LOOKING BACK AT THE FUTURE

 

A REPORT BY  NICANOR G. TIONGSON, DEAN OF THE COLLEGE OF MASS COMMUNICATION (CMC),  2003-2006

 

To contextualize my term as CMC Dean, allow me to say a few words about the state of the country, the media, and the college then, because these provided me with the premises, purposes, and parameters for the programs and projects begun and/or completed from 2003 to 2006. First off, my term of office happened during the presidency of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, whose administration by then was already hounded by questions of sincerity (“I will not run in 2004”) and integrity (“I committed an indiscretion”), beset by charges of widespread corruption by her family and allies, and accused of misusing government funds for the 2004 election campaigns, supporting and fomenting militarism, and committing human rights violations (including the killing of journalists), whose numbers had begun to exceed those  under the Marcos dictatorship.

And if the political situation was far from ideal, so was the state of the media industry, which by then was dominated by executives and managers who preferred entertainment to enlightenment, and pragmatisn to professionalism. In print media, the few newspapers that published well-researched and analytical articles, columns, and features constituted an embattled minority in a rampaging mob of hysterical tabloids that trivialized the minds of their readers with sensationalistic and escapist stories.  On radio, many so-called hard-hitting and independent commentators were really voices-for-hire who were only too ready and willing to be bought by a range of perks, especially during election time. On television, the race for ratings had transformed news and public affairs programs into “infotainment” shows with classy sets, “sosyal” anchors, and fancy camera work, while variety shows provided a veritable circus of midgets, bomba dancers, and pop singers as well as studio games that dehumanized contestants in exchange for instant cash.  On the silver screen, melodramas trapped audiences in a world of sentiment, encouraging them to wallow in stultifying self-pity and inaction, while action films created false hopes through mythical heroes who singlehandedly eliminated all the enemies of the people. Comedies laughed at physical deformities, deodorized poverty, married off the rich and poor, and reaffirmed patriarchal values about gender and sexuality. In almost all media, personalities magnetized and mesmerized  audiences with their trendy clothes, good looks, and unending prattle.

In the College, previous administrators had already done their admirable best in managing academic and extension affairs, planning and building infrastructure needed by an expanding college, and developing academic and non-academic personnel. But as pointed out in  consultations  made with faculty, students, staff and the former dean, many issues still needed to be addressed. On the academic side, consultants brought up the need for more research outputs from the faculty and REPS, for a better way of disseminating research, for coming out with a scholarly journal, for evaluating and revising the curricular offerings of all departments, for addressing the problems of undergrads and grad students. In the matter of CMC personnel, consultants saw the need for more opportunities for faculty development, the urgency of setting a collegial process for the granting of tenure, the timeliness of creating a comprehensive program for staff development as well as ways to encourage more interaction and cooperation between departments and faculty members. On the organization side, consultants observed that the work relating to research, publication, extension work, and the CMC Foundation had increased to the point that they could no longer be handled by only one office, the Office of Extension, Research and Publication (OERP). Moreover, the thorny relations between the UP Film Center and the Film and Audiovisual Communication Department had to be resolved.  With regards to infrastructure, the newly built Broadcast building had to be equipped, the film building had to be redesigned, built and completed, and plans for the third building of the Media Center had to be drawn up.

Luckily, even as I was starting to be overwhelmed by the daunting conditions of country, media, and college, I found inspiration and strength in the Vision-Mission-Gaols, which the CMC faculty, under the initiative of former Dean Paglinawan, had already defined and approved in 2000. In this classic document, the CMC commits itself to creating “a society that is egalitarian, participative, and progressive, through the development of media that are:  1) socially responsible, critical and vigilant;  2) liberative and transformative; and 3) free and independent.”  With this vision as my guiding light, I did my very best to implement the program of action which I had previously presented to the faculty, students and staff. Like any other academic official, I encountered  some really difficult problems (mainly from faculty and staff who probably found change uncomfortable) but by and large my term of office was peaceful, and certainly made more pleasant by the cooperation and support of the faculty and staff in general, and by the sincere commitment of the College Executive Board (CEB) members then (Florie Mateo, Rose Feliciano, Roland Tolentino, and others), the heads of Office of Research and Publication or ORP (Danilo Arao) and Office of Extension and External Relations or OEER (Jane Vinculado), the Graduate School (Betsy Enriquez), and the CMC Foundation (Jun Austria), and of course the indispensable college secretaries Violy Umali and Odette Portus, and the efficient AOs  Gina Villegas and Dolly Basilan.

At the end of my term in May 2006, I gave a final report which enumerated the programs and projects begun and/or completed during my watch. Allow me to share them with you.

