Br. Jun Erguiza FSC was thrust into his position, after Br. Armin Luistro FSC was appointed as President Aquino’s Secretary of the Department of Education. With Br. Jun, the Centennial President, transferring the presidency to Br. Ricky Laguda on the 15th of June, The LaSallian interviews the man accountable for the University’s fate during its Centennial Year, at least one last time before he steps down.
1.How do you see DLSU a decade from now?
We’d like to think that the University should go the path of research. And that means for us to take part in that particular service to society, be a research university in service of society. We’re not a grade school, we’re not a high school, we’re not a college, we are a university, and a university in my sense should be a research university. It must be able to contribute in generating new knowledge so that in generating this new knowledge, we would be able to respond to the needs of society. It has been two years since we decided to become a research University. Even in the past, we’ve tried to establish a culture of research in the university, but now it’s more focused to really making sure that [this] actually comes about. We already know that we are moving towards creating a new campus in Canlubang, this is called De La Salle University Science and Technology Complex, so COE, CCS, COS will be the focal point for that eventual transfer to the ST complex. That doesn’t mean that the others will not participate; COB and CLA will also participate in that move, but the more focal areas would be COE, COS, CCS. Right now we are constructing a new infrastructure for the college. We will be accepting 1st year students next year, and we’ll provide a faculty guest house for those faculty who will be coming from here and will be teaching there, to teach in those programs. That’s almost finished now, and today we’ll have a meeting for the new building we’ll be putting up, we’re going to start with that and by January 2013 it will be finished.
2. What led you to your decision so as not to renew your appointment as president?
Well, I’m a workaholic, and I don’t mind having to work a lot, but at the same time it has taken its toll on my health. So maybe I’ll need to just rest for a few months. So after our centennial celebration by June 15, I’ll just go off for about 2 to 3 months for health reasons. I’m diabetic [and] my diabetes has gone from bad to worse. I have glaucoma and what makes it worse is the sugar in my body. So it’s basically health reasons. I will come back but not as president, and I’d like to handle these infrastructural changes that will be happening in the next few years. I’d like to be able to improve on the plans we that we have created these past two years. I’d like to make sure that those are accomplished.
3. What can you say about the Board of Trustees’ appointment of Br. Ricky as the next president?
He is the best person to take my place. Remember when we came in together? I was appointed as president and he was appointed as chancellor. We were both working together at the beginning, two years ago. We were a very good team. I was doing most of the externals, external relations, looking for money for the University, and he was more involved with operations, academics, programs in the school. Now he will take my place and he’ll make sure that [the externals will not be neglected]. [Regarding] infrastructure, he’s not too adept at it, but I’ll help him in doing that. In terms of resources, looking for money for the University, I’ll help. I will make sure that we look for resources so that we can put up buildings, give scholarships, and help our faculty by sending them to get their PhDs and so forth. We have to be able to look for money to be able to do that. We were a very good team, he and I. He was [chosen to become] our sector leader, the head of all the [Lasallian] schools and now he’s coming back. [He is the] best choice.
4. What initiatives that you have spearheaded do you consider a success?
I suppose there are various initiatives, maybe on three levels; direction, persons and infrastructure. [First], on the level of ideas and direction, what we did these two years was to determine our vision-mission for the next 10-20 years. As we end our celebration, we’ll roll out the direction for the next 100 years. Second, in terms of people, in terms of personnel, I think basically what we’ve done is to try to bring about some sense of order, some sense of discipline, some sense of rigor in our faculty in terms of their delivery. Making sure they teach well, that they do their research very well. I think this is important because it filters down to the students. The students can only be as good as the faculty that we have. We [also] try to increase our access to students who come from poor families. Where do we get [the] money? We try to sort that out with externals, alumni. They give us endowment for scholarships but that’s not enough. Third is infrastructure. Those are just three that we’ve tried to do these past two years.
5. Given your short term as president do you think you were able to improve on important aspects of the University?
I’ve talked about those areas, our direction, our people, and some infrastructure. Maybe one area that I would like to to see are the two main functions of our faculty which [I call as] “the areas of concern for our students.” [These are] the areas of teaching excellence, learning excellence for the students, and then research. So teaching, research, extension.
6. Regarding DLSU-STC, do you think that DLSU will benefit from the merger?
Well, you can call it a merger, but actually it’s DLSU that’s [integrating] the Canlubang campus. The Canlubang campus belongs to De La Salle University; it’s our campus. DLSU bought that campus and put up the building there. It doesn’t belong to Canlubang; it belongs to the University. So rightfully, it should make use of it because we are already compressed in this campus, we have no more space. The last space that we have is the centennial building. We cannot build anything anymore here.
7. There have been a lot of doubts and criticisms, against the integration of DLSU and DLSC, how will you assure Lasallians that this is for the best interest of all parties involved?
As I’ve said, the move is really the initiative coming from the University and the Canlubang campus. There are very few students there, just about 300 students. And our students are not yet there. They’re the ones who will enroll in DLSU-STC next year. We don’t consider [the Canlubang campus] to [resist] the move because they’re only more than eager for DLSU to come in. As I’ve said they’re very few, and they need all the help we can extend to them, and eventually they will be part of the program that will be offered by DLSU.
8. Do you think that this is an important step in DLSU’s path to becoming a world-class research University?
Yes, that is the direction that we would like to take in that campus because of the very vast area we can use to put up structures that would be top class. We would still have to put up the structures, and I’ve taken that as my responsibility to make sure that [it will be done]. There are already a lot of people who are willing to help us set up these laboratories, and it’s located in an area that is very much the techno hub of the country, so what more could you ask? Not only will we put up structures there, but the other structures that are present in the Canlubang area will be very helpful in generating that kind of research atmosphere for a University.
9. Do you envision DLSU-STC to become the country’s future silicon valley?
I think we’re leaning towards that, but more in terms of the research aspect, not the provision for manpower: that is not the objective. Although there would be people who will be fielded to these companies as manpower, that wouldn’t be the purpose of the University. The purpose of the University is to create new knowledge. And if you have good people, good students, good faculty, then they should be able to do that. They are in the right venue, the right atmosphere.
10. Can we say that the University has made essential changes to accommodate the less privileged who are deserving of quality education?
We try to increase our access to students who come from poor families. Those who come from public schools are very good students. We accepted 50 of them this year, but at the same time, because they will not accept the scholarship if there is no corresponding circumstance, we gave a counterpart for that which is 10 thousand pesos per month, so that’s 120 thousand pesos per student plus 180 thousand for tuition fee, free, so that’s a total of 300 thousand per year, per student. For a four-year course, that’s 1.2 million per student. There are 50, so that’s at least 60 million for this batch. Where do we get that money? We try to sort that out with externals and the alumni. They give us endowment for scholarships but that’s not enough. Then we have the Gokongwei scholars, because of the donation from Gokongwei who gave us 250 million. So we are using part of that for scholarships. Now we have 20 perecent of our students on full scholarships. Now is that enough? To provide free education to 20 percent of our population: that’s about 2000 plus students who are given scholarships.
That’s a lot.