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Protest hits first in Vizcaya university’s 80-year history

March 10, 2009 4:43pm
BAYOMBONG, Philippines – Students and faculty members from one of the oldest educational institutions in the Cagayan Valley region held a rally on Monday in what was believed by old timers as the first protest move seen by the school in its 80-year history.

Protesters demanded the immediate removal of Saint Mary’s University (SMU) school president Fr. Manuel Valencia for alleged unsound policies that faculty members said has placed the institution’s quality of education and accreditation ranking at risk.

One faculty member reported that majority of the school’s personnel and college level students from a population of about 6,000, have shown their dissatisfaction toward the policies of Valencia, who was only on his third year as school president.

Engineer Rodel Medestomas of the College of Engineering (CE) averred that among the unreasonable changes Valencia planned to accomplish is the merging of the CE with the College of Information and Technology (IT).

“Who in his right mind would want to enroll in an engineering course only to receive diploma with College of IT printed on it?" he said.

“One plan that really troubled us is Fr. Valencia’s proposed project to tear down our newly renovated cooperative building to be replaced with another chapel. How many chapels does a school need in the first place? We already have a chapel that is big enough, very modern and is still new." he said.

Members of SMUs Faculty and Employees Association (FEA) lamented that in his more than two years as president, Valencia has not really introduced worthwhile reforms or improvements in the school’s educational and management system.

“All he did was put up new buildings using FEA member’s welfare money. What will happen to us if we retire? We don’t even know how much these buildings cost; we were not even consulted," complained one FEA member, adding that Valencia also planned to sell the school’s agricultural and fish pond property which has served the employees for years.

Cesar Antonio, FEA public information officer and president of the SMU Employee’s Union, disclosed that university employees have complained of being left out whenever “critical decisions and issues" were being discussed by the Board of Trustees (BoT).

Among these were the planned merging of some colleges including the elementary and the high school department and forced retirements of faculty members at age 60.

Employees fear that the merging of schools and colleges may cause the displacement of their colleagues and possibly an adverse effect on the continuing accreditation process by the Philippine Accrediting Association for Schools, Colleges and Universities (Paascu).

“We believe we were not consulted in every decision that the administration made. As stakeholders of the academic community we have the right to be involved in critical decisions by the school administration," Antonio said.

A candle light prayer rally was held after protesters said they were dissatisfied with Fr. Valencia’s mere suspension of the merging of schools and colleges until the next school year.

Students who joined the rally have complained that their identification cards were confiscated by school guards allegedly under the instructions of Valencia.

SMU was under the control of a conservative Belgian priest, Fr. John Van Bauwel for more than 30 years before he retired in the late 90’s. Valencia was the school’s second Filipino president.

Established in Nueva Vizcaya’s capital town, Bayombong, in 1928, SMU is a sister school of Saint Louis University and is regarded as Cagayan Valley’s (Region 2) oldest and premier learning institution. It was founded in the Philippines by Belgian missionaries belonging to the Congregation of the Immaculate Conception of Mary (CICM) in 1907. - GMANews.TV