A TIME of transition and change—this is what academic year 2006-2007 has been. Despite starting the year without a rector, the University somehow managed to ricochet its way to a very colorful and eventful year. Capping off with a number of triumphs—and a fair share of controversies, the school year proved to be an ordinary year turned extraordinary.

New administration, new colleges

The University started the school year without a rector. After Fr. Tamerlane Lana ended his eight-year term in April 2006, the University waited for a semester for the appointment of a new rector by the Vatican’s Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education. Months of delay spurred a guessing game among the three “rectorables” that included Central Seminary Rector Fr. Ernesto Arceo, Vice-Rector for Religious Affairs Fr. Rodel Aligan, and former UST Rector and Commission on Higher Education Chairman Fr. Rolando de la Rosa.

Finally in October, the Vatican confirmed Arceo’s appointment as the 94th UST rector. The new rector emphasized “competence, moral integrity, and simplicity” as the guiding principles of his rectorship during his inaugural speech at the UST Chapel in Nov. 9.

Arceo implemented a major revamp of the administrative officials. Former Vice-Rector for Academic Affairs Dr. Armando de Jesus was reinstated dean of the Faculty of Arts and Letters while Institute of Religion director Fr. Clarence Marquez was named the new vice-rector for finance.

Meanwhile, the school year also saw the birth of the Institute of Tourism and Hospitality Management under Director Maria Tio-Cuison, while the Alfredo M. Velayo-College of Accountancy found its new home on the 3rd and 4th levels of the UST Carpark.

Face-lifts

Constructions on campus welcomed Thomasians during the opening of the first semester. The UST campus now boasts of either renovated or completely new infrastructure, the Plaza Mayor in front of the Main Bldg, the Quadricentennial Park which has an interactive fountain, and the Alumni Covered Walkway near the España gate.

Adding to the refurbished landscape are several new buildings. The P350-million Benavides Cancer Institute was inaugurated in October by President Macapagal-Arroyo, while the UST Tan Yan Kee Student Center was opened in the second semester and now houses all University-wide student organizations, including the Varsitarian, which will turn 80 next year.

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After the Cancer Institute, the UST Hospital will soon put up a 17-story hospital tower and a podium set to be completed by October 2008. Satellite hospitals are also eyed to be put up across the country and to be fully operational by 2011.

After the groundbreaking of the UST campus in Sta. Rosa, Laguna in April 2006, UST officials are now focusing on the UST campus in General Santos City, Mindanao, set to rise this summer. The 80-hectare extension Mindanao campus will be an agricultural research facility that will focus on research on virgin coconut oil, herbal medicines, and tuna culture. It will also implement UST’s pastoral education program.

Growling win

After 10 long years, the men’s basketball team regained the crown in UAAP Season 69 and stunned not only the University but the nation as well. Because the team was not perceived as a contender at the start of the UAAP, its victory was dubbed as a “Cinderella finish” by sports enthusiasts. The euphoria was felt nationwide as the whole nation cheered the underdog UST in demolishing much-fancied teams such as UE and Ateneo in a gritty and spirited Never-say-die campaign. The women’s volleyball team also won the championship after a decade of struggles.

Also unprecedented was the fifth consecutive championship by the UST Salinggawi Dancers in the UAAP Season 69 Cheerdance competition..

For the 34th time, UST once again bagged the UAAP Overall Championship, with a commanding 331 points, having topped the race in Chess (W), Judo (M), Swimming (W), Table Tennis (W), Taekwondo (M&W), among others.

Topping the field, topping exams

Thomasians brought home the bacon from their respective fields. Father Lana, the former UST rector, was named Outstanding Manilan while Thomasian and Philippine Daily Inquirer founder Eugenia Duran-Apostol was included in the list of Time Magazine’s 20 Heroes of Asia. She also received the 2006 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Journalism, Literature and Creative Communication Arts. UST alumni Bienvenido Lumbrera and Ildefonso Santos were named National Artists for Literature and Architecture, respectively. UP Creative Writing Institute Director and former Varsitarian editor in chief Victor Emmanuel Nadera received the Southeast Asian Write Award in Thailand last October, while Architecture alumnus Michael Vincent Uy was named one of the Ten Outstanding Students of the Philippines.

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In advertising and design, 10 students from the College of Fine Arts and Design reaped 16 out of 24 awards in the Student Advertising Congress. Michael Pena, a graduate of the College of Architecture, and Jasmine O’yek Sy, a graduate of the College of Fine Arts and Design, won the grand prize in the Metrobank Art and Design Excellence National Competition. Hilarious de Jesus, a Nursing senior, and Antonio Toto Jr. from the Graduate School, bagged the sixth ArtPetron National Student Art Competition.

Meanwhile, Thomasian excellence was also reflected in various board examinations. UST improved its passing rates in the exams for certified public accountancy, education, interior design, occupational therapy, physical therapy, architecture, pharmacy, medical technology, chemistry and nutrition. Many Thomasians landed in the top 10.

But UST posted a decrease in the nursing and electrical engineering (EE) exams. The College of Nursing registered an 83 per cent passing rate in the leak-tainted June 2006 board exams. In the EE licensure exams, UST performed it’s lowest in five years as its passing rate dropped from 94 per cent in 2005 to 69 per cent last year.

UST continued to engage creatively with the media. The third USTv Awards tightened their criteria. Studio 23 bagged the top award, which had been recast into the Television Station with the Most Youth-Responsible Programming. Meanwhile, the Varsitarian organized Cinevita the first pro-life campus film festival.

Issues and controversies

The controversy surrounding the June 2006 Nursing board exams proved a tough challenge for UST. The College of Nursing called for an independent inquiry to investigate the leak. Amid widespread opposition, the Faculty Association of Nursing (Facon) led by Prof. Rene Tadle called for a retake of the tests. The Board of Nursing resigned and the Supreme Court dismissed the Facon petition in February.

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But Facon got a vindication of sorts when the US-based Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools said it would not issue visa screens to the June 2006 Nursing Exam passers unless there was a retake. President Macapagal-Arroyo promised to foot the bill for those who will retake the tests in June 2007.

A mandatory drug testing for freshmen and random drug testing for second- to fourth-year students were implemented this year reportedly in compliance with Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002. The first batch that underwent the test yielded negative. But the Varsitarian and a group of Faculty of Civil Law students said that there’s no law authorizing schools to enforce mandatory drug testing.

Meanwhile, demands for tuition refund escalated after a House of Representatives committee ruled against the Commission on Higher Education’s Memorandum No. 14, which permitted colleges to increase tuition without consultation with students as long as the raise did not exceed the inflation rate. Activists rallied on campus to press for a refund. UST refused the demand, saying that even if it had implemented a tuition increase indexed to the inflation rate this year, it had earlier carried out consultations.

Senate candidates in the 2007 election visited the campus to sign a Covenant of Peace and Honest Elections and to present their platforms to the Thomasian community. Jenny Lynne G. Aguilar, Jamaila S. Cahilig, Marie Jeanette P. Cordero and Hershey D. Homol

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