On the academic side, the following were accomplished.  First, through the Office of Research and Publication (ORP), the Faculty Colloquium series was established, with the initial lecture being given by Jun Austria on January 14, 2004.  This series, which continues to the present, was created  in response to the CMC’s mission “to pursue excellence in transformative media studies and the generation of relevant knowledge.” It also aimed to start a dialogue among faculty members as well as generate materials that could be developed into articles for publication.

Second, in fulfilment of the CMC’s mandate to lead “in the critical study and analysis of the content and form, technique and practice of mass communication in all the media,” the bi-annual journal of media, communication,  and society, Plaridel, was established, with its initial issue coming out in February 2005.  Since then, Plaridel, the first refereed journal of the college, has come out regularly and become, probably by default, the most important venue for articles and reviews on the media in the whole country.

Third, in order to counter the media icons then who were idolized for their glamour, wealth or fame, the CMC established Gawad Plaridel, a lifetime achievement award to honor the Plaridels of our troubled times in film, print, and broadcast media, who may lack glitz and glamour, fame and fortune, but who have preserved their integrity and followed the highest professional standards in media practice, making them worthy role models for our students and all Filipinos who believe in the empowerment of the people through informed and critical media. Given every year since July 2004, the award is now acknowledged as the most important award for media practitioners in UP and one of the most respected in the country.

Fourth, in response to one of the CMC’s goals to “continually evaluate and upgrade curricula and pedagogy”, the CMC also started the college-wide revaluation of the curricula, which sought to revamp, overhaul or replace curricular programs and courses of the different departments, in order  to keep in step with the latest relevant developments in communication and media studies outside the country, and at the same time to make these programs responsive to the new and ever-changing conditions of local media practice. The revaluation work was so extensive that it spilled over to the next administration under a committee that was also chaired by yours truly.

Fifth, to “develop linkages with various sectors” outside academe, the CMC collaborated, among others, with GMA and ABS-CBN in scholarship programs, the Directors Guild of the Philippines (DGPI)  for a film lecture series, the CMC Alumni to raise funds for the UP CMC Foundation, and the Cultural Center of the Philippines  and the Film Development Council of the Philippines  for the establishment of the Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival.

On the organizational level, the following were implemented.  First, the OERP was divided into two offices, each headed by faculty members who got 3-unit underloads  for their work.  The Office of Research and Publication (ORP), headed by Danilo Arao, coordinated the faculty colloquia, the creation of a college-wide research agenda, the publication of the CMC Balita (an internal organ of the college), and most importantly,  the preparation and publication of the journal Plaridel.  The ORP also took care of writing and disseminating the College’s stand on important political and media issues, providing “the critical voice that promotes and safeguards the freedom, independence, and responsibility of media.”

Second, the merger of the UP Film Center and the Film and Audiovisual Communication Department into the UP Film Institute, which  was resolved with finality by the Board of Regents in March 2009, was finally implemented during my term.  Problems relating to the reorganization of offices, reassignment of duties and functions, movement of personnel, and smooth integration of the personnel of  the merged entities had to be addressed promptly and efficiently.  The UPFI was then run by a director (Joel David was the first) and later an acting director (Roland Tolentino),  who was a member of the CEB.

Third, the UP CMC Foundation was reorganized and revitalized, with new members  and new officers who were elected by the general assembly every year.  Projects  were planned  and executed with democratic consultation, but by the end of our term the Foundation still had to find more substantial sources of income.

Fourth, new systems were established to make sure that all problems, academic or non-academic, would be immediately addressed and all decisions would be done, only after  proper consultation. To this end the CEB had to meet more often and more regularly, with minutes officially recording decisions made at every meeting and identifying businesses that still needed to be accomplished.  Consultations were made whenever problems arose between departments, faculty members, and the CMC officials.

Fifth, on the infrastructure side, the following were reported. The film building was redesigned, built, and completed, but a few finishing touches still needed to be done, so it was finally used by the Film Institute during the term of my successor.  The equipping of the Broadcast building had started but was still ongoing, while the plans for the third building still had to be drawn. Finally,  to service the needs of film and broadcast classes, a new audiovisual library of films in different formats and with viewing carrels was opened in Plaridel Hall.  Now the film collection of the AV library is one of the best on campus.

In ending, may I say with all sincerity, that all the accomplishments narrated above  would not have been possible without the active cooperation and generous support of all  CMC officials, the CEB, and the faculty and staff of the college.  In the final analysis, therefore, the glory belongs not to me but to our beloved College. Maraming salamat po.

ngt/12 March 2014