For the most part of the university’s existence as a higher institution of learning, policies were crafted and imposed by the Board of Regents (BOR), the highest policy-making body in the university, without the students’ participation.
For the longest time, the BOR had no student representative–the university’s largest constituency long subjected to policies they didn’t see coming. Through sustained and collective efforts of the students, however, which began during the First Quarter Storm, heightened and intensified further during the dark years of Martial Law and beyond, the Office of the Student Regent (OSR) was established.
The OSR serves as the student-run institution where the Student Regent, the sole voting member of the BOR, who comes form the university’s largest sector, is seated. Instituted in 1986, it has served to uphold the interests of the students, voting and arguing on their behalf from issues ranging from appointments of deans to increases in laboratory fees and tuition.
The enactment of RA 9500 or the new UP Charter, however, endangers this institution, under the smokescreen of democratization, by actually subjecting a decade-old Student Regent selection process crafted by duly-elected student council representatives across the UP System and subjected to debates and amendments every year, to a terribly difficult challenge–a challenge that the administration cunningly knows, given the trend of student election turnouts, has the tendency to fail. UP, after all, has more than 55,000 students system-wide.
The failure of this challenge, a referendum with less than the required majority of voters’ turnout, will endanger the existence of the OSR. In the face of impending tuition increases, as President Roman herself mentioned in a recent TV interview, and other schemes of commercialization, the absence of the sole student representative in the BOR shall only serve the best interest of those who push for such policies–policies that the students and their Student Regent have traditionally stood up against.
It is at this juncture of time in our university that it is imperative for the students to once again link arms and unite in the struggle to defend the institution that ensures the rights and interests not only of present UP students but of future generations of iskolars ng bayan in an arena largely controlled by administrators and political appointees.
In the face of impending and further attacks on our democratic rights as students and the democratic rights of the people to accessible education, we must intensify our campaigns and broaden our ranks. Together, we shall prove once again that students united will never be defeated.