidated and seated in the UPLB USC, we already had initial proposals in line for the Student Union building that serves to reinstate its original function of being a student center that was catered by the students for the students as it was when it was first established. Seeing as that may not be the case in our present time, we are still hopeful that one day this precedence may yet again turn towards its form of genuineness and that when we look back upon this, we could truly say that the efforts that we have put in as the UPLB USC were not of false efforts and false hopes. To get things straight, we see the issue at hand not merely as relocation of our offices but as part of a grander but graver scheme that is commercialization of education. In a nutshell, commercialization is the overarching problem that disorients the real essence of education – it treats education as a commodity instead of a right that should be afforded to all. It haunts us by focusing on income-generating projects instead of focusing on academic and social matters. More unfortunately, it justifies the worsening conditions of the education sector as the government continues to abandon its obligation to guarantee education to all. Furthermore, there is still cause for concern on our end as it is very crucial as we represent the students, being the highest governing body of the University’s student body, we must put forward the best interests that would benefit our institution and would not dissatisfy the expectations of those who have entrusted the well-being of the UPLB studentry to us.

Going deeper, the relocation of the offices of our student institutions and the construction of a student center without democratic student consultation clearly reflects how the university administration treats the students. Granting that they were working under the guise of good faith, it is still imperative and a mark of good governance to consult the student body, or at the minimum, the student institutions representing them. With all that said, we are ever grateful to the UPLB administration for their efforts to uphold students’ rights and welfare but more than that, we challenge them to be with us in this endeavor, base their decisions with the students’ best interests, and join us in our fight against state abandonment on education and to uphold our right to education. We also hope that they would understand the predicament and the difficulties that come along with it. We hope that with them, we may be united in overcoming this predicament and attaining our rightful domains as institutions.

On a last note, while we welcome the plan of the current administration to construct a new student center, we believe that the Student Union building already exists for such purpose. It is just a matter of reorientation and reclamation of what is truly ours. We envision a Student Union Building that would serve as center for student socialization and growth. We envision a Student Union Building administered by the students themselves. We envision a Student Union Building that would cater to the needs of students – function halls for forums, meeting places for academic work, venues for rehearsals, above others. We invite everyone to join us in fulfilling this vision to uphold the true essence of the Student Union Building; a haven for the promulgation of the rights, welfare, and potentials of the Iskolar ng Bayan.

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