Administrators and Student Leaders: Partners in Campus Governance

Manila Bulletin, May 17, 2003 | Go to article overview

Administrators and Student Leaders: Partners in Campus Governance


Byline: Eldigario D. Gonzales, DPA

MY role as administrator of an old Higher Education Institution (HEI), but a young university of over 20,000 students spread among 16 campuses and external units in the Zamboanga Peninsula, is viewed from the perspective of a former student leader.

My being a former student leader gives me an understanding of the struggles and difficulties of student leadership and makes me easily see the need to explore new avenues of partnerships where my decisions can be compatible with those whom the university takes responsibility in forming.

It should be emphasized that the growing relevance of collective decision-making, including those in academic institutions, assures a more stable course towards change with the least resistance.

With the above as my premise, I shall proceed by:

First, defining the concept of governance;

Second, describing the dynamics of Philippine Academic Campuses;

Third, looking at campus governance and student leadership;

Fourth, looking at the experience of some universities abroad; and,

Finally, relating to you my experience with students and student leaders at the Western Mindanao State University.

Governance defined

The concept of governance stems from the basic need to maintain order and prevent the occurrence of anarchy. This evolved from the experiences of early human organizations that found increasing difficulties in effecting change with the absence of leaders, defined structures and codes of conduct. Bloating human groups and settlements pushed for the need to established the early forms of order and structure.

For centuries, the idea of governance, or simply "to rule," rested on a single person. While this approach served well for growing social groups, expanding populations pushed the need for more sophisticated forms of governance. However, within the same context, tyrants and despots likewise emerged and redefined governance as an authoritarian structure with order akin to force.

Like many other human experiences, the heterogeneity of organizational composition drove sharp wedges in the drive towards designing a common means to govern.

Academic campuses have always been looked upon as intellectual hubs where ideas and views are generated and utilized to form the foundations of practical and relevant theories. It is that very same perception that suggests the existence of a wide variation of views and interests that any university must learn to handle.

Governing a university is one of the most challenging aspects of administration. While a more defined approach may be applied to most forms of organizations, a more versatile style is required for a veritable melting pot such as an academic institution.

The reality with an academic community is the recognition that its multiethnic composition is the best reflection of society and its aspirations. In turn, it gives the best pulse of the people's temperament and direction. In short, governing a university is governing a concise version of the entire society.

What used to be viewed as governance of merely a student community has now become governance with the studentry.

The dynamics of Philippine academic Campuses

Prior to the militancy of the 1960s, academic institutions were regarded as ivory towers out of touch with reality. This perception may have been the product of a long history of colonialism resulting in students being subjected to virtual strait jackets, commanded to ignore whatever was not considered academic.

When the then worsening political condition reached its peak in the late 60's, left wing and other militant ideologies slowly swept into Filipino academic campuses. Schools became fertile breeding grounds for radical change from which were born plans to install an alternative form of political system. …

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