2023 Is A Crucial Year For BU


A new year gives us a specific period of illusion. On its first few days, it provides us with this magical motivation to change the direction of our life. In BU, there is also a great force of possible change that can alter the institution's trajectory critical to every aspect of our academic community in the year 2023.

A lot to learn from 2022
We are now experiencing first-hand how the effects of our voting decision directly impact the dynamics of our recovery. During the national elections in 2022, which was a critical year for the country, there has been an overflowing hope for recovery and reforms after suffering in the pandemic under the Duterte administration. Chances went down the drain as now we saw how slowly the country is being turned into a comedic theater with political actors playing foolish acts. Why has it got something to do with BU? Because 2023 is a critical year for the university and we've got a lot to learn from last year's elections.

There are numerous historic events to anticipate in 2023 for our university. On January 13, the application for BU president will be closed and our board of regents will choose the next leader of the university weeks after. The chosen one can either bring us the dream recovery after years of distanced learning and flawed blended learning or another neo-conservative leadership.

New BU Prexy since 2015
After two terms, the incumbent university president, Arnulfo Mascariñas, will be ending his leadership months from now. The eight years under Mascariñas with his guiding vision of a “world-class university” has contributed to numerous developments for the university. Even with some shortcomings as a neo-conservative leader (Universitarian will publish a review of his term separately), modern developments have been witnessed especially in infrastructure, like the Student Union Center, university dormitories, a few buildings on the East Campus, and the foundation of new colleges, which have brought modernization to the institution.

But, it’s either that chosen leader will continue what Mascariñas left off or completely change his brand of leadership under a new vision.

A new president in 2023 marks a beginning of a new era of educational experience under new leadership. But, it’s either that chosen leader will continue what Mascariñas left off or completely change his brand of leadership under a new vision. Despite the newness in its essence, old challenges have also piled up for the next president.

Mode of Classes. The efficiency of blended learning from last semester is still in question. A lot of students who lived outside Albay went back to campus because of the supposed several face-to-face classes they needed to attend but encountered only one class a week, which resulted in their costly daily living expenses amid the inflation. If full face-to-face classes will be implemented by the new president, there would be challenges now in allocating students in classrooms since the last time BU implemented full face-to-face classes was in 2019, when only two complete year levels were enrolled because of K-12.

Facilities and Laboratories. BU has been considered a regional research center, but several facilities remain outdated such as in science, media, and technology, which call for better funding for facilities to breed more quality research outputs. There has also been an inadequate number of classrooms to accommodate students of the university across all colleges and departments, which resulted in class blocks taking turns in a week to be seated in classrooms. These problems put the educational experience of students in peril as facilities are important breeding grounds for learning interactions.

Academic Freedom. Activism has been a change agent in the university since time immemorial but the recent intimidation of student activists put a chilling effect on progressive members of our academic community. There was a time in 2019 when student journalists conducting a silent rally for the Maguindanao Massacre commemoration were blocked by the guards in front of the administration building but were eventually let go. Attempts like this sent a strong message of silent disapproval to student activism and this should change in 2023 with the new president. In addition, there should be mechanisms adopted that must be institutionalized when students from BU are harassed and, in the worst case, red-tagged by the state.

Funding of College Publications. Due to the implementation of the Free Higher Education Act, college publications lost their power to collect publication fees. This is critical as college publications are important agents of truth that serve as watchdogs. The lack of financial resources hindered the operations of their newsrooms, while some ended up being inactive and eventually dissolved. This year can be a crucial chance to have dissolved college publications back in business.

Gender Expression Issues. Despite liberal ideas freely discussed in the open, issues of gender discrimination are still pertinent in the university as past presidents remain conservative over gayness and queer culture. It can be remembered that in 2022, a resolution by the student legislative assembly that aims to allow students to wear graduation clothing based on their gender preference has been rejected by the board of regents. The next university president must actively campaign on this progressive resolution to assure a safe space for gender expression on campus this year.

Revitalization of Student Culture and Institutionalizing Mental Health Programs. Two years of the pandemic have caused a heavy impact on students’ mental health. It can be attributed to the prolonged isolation and a lack of social interactions on campus because of virtual learning. In 2023, student culture must be actively revitalized and bring back the same energy as before the pandemic. On top of that, mental health programs must be institutionalized in the university to give support to students who are struggling mentally and emotionally. In this way, we can maximize student wellness.

A new president who’s just starting his term can be careful and accommodating, which the student body must take advantage of.

There are a lot of other issues that can possibly be addressed by the next university president, and that is why 2023 is crucial. A new president who’s just starting his term can be careful and accommodating, which the student body must take advantage of. Pressure must be put accordingly to assure that the desired results be attained in the end.

Our collective illusion of a new year is a string of hope to provide new solutions to past-year issues. A new president is a part of this fresh start.

May 2023 be a good year for Bicol U.

Illustration by John Paul Mark Basilla