When students enter semi-finished classrooms with piles of hollow blocks and sacks of cement around, they could only grumble and bear the inconvenience.

With some of the summer construction projects for this school year still underway, Thomasians can only wait until the seemingly endless renovations and constructions are accomplished.

Delayed planning

While the University aims to invest in the upgrading of facilities and infrastructures, it cannot help but sacrifice the students’ welfare and safety when delays get in the way, especially now when classes have already started.

According to Vice-Rector for Finance, Fr. Roberto Pinto, O.P., many projects were delayed “because of some technical planning,” while some are still going on. Due to this, Fr. Pinto said, the target date was extended from June 1 to July 1 because of the long and tedious process that must be followed.

When end-users (department heads, college deans) submit proposals for construction projects, a budget hearing follows before the budget is released by the Treasurer’s office. The departments will then coordinate with the Buildings and Grounds Office (B & G) to contact the contractors. After the bidding, the contractors will submit their proposed designs to the B & G for review.

“We check whether (if) it is feasible or not. Then we consult with the end-user whether the plan was in relation to their demands,” said Engr. Antonio Espejo, B & G assistant superintendent for mechanical engineering.

The proposal will then be submitted to Fr. Pinto for approval.

However, when conflicts arise among architects, department heads, and Fr. Pinto, the proposal would have to be redone, thus, prolonging the planning period.

Meanwhile, B & G Director Bro. Rodolfo M. Atienza, O.P. said that problem arises when there are many projects that need to be completed in barely three months.

Due to this, contractors who worked last summer extended their working period to more than eight hours a day to “meet the deadline before classes start, even doubling manpower to finish the job,” said Bro. Atienza.

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Likewise, Espejo said that when different departments change their heads or directors, more and new construction plans are proposed resulting in an overlap of previous projects with the recent ones.

According to Engr. Oliver Gagarin, B & G assistant superintendent for electrical engineering, there were times when they could not access contractors because classes were going on in some colleges. Inspite of this, they still find time to work on the construction site after class hours.

Despite problems and delays, the B & G said that they have a smooth working relationship with Fr. Pinto and other concerned departments.

“We try to resolve internal problems. As much as possible, we coordinate with the deans. If the budget will run short, the treasurer will decide on that,” Espejo explained.

Results

The installation of air-conditioning units in most departments was completed as part of a summer construction project last year.

However, air-conditioning units in the Medicine, Education, and Main Buildings will only be installed once the power substation is completed sometime in October.

In the Faculty of Medicine, three laboratories and the Anatomy hall were renovated. In addition, a general repair of the Medicine Auditorium roofing was done while a fiberglass-building blanket was installed on its roof.

Meanwhile, the basketball court in the UST Gymnasium was likewise re-sanded and repainted. The constructions of new humps in the campus were also completed.

Despite the delays, the deans from the Colleges of Commerce and Education expressed satisfaction over the completion of their projects.

In the College of Commerce, the request for the installation of whiteboards was completed last June 14.

“Wala naman akong complaints. All our requests were satisfied although there have been delays because of University-wide constructions going on,” Commerce Dean Amelia Halili said.

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She added she had also proposed the replacement of the old computer units in the laboratories.

“We would like to have additional computer units in the organization rooms. But the student council’s request was too late. Also, due to time constraints, the construction was moved to another date. Hopefully, (it will be accomplished) during semestral break, if not, summer (next year) na lang,” she said.

Education Dean Clotilde Arcangel was also satisfied with the renovation of their Memorabilia sroom. The repair of their publication’s office was completed earlier in summer.

However, the general repair and construction of comfort rooms in the Faculty of Arts and Letters (AB), is yet to be completed.

“We also suggested, together with the College of Commerce, that the covered walk be connected from the UST Health Service to our building because of the rainy days,” AB Dean Armando de Jesus said.

Although some deans and department heads were quite satisfied with some of the results, students are yet to be satisfied.

A senior student from the College of Fine Arts and Design said all the classrooms in their building are under renovation and only more than half are finished.

She stressed that the delay in the completion of the computer laboratory may affect the first and second year students.

“Kung nasa situation nila (first and second year students) kami, maapektuhan kami. Kasi bayad na ‘yan, so from the beginning of classes dapat ma-avail na nila ‘yang computer course nila,” she said.

PJ Valerio, a second-year Pharmacy student, said that their schedule is sometimes stretched to longer hours because of the lack of classrooms.

College of Science student Hazel Pascua, said she was satisfied with the improved facilities. However, the Psychology laboratory and the organization room still needs some refurbishing, she added.

Suggestions

Despite concerted efforts, delays seem inevitable, but not really irresolvable.

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According to Fr. Pinto, “contractors allot allowable time for the impediments” during construction periods, thus, providing intervals for some problems which may cause the delay.

However, he added, “if they (contractors) did not finish on time for whatever reason, there will be penalty.”

Bro. Atienza, on the other hand, suggested to have an in-house architect in the B & G. This would eliminate the difficulty of choosing a project design from different contractors and help speed up the planning process. The proposal was already approved by the treasurer, he said.

Espejo supported Bro. Atienza’s suggestion, “I think it is favorable so there would be a concrete plan already before the bidding. The process becomes easier so everything will be ready before summer.”

In addition, Gagarin strongly advised planning committees to adopt a continuous working cycle to avoid conflicts or disagreements.

“Working on a project should be a continuous cycle. (Dapat) mayroong tumitingin (kung) ano ang gustong ipagawa, kung feasible tapos ipe-present sa amin and to Fr. Pinto. The deans should also coordinate with us,” he explained.

Moreover, he asked concerned officials to channel the information properly to avert difficulties during deliberation with Fr. Pinto.

Gagarin also pointed the University’s need to adapt a philosophy of accomplishing a project on time through project management. According to him, a smooth and consistent working cycle plus an effective project management will, more or less, yield a productive result.

While problems continue to hound concerned sectors, the students’ right to avail of the facilities cannot be sacrificed because of internal conflicts.

He added that they (B & G) “prioritize projects that are most beneficial for the students such as laboratories, classrooms, computer laboratories, and multimedia rooms.”

“Hindi pwedeng maging excuse na hindi natapos ‘yung project kasi by the start of classes, bayad na ng mga estudyante ‘yon sa kanilang tuition,” Gagarin stressed.

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