With the responsibility of teaching more than 16,000 undergraduate and almost 4,000 graduate students, De La Salle University (DLSU) satisfies the demand of tertiary and graduate education by hiring qualified professors to teach the different courses that it offers. According to the DLSU website, there are 1,129 faculty members employed by DLSU, 479 of which are full-time teachers, while the remaining 650 teaches only for part-time.
Despite already being in the thousands count, the University has to consistently compete with other institutions for competent faculty members. Many of the part-time professors also teach at other universities, while some of the full-time professors, especially those who are research-oriented, are being pirated by other schools, if not private organizations. The pressure to retain and to attract more professors that could fill in the academic needs of Lasallians is constant.
There are some professors who have already taught in other institutions before teaching at DLSU. These professors have different reasons as to why they opted to teach in the University. Grant Nelson, an American national and professor from the Psychology Department, decided to teach in the University because of its reputation. He shares, “I did my own research and knew that La Salle was one of the top universities in the Philippines and I wanted to teach here.”
On the other hand, former College of Computer Studies (CCS) Dean Lloyd Espiritu says that what led him to the University is its capabilities. He narrates, “I finished a degree in Industrial Psychology but I worked with artificial intelligence, expert system and the like. I found the CCS as an opportunity to continue the level I was working on. So I didn’t return to Psychology, I went to Computer Studies and it was only La Salle who was most advanced in Computer Studies at that time. That’s what drove me to La Salle.”
In addition to this, he reveals that people from the University were actively recruiting him while he was finishing his studies in Europe. He then mentions that he trained several professors from CCS for a term before leaving the academe. “What brought me back to La Salle was a very prestigious offer, to be the dean of the CCS. Who could resist that?,” Espiritu discloses, claiming that the offer of being a professor-administrator made him return to DLSU.
Being a faculty member in the University entails many responsibilities as well. While teaching students is their foremost duty, faculty members are also encouraged to conduct research and develop courses. The research opportunities available to professors also help the University attract and retain qualified professors. Nelson states, “The research piece was to be able to do research and then publish under DLSU was important. The research here has been good. I have a lot of freedom and support at the same time. I can pursue what I want to do and I feel supported.“
Espiritu explains, “I was given the freedom to set up my degree program, Instructional Systems Technology, so I was able to setup a degree program that combined liberal arts, education and computer science. They allowed me to have free hand in the curriculum, develop the courses, have my own laboratory. Technically, La Salle allowed me to play with the things I want to do. That is what kept me in La Salle.”
Getting the best and the brightest isn’t enough
Inasmuch as more students prefer having professors who are effective teachers, more than having those who are PhD holders but are not as effective, there are certain requirements mandated by the faculty manual and by other tertiary education regulatory units that academic departments need to subscribe to. For one, all professors must hold at least a master’s degree in accordance to the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) Memorandum Order Number 40 Series 2008. In addition to that, the University expresses its preference in hiring faculty members with doctoral degrees.
For the Communication Department, these requirements are a hindrance to their hiring process. As a practical degree program, it relies less on theoretical understanding and more on applied experience. Department Chairperson Gerardo Mariano explains that this requirement is waived on a case-by-case basis by the Vice Chancellor for Academics.
Aside from that, the Communication Department looks at other aspects of potential faculty members for competence. Mariano says, “CHED allows us leeway as long as the applicant has a bachelor’s degree, there’s a minimum requirement of five years in distinguished practice which means this person has received awards, and the third exemption is that this person has occupied senior positions in the media.”
Hiring the most competent of instructors is one thing and retaining the best is another. It is easier for DLSU to convince professors to teach in the University, but making them stay for good is challenging. Compensation, work culture, and the gravity of University politics, or the lack thereof, are the main factors that help retain professors.
Keith Panganiban, a professor from the Psychology Department, says that what made her stay in the University was her love of teaching. She explains further “I like that I get to do what I love, and it was a huge plus that I got to do so in an institution which allows me a lot of freedom and gives me a lot of support.”
She also notes that the University is generous in compensating its faculty compared to other institutions. The people whom she worked with as well left a positive impression with her. “I found a lot of great people who shared many of my interests,” Panganiban concludes.
Satoshi Ara, a former History Department professor, admits that practically speaking, teaching at DLSU is more financially rewarding than teaching in other universities. Ara finished his PhD degree at the University of the Philippines and he taught in the same institution before choosing to teach at DLSU. The former History professor has returned to Japan to attend to personal matters, but he highlights that he would’ve continued teaching at DLSU if he didn’t have to go back to Japan.
Similar to Panganiban, Nelson mentions that the support he gets and the friendships he had started with his colleagues have helped him be comfortable in teaching at DLSU. He adds that his colleagues’ drive and intelligence inspire him to become a better instructor. He also praises Lasallians saying, “I’m impressed with the students. I think they’re very focused and are driven, intelligent. I’ve been very impressed. “
For Espiritu, it was the opportunities for innovation that made him stay in the University. He points out, “I can start something new and I got support in terms of the facilities I want and then the rest of the faculty under me were quite cooperative.”
The future ends here?
All educational institutions in the Philippines are affected by the change in the curriculum of elementary and secondary levels because of the K-12 program. DLSU is not spared, not the least because some of its faculty members will have to be laid off, worse, some voluntarily resigned from their positions.
Filipino general education (GE) courses were initially removed from the University’s curriculum, according to the New Lasallian Core Curriculum (NLCC). NLCC subscribes to CHED memorandum order no. 20, which requires some GE subjects taught in college to be taught in senior high school once the K-12 program formally starts next year. This requirement threatens not only the tenure of GE professors at DLSU, but also the advanced and specialized nature of teaching GE subjects in the tertiary level.
One such professor is Panganiban who elaborates, “The biggest reason I left DLSU was the K-12 program. It affected many, if not all, [Philippine] educational institutions in that they were forced to reorganize and let many people go. We were fortunate at the [Psychology Department] because the [Administration] tried to look for ways to keep most of us in the teaching roster. In the end though, I had to consider if my goals were still aligned with what I was offered. When they weren’t anymore, it was an easy decision to leave.”
A former DLSU professor, also from the College of Liberal Arts, chose to forego his tenure at DLSU just to preempt the possibility that he could be included in the looming layoff as consequence of the K-12 program. He admits that he knows that he doesn’t have any place in the University anymore come next academic year.
With all these, the University should be more proactive in taking care of the needs of its professors, especially now that nothing has been finalized yet regarding the change in curriculum required by the K-12 program. Open communication and rationalization are needed to be able to set a middle ground between the demands of both the administration and professors.