THE UNIVERSITY of Santo Tomas as a haven for literature is good only in name but not in structure. Organizationally-speaking, literature is being given the short shrift.

With the Department of Languages supervising the University’s literature program and other disciplines-Filipino, English, Spanish and other foreign languages-Literature is being neglected and is not given the attention it needs. As a result, calls have arisen for Literature to have a separate department.

Lack of focus

According to Prof. Ferdinand Lopez, coordinator of the Literature program of the Faculty of Arts and Letters and administrative secretary of the Center for Creative Writing and Studies (CCWS), with literature and languages under one department, setting priorities could be a problem, since Literature and Language have different foci and concerns.

“You have to acknowledge the fact that there is a difference of focus in Language and Literature. If they will be fused, the chair would find it difficult (to set priorities)”, Lopez said.

Even the Commission on Higher Education (Ched) considers the disciplines as separate, Lopez added.

“May COE for Literature at COE for English. If the Ched feels that they are supposed to be taken as one, eh di fused yon (COEs),” Lopez said.

Meanwhile, Communication Arts and Journalism Dept. Chair Prof. Joyce Arriola pointed out a Ched memorandum prescribing two literature subjects: Literature of the World and Literature from the Region.

“These (subjects) are not being implemented. Why? Because the focus is on language,” Arriola said.

However, Vice-Rector for Academic Affairs Fr. Antonio Aureada, O.P. believes there is no need for a separate department.

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“The proposal to create a Dept. of Literature is not (feasible) considering that department (would not be) university-wide. Literature is not given to all students,” Fr. Aureada said.

Nevertheless, Lopez said literature should be given more importance. More than reading poems, studying literature opens cultures, as there is also a particular way of reading.

“Halimbawa sa mga theories, iilan lang sa mga colleges ang updated on the method on how to read a text. At least dito sa Arts and Letters, ang faculty namin more or less abreast sa mga postmodern theories. What about the teachers in other colleges?” Lopez said.

Arriola believes that a separate department would be able to focus efforts on academics and research on literature.

“It is important for us to develop the languages separately from literature because these are two entirely different disciplines. The old school (says) literature descended from language education,” Arriola said.

Arriola added that with the Literature program out of its way, the Dept. of Languages would be able to enrich instruction, research, curriculum, material preparation and graduate education.

Filipino, too

It seems that literature is not the only discipline wanting to break away from the Dept. of Languages. Lopez said that Filipino professors are also talking about separation.

And the move seems to have started from the College of Education. In a previous article by the Varsitarian titled “Isang Tahanang Masisilungan – Ang pangangailangang sa sariling Kagawaran ng Filipino”, College of Education Assistant Dean Dr. Jose Dakila Espiritu said that Filipino professors would become more creative if they have their own department.

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When Varsitarian founder Jose Villa Panganiban established UST’s own Kagawaran ng Wika in 1938, UST had a strong Filipino program because of a separate Filipino department. The Graduate School too had its own program in Filipino.

The growth of the department was stalled in the late 70’s when the Department of Education, Culture and Sports (DECS) issued a memorandum ordering the reduction of units for Spanish language subjects. This order led the then University rector Rev. Fr. Frederik Fermin, O.P. to create a single Department of Languages, which would house all the language subjects taught in the University, including Filipino.

Through the years, the development of Filipino studies declined. Even the publication of Filipino-English dictionaries was discontinued. Panganiban was the pioneer behind the shelved project.

The Graduate School stopped offering masters and doctorate degrees in FIlipino due to lack of students. Because of this, the University lost its specialists in the field as they moved to other colleges and universities.

Today, the University’s standards in Filipino language instruction and research continue to plunge. Ditto with the quality of Filipino literature instruction. Those who teach Filipino hardly have the proper credentials.

Among the four premier universities in the country, UST is the only one without a separate Department of Filipino.

Meanwhile, for UST to become a global and competitive institution, Prof. Ana Maria Gloria Ward, head of the Public Affairs and Alumni Office, said a separate department should be created for English.

“Before, our English was very good. Somewhere along the line, humina tayo,” Ward said.

Ward cited other universities like De La Salle (DLSU) and Ateneo de Manila, which formed separate departments for Literature and even for each language. DLSU has Departments for the English Language, Philippine Languages and Literature. She commented that the library in Ateneo has such extensive research on the English language. “There’s (even) such a thing as Atenean English,” she said.

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An independent English department may be the cure for the image of Thomasians as poor speakers.

“Kasi if we ask the employers, yung mga industry people, theoretically magaling tayo pero mahina ang Thomasians sa communicative skills,” Ward said.

A better instruction program on how to teach the various languages should be developed.

Not responsive

A single Dept. of Languages to house all these disciplines is not responsive to the needs of the University.

Dept. of Languages head Dr. Johanna Hasheem refused to be interviewed. She said she has not yet talked to Fr. Aureada and that she “cannot comment on hearsay.”

“I’m the head of the department at kung hindi pa namin napag-uusapan, I cannot just comment off-hand,” she said.

Fr. Aureada also stated that he was not yet presented with any formal proposal.

Lopez said that the move for a change should start from the administration.

“Dapat initiative manggaling sa kanila if we are after coming up with a globally competitive curricula,” Lopez said. B. J. I. Allardo, J. C. B. Bautista, M. P. C. Joson, and W. A. Pelingen

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