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New UPD Chancellor presents 3-year agenda for UPD

(January 30)—The public got a taste of what will happen in the next three years when UPD Chancellor Caesar A. Saloma dispensed with formal investiture rites and opted for simple convocation of the UPD community last December 8, 2011 as his inaugural ceremony.

With all of UPD work and classes suspended starting 4 p.m., the community gathered at the University Theater to hear Saloma’s plans for the next two years of his term.

Armed with little more than a pointer and pluck, Saloma began his presentation by outlining four main goals for UP as mandated by its 2008 Charter: for it to be a “graduate university, a research university, a public service university and a recognized regional and global university” by achieving operational and academic excellence.

He highlighted three key indicators by which to measure how well UP is performing as the country’s national university: the generation of new scientific knowledge, creative and influential scholarly works and the production of PhDs, scholars, scientists, researchers and artists who will replace the current generation of UPD experts.

Saloma cited the most recent survey showing that 40 percent of UPD’s PhD-degree-holding faculty are aged 56 years and above.

PhD graduates play a large role in these indicators, and as such a reward system is being created to encourage PhD mentoring among UPD professors. In addition, the research done by the PhD graduates add to the country’s scientific knowledge, which Saloma referred to as the “fuel for technological innovation which drives the knowledge-based economy.”

Another initiative is the revival of the university professorship system, led by a committee under the College of Arts and Letters’ Dr. Priscelina Legasto. The committee is tasked to review the selection criteria to make it stricter.

Strengthening intellectual property rights mechanisms is also on the agenda, with an ethics committee being created to overseethe prompt and proper disposition of allegations of scientific misconduct, a critical component of any scientific enterprise.

Another major change is to be made to the current RGEP program, which underwent a long-overdue review last October 2011 in a GE conference held at the NIP auditorium. If approved by the BOR, instead of a cafeteria-style system where students have the freedom to choose all 45 of the general education units required, they will need to take a certain number of pre-prescribed units such as Science, Technology and Society, Komunikasyon 1 and Kasaysayan 1.

There are also plans to develop a student manual, whose scope will extend beyond UPD’s current Student Handbook to include not just a code of student conduct but also serve as a true guide to university life. The manual is expected to be released in Academic Year 2012-2013.

Saloma also noted his administration’s research priorities for the remainder of his term will focus on those that will become sources of solutions initially for UPD but should eventually have a wider impact on the country.

“We want UPD to provide solutions to the larger society. So for example, we should have the best university hospital so we can tell the rest of the higher education system this is the way a university hospital [should be],” he noted.

Patching leaks.The other half of Saloma’s talk revolved around both streamlining and expanding UPD; streamlining in terms of utilities such as power and water supplies and expanding in terms of creating new sources of income and infrastructure projects.

He cites 2010 statistics for UPD’s power consumption, pegged at P175 million for the entire campus and increasing at a rate of P9 million annually. Part of the problem is the idea of minimum power demand, where each building in UPD is bound to pay a fixed amount of money for electricity regardless of their actual consumption.

“In order to have the full impact of our effort to green UP, we have to address the guaranteed minimum power demand. And Meralco [Metro Manila’s power distributor] is very willing to adjust it,” he says.

A similar situation is being faced for the University’s other key resource: water. UPD’s water bill for 2010 was pegged at P72 million for some 29,000 official stakeholders, translating to a water bill of about P2,500 for each constituent.

As a result a re-piping of the UPD water lines is in the works, which will also serve as a survey of possible leakages and illegal lines tapped into the University’s water system.

Security is a crucial but controversial issue in open UPD, with a rash of thefts and incidents that occurred over the holidays adding urgency to the matter. Some of the immediate measures Saloma introduced are the appointment of a Chief Security Officer from among the UPD faculty as well as the creation of a safety and welfare committee from the ranks of both academic and residential stakeholders.

He hopes that the eventual introduction of technology-based solutions such as security cameras as well as better training and equipment support for the University’s current security forces will help strengthen UPD security.

Infrastructure. Several existing landmarks and structures in UPD are up for renovation and rehabilitation, some due to necessity, others by design.

The UPD Lagoon, one of the most enduring and recognizable landmarks in UPD, is undergoing a rehabilitation of sorts with the renovation of its old open-air theater through the efforts of a student fraternity.

Recognizing importance of sports and in building the UPD community’s morale, plans were made to renovate the water pump of the old swimming pool near the University Arcade and the basketball goals inside the College of Human Kinetics gym.

Some of the oldest and most iconic buildings on campus are up for renovation. Palma and Bartlett Halls, home to the College of Social Science and Philosophy and the College of Fine Arts, are due for some much needed maintenance.

To recover precious academic space and further foster a sense of camaraderie and unit among the studentry, all student “tambayans” will be relocated to Vinzon’s Hall, which will be repaired and reinvigorated to accommodate such purposes.

But it is not just the old places in UPD that are being given attention to. Funds to complete the site development of the Engineering Research and Development for Technology along C.P. Garcia are now being sourced, while finishing touches to the National Science Complex are being done.

Saloma also revealed plans for a new sports complex, complete with an Olympic-size swimming pool that will become available for competitions even outside of UPD.

There are also plans to continue and expand on the 1994 Diliman Land Use Plan to include areas that can be used for resource generation. Saloma made special mention of the area in and around the Philippine Coconut Authority (Philcoa) building.

Also on Saloma’s mind is the creation of an Office of the Vice Chancellor for Planning and Finance to help take on much of the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Administration’s workload, such as matters concerning business concessions and land use.

The new office, according to him, will have a several functions and a strong scientific research component and will create, among other things, multiple revenue stream models for UPD.  

Intermission.Interspersed between his speech were two musical acts, poet-composer Jess Santiago,  singing “Himig Natin” by the Juan dela Cruz Band, and the UP Madrigal Singers performing “Iisang Bangka” by the Dawn.

Saloma finished the event with a promise to hold another one in 2012 to report on the administration’s progress.—Anna Kristine Regidor