By ARTHUR L. ALLAD-IW
(Our guest columnist Marilyn Ngales is a member of BCF class A.B. 1970; M.A. 1980. She was asked to comment on the planned strike at UC-BCF last week. She is a former teacher, Dean and later a major participant of the BCF strike almost 20 years ago in 1988-1989, and now a Development Educator. — Ed.)
Quality education is a mantra constantly expressed by communities that consider education as a social transformational tool. Repetitive as it is, it has not lost its importance as a refuge of a society buffeted and continuously struggling with what values, perspectives, actions to take amidst conflicts that threaten cohesion, unity and ultimately freedoms. The Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) used quality education as a premise to certify and thus order the UC Management and the Union to submit themselves for compulsory arbitration. The order claims “that impending work stoppage at schools would unduly prejudice the students and their parents who invest precious effort, time and money to afford their children quality education.”
When educators cry for the “return to the 3 Rs or return to the basics: reading , ‘riting, ‘ rithmetic” approach to quality education, they are referring to the disciplines which are indeed the turf of faculty. Management sometimes forget that faculty are not mere workhorses through the engagements of their disciplines but they are also builders. As institutional builders, they need to be a part of a shared governance oftentimes missed out in institutional practices. This brings us to the fourth “R” that was somehow overlooked in the basic approaches to education. “R” is for Relationship.
It is difficult to compare the strike that happened at BCF almost 20 years ago and the aborted strike to be staged there last week. These are different times, different circumstances, different players – and obviously there is a changing of the guards. However, looking closely at the issues raised and the approaches provided to deal with these, one outstanding similarity bears scrutiny – the fourth R.
UC claims itself as a premier school in many respects as shown by its continuous topping the board and bar examinations; its maintained accredited status; and its successful move towards a university status that has gained for it a wider ambit of influence. It has all the accouterments of a higher educational institution that has arrived so to speak having clinched for itself programs recognized as centers of excellence and development. Yet, the UC management knows that in extolling itself as a quality school, there is a component that has provided the veritable source of accomplishments that polished institutional growth: the Faculty and staff’s commitment and expertise.
Rifts between faculty and management are not inevitable. These may be countered by establishing and maintaining regular lines of communication. It is tragic for the UC management to continue evading a face to face communication with its faculty. The UC management has drawn battle lines that are premised on one single petty reason. In the drawing board, it kept on harping on the non – recognition of Union president Regina de los Santos.
To bargain with her, the UC counsel says is to waive UC’s rights. The UC President claimed in an interview that Ms. De los Santos has an axe to grind against the UC. Even when the Union officers, painful as it is, excluded Ms. De los Santos from the latest conferences at the NCMB, the UC management still refused to bargain. UC’s legal counsel now again claim that it is not Ms. De los Santos’ being physically “there” at the bargaining table that is questioned. All along UC has no intention to bargain. It is the one that has an axe to grind against Ms. De los Santos. Now what rights has UC waived? It has instead waived the opportunity to lead the way in shared leadership in the academe. Curiously enough, DoLE and NCMB recognized Ms. De los Santos as president in their communications.
Relationships get breached but when the important components in the institution communicate with one another, there is a regaining of the vital spirit of common dedication and shared vision for institutions. The above quality status is now threatened by a growing restiveness from among the ranks. This is translated into the waning of the degrees but which the latter are willing to share their lives with the institution. When not acted upon, the bridge will collapse and indeed the losers are not merely the opposing forces but more so the students and their parents, and society in general.
If faculty members were to express their desires, what will these be? First, they would hope that relationships would be based on respect of each other’s roles in the university community. Respect means talking things out.
Second, they would advance strategies that permit the faculty and its representatives to communicate directly and on a regular basis between any one level of the academic structure. Communication should not only be frequent but unfiltered and direct.
Third, faculty would express their desire for recognition as builders of the institution. They are resources of good sense and good policy. As direct players in the teaching-learning environment, their advice may even be more functional and perceptive than evaluations made by consultants (accreditors for example who only briefly study the school in two weeks or so) who have no continuing commitment to the school.
In the power structure, it is incumbent upon management to undo the battle lines. To listen to faculty is not diminishing or relegating its managerial place in the hierarchy. Effective institutional build up is done through collaboration and good faith. As the DoLE enjoins, both parties shall now subject themselves to immediate compulsory arbitration. It is incumbent upon the UC management to act on the meaning of immediate. If it dilly dallied in the past to resolve the issues with the Union, it now has the moral sense to facilitate the talks with expediency at the NLRC. Only then can its employees consider it as a willing and ready listener to the latter’s concerns. It is also perhaps a historical lesson for UC to take heed that 20 years ago was a spontaneous reaction to miscommunication; this time the intended action is piled up from unnecessary management inaction. There will be a 20 years (or less) of this sort if not acted on now.
Building bridges through sincere communications and shared decision making where the best interest of the institution calls for mutual involvement and cooperation lead to achieving common goals. By pursuing this, UC may yet be the model of exemplary shared governance in schools in the North. #