Last August 25 marked the beginning of a new era at De La Salle University (DLSU). Former DLSU President and Chancellor Br. Ricky Laguda FSC left the University after his appointment as the Asia Pacific Region Head for the General Council of the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools. In his place, Br. Dennis Magbanua FSC will serve as Officer-In-Charge (OIC), while concurrently maintaining his position as President and Chancellor of De La Salle-College of St. Benilde (DLS-CSB).
As OIC, one of Br. Dennis’ main focuses will be to assist the Board of Trustees (BOT) on deciding who will be the University’s next President. By December 2014, the BOT is expected to reach a decision on who will fill the position once Br. Dennis ends his term on April 30, 2015.
In an interview with The LaSallian, Br. Dennis shares his thoughts on the eight months that he will lead both DLSU and DLS-CSB. On a lighter note, he enjoys photography and is an avid fan of Apple products.
1. What are your thoughts on handling DLSU and DLS-CSB at the same time?
When Br. Ricky and the Board of Directors asked me to take charge of DLSU from August to May 2015, I knew that it will be both difficult and easy. First, it’s going to be difficult because there will definitely be new tasks that will be left to me by Br. Ricky and the community. It’s also easy because I know DLSU, somehow, as a member of the board, and that I have an idea because I know most of the administrators, faculty, students, and staff in the University. My role really is to help in the transition of having a new President because Br. Ricky is supposed to serve his term until May 2015.
2. What opportunities and challenges do you expect to experience while leading both DLSU and DLS-CSB?
My coming here was not really meant to say “Hey, let’s work together.” It’s not the main purpose, yet there are opportunities to do so, like linking [the two colleges] together [through tie-up projects]. It’s actually good for us to work together, and discover more the gifts of one another so we can actually share some of the things that are coming up.
For example, as simple as the suspension of classes, more often now when there’s rain in the middle of the day and you have to suspend classes, DLSU and DLS-CSB try to talk to each other so that we can send out the same information almost at the same time.
3. What do you plan on doing differently at DLSU that your predecessors haven’t done before?
I am not sure if I will have the time to do something differently because the things I was tasked to do is to assist in the University’s transition. Since there will be a new president, I’m not really the president, I am the OIC.
I’m helping the community transition and look for the new president, and there are committees set up by the board to discuss who and what kind of DLSU president we should have. In the end, we have to choose who it will be and who will fill in the position that Br. Ricky left.
There’s just so many big things and changes that Br. Ricky left behind. What the community actually agreed to work on are mostly the big ones, mostly some developments in the DLSU-Science and Technology Complex campus and the calendar shift and new programs coming in DLSU.
But the difference that I would bring would be working together with you and be present in student activities. That’s the difficult part because I do that a lot in CSB, and now I have to divide my time. I’m sure Br. Ricky was very much present here so I hope to fill in that gap a little bit and push forward to the next.
4. In your opinion, how do the needs of DLSU and DLS-CSB students differ, and how will you deal with them both?
They are offered very different programs from each other, some people say DLSU students are more serious and it’s fun to be at DLS-CSB because you cook, you draw – actually both are serious people, they’re very serious with the work they do.
What I find really good is that a good number of students at DLSU really want to be here – same thing with CSB. Some are still lost, but I believe that in terms of difference, I can’t see much wherein the two schools are different.
5. What are some of the projects you’re looking forward to do in your term? Will there be tie-ups between DLSU and DLS-CSB?
The tie-ups may not happen during my time, because it’s very short, but since I would know more about the University in the next few months, I would be able to connect people from here and there. It could be connections in Computer Science and Communication Arts – pretty much the same courses, even Information Systems. I know there are bigger things that we can do together, we just need more time. I need to know more what we can do together.
6. How will you address the rise of hazing incidents and other similar issues occurring within the University?
Well, the two schools have to work together, to share information. Once they share information, it’s about being ready to assist each other when it involves the students.
DLSU’s Discipline Office and CSB’s Office of Student Behavior are working together on bringing in witnesses or people who can assist in finding out the truth about what happened.
It’s something that should be stopped. I continue to believe that fraternities have no place in any of the La Salle schools. We will work that out together.
Also, justice should really be given to Julio and the other victims. I’m a Brother, so I’m not against being brothers to one another in a good way, but if brotherhood causes you pain – especially physical pain because you have to follow blindly – that’s not the kind of brotherhood that I would want to espouse. Working together as brothers and sisters – that is what we need to do.
7. Do you have plans to implement changes in the administration?
At this time, if there would be changes it would probably be misconstrued as hasty change because changes usually happen when you have really planned and witnessed that there is a need to change.
For me, it’s too early to say that there will be changes in the administration. Most of the changes would be something that has already been prepared by Br. Ricky. So, come to think of it, the changes that will happen will be clearly seen or felt when the new president comes in.
8. What is your vision for the Lasallian community?
Usually, my answer to that is I’d really like the community to actually tell me what their vision is. It’s the community that has the vision. What I would like to latch on or to join in is their vision.
My vision is just the same, written in the vision mission statement of the school – to work in communion, for this to be a research university, but composed of scholars and faithful people who put faith and scholarly work together. When we build something, it’s not because we are so intelligent. For example, we make a solar car, but for what? To show that we’re really good or so we can use the sun’s energy? It’s really a research on how to use it so that we can serve more people in the end, especially the poor, the ones who need help.
9. In time for the ASEAN integration, what concrete steps will you implement at DLSU to ensure a smooth transition?
That is something that I still need to work out with the President’s Council, but the school is getting ready for the ASEAN integration. You can see it in terms of the New Lasallian Core Curriculum that we’re making – it’s based on the ASEAN integration.
It’s connected partly to the changes of the K-12 program wherein you remove General Education courses [which will now be in the high school], but it’s also about the kind of graduates that we will produce – people who have experienced the world of work even before they graduate. By the time Lasallians finish college, they will already know what the world is like outside DLSU.
I think what is needed more is that DLSU must find internship partners who will make sure that Lasallians could go to the best places where they can learn. We have to be more proactive in choosing which ones of these partners can actually teach students more in terms of experience. That’s how we prepare for the ASEAN integration.
10. How do you see DLSU and DLS-CSB in the next eight months wherein you’ll be handling both institutions?
I think when the new Brother-President is assigned here, it [DLSU] will even be stronger. But now that I’m here, the collaboration would be just the beginning. It doesn’t mean we never had it before, but “beginning” because I think God has a special way of telling our university and college, saying, “Hey, don’t forget your past. You were together before. Look for ways to work together for the good of the students, for the good of education in the Philippines.” More and more, we will be collaborating.