Last academic year, various campus development plans were slated in response to the lean years, which will result in the lack of facilities that will accommodate incoming students during the transition of the University to the K-12 system. In addition, the need for space was reinforced due to the influx of various student activities, organizations, and faculty requirements in order to continue providing the student body the services they need.
During the last University General Assembly, Br. Ray Suplido mentioned old and new facilities to be renovated and constructed respectively, which included the Br. Connon Hall, Student Arts and Wellness Center, Research Commons, newly located Retreat Center, South Gate, student dormitory, and modern classrooms. The LaSallian was able to interview University Chancellor Dr. Robert Roleda and Associate Vice Chancellor for Campus Development Josemari Calleja about recurring and additional campus development plans up for approval starting this academic year.
Onto the lean years
The University’s eagerness to conduct campus development plans began from evaluating possible improvements that will aid students in attaining the best learning experience. The University’s current infrastructure projects stemmed from the University’s campus renewal plan, planned renovations, and maintenance project back in 2010 which were products of consultation with various University sectors, as said by Calleja.
In response to the financial setbacks the University will experience due to the lean years, donors and alumni were publicly acknowledged by Calleja in helping the University achieve its maximum learning improvements and supporting DLSU in all its vital construction projects. In addition, Roleda mentioned that the University was prepared back in 2013. Various measures to compensate for the financial setback were implemented this year, such as loading funds, opening the doors to Senior High School, and cutting down administrative costs like employee overtime pay and operating expenses by 10 percent.
“In 2013, we accepted more students than we normally do and we did that again in 2015 [and] 2016. We’ll do the same thing in AY 2018-2019, AY 2019-2020, and AY 2020-2021, so the drop in enrollment in these two years will be compensated by the increase while the increase is not as much as the drop. We thought of spreading the increase over many years compared to the two years of drop so that’s one,” Roleda expounds on fund loading.
Roleda added that they will continue to implement measures in lean years and afterwards since the plans for the next four years will counteract the collapse of the revenue shortfalls to be experienced later on.
New facilities up for approval
In accordance with the needs during this academic year, three new learning facilities were up for approval to the Board of Directors (BOD). Calleja stated that the plan is to construct one facility due to space constraints and it will be executed in three phases. He further explains that it will be just one facility and the reason as to why it will be done in phases is due to how they should build new facilities before demolishing the facility that they plan to replace or upgrade.
Dr. Roleda, one of the main proposers specified that the first building, approximately mid-rise with eight to ten stories high, will integrate Mutien Marie Hall with the motorbike parking area near the Agno gate to serve as additional classrooms to cater the needs of the students and house research facilities.
Roleda also eyed the Miguel building as a second location for new facilities. “Right now the only option for us is to tear an existing building and build higher. When we design that building, we already have in mind which building to tear down afterwards because if it’s Miguel building, the [Communication Arts] laboratory or the Engineering laboratory will have to be transferred to the new building [in Mutien]. The additional space will actually be provided by a bit in the first building but mostly in the second building. ‘Yon ang situation that we have right now,” Roleda clarifies.
Aside from the integrated building, the third infrastructure plan was to tear down the Bloemen Hall and build a higher structure for the benefit of student activities. This will be built to supplement Br. Connon Hall, which was built during the 1980s, in housing most of the student organizations.
These plans will take approximately up to four years as preparation for post-lean years. Roleda argued that it usually takes one to two years until a building can be finished, hence the reason he was opting for an earlier start. It will all depend on the approval of the BOD as he reiterated and once those buildings are finalized, the design for the buildings will harmonize with that of the Henry Sy Sr. Hall.
South gate, classroom, and computer facilities revamped
One of the major renovation projects done this academic year was that of the rehabilitation of the South Gate Entrance, which opened last September 28. The former lobby is set as an expansion of the old LS driveway, which is estimated to finish during the Christmas break.
Alongside the major infrastructures of the campus development project, the University is also looking forward for the prototype classrooms which are observable in the sixth floor of Yuchengco building to be available for testing within the term. According to Calleja, the said classrooms will be the University’s first time to “have a test bed for physical innovations prior to doing an enterprise-wide rollout in [the] learning spaces.”
To govern this project, there will be an office named Academic Support for Instructional Services and Technology (ASIST) headed by Ferdie Ilagan together with an advocacy committee comprised of various college representatives and faculty. Calleja mentioned that students will be free to use the prototype classrooms which can be observed in the sixth floor of the Yuchengco building, even for regular classes.
“Working with a prototype allows us to engage the students, faculty, and technical experts during the early decision and design stages which give us a better opportunity to improve our collective output. Within the next three years, we’d also like to invest more effort in improving our social spaces and informal learning areas. A successful vision at some point would see us transforming the campuses so that each square inch contributes to learning and building [a] community in some way,” Calleja proclaims.
Another project scheme of Roleda included additional library services beyond the usual norm of books and journals. To note, Roleda has kept in touch with the USG especially in terms of any softwares that the students need. “In fact, when I talked to the USG and asked them [if] there [are any] particular softwares that the student will not buy because it’s not something that they will use all the time, but maybe something the school can provide, you can go to library and use it for your projects or whatever. So we go beyond Powerpoint, maybe animation softwares or whatever that the students would need. But of course we need the students to tell us what kind of things [they] need. We will think about them and incorporate them when we say it’s a good thing to happen. We want to be a world-class University,” Roleda claims.
Aside from classroom and library upgrades, Roleda mentioned that 300 units of new computers were deployed in the computer laboratories over the course of the term break. The usual treatment of computers in the University consists of the three-year replacement plan which is routinary, as Roleda explains they do not want to incur too many expenses in just one year.
In terms of the internet facility, Roleda is currently opting for new ways to make it faster than 1.7 gigabits which is the current bandwidth to date. Furthermore, Roleda informed that the Information Technology Services (ITS) is planning a logging system which entitles students faster WiFi connectivity when they log in in a specific location.
Student awareness with regard to CPD
With the noticeable infrastructure projects that are being done around the campus, Mr. Calleja shared that the Office of the Associate Vice Chancellor for Campus Development (OAVCCD) is open for suggestions from the student body about campus development. He further went on by saying that OAVCCD tries different ways to let the students know more about the campus development plans like launching a Twitter account that shares updates of the facilities that are being renovated or constructed.
When the Twitter account for the Campus Development receives comments, suggestions, and constructive criticisms, Mr. Calleja responds to them in order to have a more in-depth discussion about the comment or suggestion. Although, he noticed that the students tend to disregard this he does not lose hope in trying to grab the attention of the students about the campus development plans.
“We have to find ways to increase participation. It’s my perspective. It takes a while I suppose to control that culture. Perhaps, the students are not used to being asked these questions, so I’m also aware of that, I’m okay we just have to keep on trying. We have to find more creative ways.” Dr. Calleja explains.
Setting up the timespan
With the transitioning phase that the University is currently experiencing together with the constant accommodation of students in need of better learning spaces, the campus development plans will be perpetual seeing as there will always be rooms for improvement. As Dr. Roleda had said, “We must constantly refresh ourselves; the other less visible things that we do in campus development is actually the checking of the structures of our buildings because most of our buildings are very old.”
Aside from focusing in the University’s main campus, Roleda also mentioned the DLSU-STC with respect to continue looking at the needs of the students. The Chancellor is looking four years from now that the need for learning facilities will be addressed.
As for Calleja, there need for a campus development plan is recurrent. “There will always be a campus development plan in place as our upgrade process is cyclical, not linear. The challenge to have a responsive and conducive learning environment will always be there,” Calleja posits.