UPDate Online

Update on the Faculty Center fire

Chancellor Michael L. Tan

(APR. 7)—This statement updates previous information about the Faculty Center (FC) fire of Apr. 1, as well as responds to the most frequently asked questions, mainly from affected faculty, staff and students.

Cause of the fire.  The Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) continues to investigate the circumstances around the fire.  Our previous experience is that a report can take several weeks.  Meanwhile, the university itself is conducting a parallel investigation, looking mainly into compliance with several policies related to fire prevention.  A memo issued right after the fire reminds all deans and directors to strictly impose night curfews on the use of offices (which was supposed to be at 10 p.m.  at FC) and securing duplicate keys for all rooms, so they can be entered in cases of emergency.

Reentry into FC.  Faculty and staff are understandably anxious to go back into the building to see what they can retrieve but we have a BFP order to refrain from “tampering” with the building while they are conducting their investigation.  There are also important safety issues and the College of Engineering’s Institute of Civil Engineering, headed by Dr. Ricardo Sigua, is assessing the structural integrity of the center in close coordination with Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs (VCAA) Dr. Benito Pacheco.

In coordination with the BFP and with strict requirements about protective gear, some departments have been allowed to enter, mainly the College of Arts and Letters (CAL) administration and departments and the Lank Bank of the Philippines branch that had offices on the first floor.  Unauthorized entry of the second and even third floors has been reported, some of which were even posted at Facebook, and we are alarmed by these violations.  We reiterate that there are serious safety concerns here and hope the faculty and staff will be more cooperative.  An important but often unrecognized issue is that claims on lost belongings are now jeopardized because of so many unauthorized entries.  Again, please coordinate with Vice Chancellor for Community Affairs Nestor Castro for possible re-entry and scheduling of the reentry.

UPD Faculty Center 7.23.14CAL classes.  I have approved CAL Dean Amihan Bonifacio-Ramolete’s request to extend suspension of classes in the CAL building to Friday, Apr. 8, because of high levels of air pollution.  The classroom situation is very tight throughout Diliman but several deans are looking for rooms they can spare.

Financial assistance for infrastructure and equipment.  Dean Bonifacio-Ramolete and CSSP Dean Grace Aguiling-Dalisay immediately met with their College Executive Boards after the fire and have submitted to the UP Diliman (UPD) and the UP System administrations their lists of needed equipment.  These are being processed by the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Administration (OVCA).

The Office of the Campus Architect (OCA) is also rushing work on the Pavilions assigned to CAL and CSSP.  This includes completion of Pavilions 1 and 3 (for CAL) and 2 (for CSSP) and jumpstarting Pavilion 4, assigned to CSSP.

Financial assistance for individual faculty and REPS. The Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Development (OVCRD) will facilitate processing of thesis and dissertation grants for those affected. In addition, the VCA, working closely with OVCRD, is finalizing mechanisms for an outright grant fund of P5 million to assist faculty and REPS with equipment related to research and reconstruction of lost materials.  An announcement will be made as soon as implementing rules are finalized.  We could have just ordered laptops and other equipment and given them to departments and individual faculty but this would overlook specific circumstances of their needs, even as we look for ways to pool procurement, based on their submissions.

Deadlines for theses/dissertations, research grants.   Extensions will be given for the theses and dissertation defenses of affected faculty and staff.  The deadlines for all research grants due for completion during the first half of 2016 are now extended to the end of the year, with provisions for additional extensions if so justified.

Support for replacing official documents.  Human Resource Development Office director Angela Escoto will be coordinating with various government agencies to facilitate replacement of passports, driver’s licenses and other official documents lost in the fire.

Lost library books.  The University Library will waive replacement of books lost or damaged in the fire.  However, those affected are enjoined to submit letters addressed to the University Librarian reporting these losses.

Research load credits.  Affected faculty can apply for additional research load credits next semester, in effect allowing them to reduce their teaching loads and give more time to, in the words of one faculty “reenergize the research atmosphere of affected departments.”

Medium- and long-term programs. Meetings continue for medium- and long-term rehabilitation.  The Office of the Chancellor will continue coordinating activities related to rehabilitation.   Please note the following specific responsibilities and who to approach:

An internal Executive Committee memo issued  Apr. 4 assigns over-all disaster response to VC Pacheco.  Concerns around the building’s safety and re-entry was assigned to VC Castro and OCA. Financial aspects for rehabilitation are assigned to Vice Chancellor for Administration Virginia Yap. Dr. Sir Anril Tiatco, director of the Diliman Information Office (DIO), handles all announcements and public statements, including the SMS or text blasts and social media coordination.

The deans of CAL and CSSP continue to handle college-specific needs, still mainly limited to immediate responses, but moving now into medium- and long-term needs.

The fire reminds us of the need to “think locally, act globally,” the “global” being UPD and UP system.  One area where cooperation is urgently needed is the need for classrooms for CAL.  The classroom situation is tight throughout UPD because several colleges are being renovated, but the deans are looking for possible rooms that can be lent to CAL.

The UP System has pledged computers and LCD projectors for CAL, with more equipment, including air conditioning units for both CAL and CSSP. Several deans have offered spaces, furniture, equipment, and, most importantly, moral support.  CSSP’s psychology department, fortunately not directly affected by the fire, has been able to take care of the many needs around debriefing and therapeutic activities.

Alumni have offered fund-raising campaigns but we reiterate earlier statements that CAL and UPD need time to assess what to do with the FC.  We are grateful to Anvil Publishing and the presses of UP, Ateneo de Manila and La Salle University for launching a Sagip Guro project that offers substantial  discounts on book purchases for affected faculty.

We once again thank the University Student Council and various student organizations for being with CAL and CSSP from the time of the fire to the present, offering material assistance and moral support, and of course, their social media mobilizations.

We thank the Samahan ng mga Manininda, who were also there during the fire and selflessly offered food and water, even as their kiosks were in danger of being consumed by the fire.

We ask all stakeholders to inform us, through the DIO, if there are other overlooked needs, as well as your ideas and offers for concrete assistance.