Saturday, July 05, 2008

Rebuke and reckoning

IT MAY be baseless for me to judge reunions as I have never been to one.

If it is not work compelling me to be somewhere else, it is a predilection to doze off when I am in any gathering outside of work.

But I also suspect that reunions force me to remember absent peers. So despite the conviviality of such festive occasions, I end up missing more the company of the absent over those present.

This thought came, unbidden, as I read an article posted on the University of the Philippines (UP) Centennial website: “UP Visayas (UPV) combines revelry and relevance.”

I’ve experienced the former, just walking under the dripping acacias at six a.m., on my way to my journalism class. There is a palpable sense of anticipation as the community I belong to—first as an undergraduate in the 1980s, then as a full-time instructor in the 90s, and at present, as a part-time lecturer—is the “oldest regional unit of the UP System, having been established in 1918 as a junior college.”

Beginning July 12, UPV Cebu College (UPVCC) marks the first Centennial year with a three-day grand reunion to “pay homage to tradition as well as… glimpse the likely shape of its future.”

Certainly, revelry. But the relevance?

A week ago, I learned that three long-time junior faculty members were “five-up-or-outed.”

This is jargon for the inflexible university policy that a faculty member who has not earned a masteral degree after five years of teaching will have to leave the full-time post or be “reclassified” as a lecturer, without student advising and program planning duties.

Another policy—the equally rigid “publish or perish” rule—also terminates any faculty member that cannot have a research or an equivalent body of works published in a refereed journal. With such policies does the UP System seek to elevate the excellence of its faculty and standing as a learning institution.

These are sentiments fine on paper but rude and crude in reality. There is no long waiting list of hopefuls for teaching posts in the country, most especially to work in a state university where the pay is paltry, to be kind about it, and the promotion process is tedious and excruciating, best to be taken either as a lesson on acquiring preternatural patience or a warm-up for sadomasochism.

Whether a century old or a mere babe, a school beats with two hearts. Students live out the challenge of bringing the ivory tower’s standards to the “marketplace.” To be the best, students have to move on and take their rightful place in industry, with the community, among civil society.

It is different with teachers. Teachers have to stay within the real or virtual walls of the classroom. Despite better pay and more secure lives for their families “outside,” the best teachers sacrifice not a small bit of their selfish lives to carry out the verb at the root of who they are: “teach.”

Substitute: to listen, guide, inspire. Not one of my dozen or so dictionaries contains a synonym for “teaching” that requires a postgraduate title printed on special parchment or an extremely learned but unread treatise.

So come July 12, I may not be walking under the ancient acacias. Perhaps it is again the summons of work, or the unbearable heaviness of my eyelids when I hear again mention of celebrations.

Or perhaps because I can see another 100 years stretching on, without D, M and I. D. who guided Math-challenged seniors through the labyrinth of a new software literally from dawn till dusk, without any reward but the gratitude of the students and their families.

M. whose casual but generous sharing of well-thumbed novels helped many of his dormers survive loneliness, angst, rage and the tyranny of 7:30 a.m. writing deadlines.

Most of all, I. A firebrand student who once upbraided the college dean for the sorry condition of the Mass Communication laboratories, I., as an instructor, worked quietly to produce the essential proposals that got institutions to fund the present electronic newsroom of the college.

Because my university defines teaching excellence as a piece of paper, I share the hope that paper beats better than a human heart, at least for the next century or so. 09173226131

* Published in Sun.Star Cebu’s July 6, 2007 issue

1 comment:

maria carla bren vianney yap said...

Hi Madam! I too was shocked by the news that some teachers were, well, not rehired this year. I share your sentiments. I was one of M's students when I was in college. Although I had to drag myself to his class at 7:30AM, I have to admit that his class was one of those that I thoroughly enjoyed and learned from. And sad to say, UP is depriving the new breed of students from experiencing the same thing.