A Hollow VictoryBy Philip Dominguez Mercurio
Hopefully you’ve heard the news.
Kulintang music at San Francisco State is up and running for another semester this fall. Better sign you and your lola up, if you haven’t already.
Everyone involved seemed on the up and up. The university will retain a unique discipline taught by the one-and-only Master Kalanduyan and the students and the surrounding community will be on the verge of benefiting from another semester of kulintang pizzazz.
Only one problem though… Was this just a hollow victory?
Considering the class’ situation this fall, the answer would be ‘no’ but many concerns about this class have yet to be addressed — concerns which have lingered ever since the class’ very inception five semesters ago.
ETHS 545’s humble beginnings took shape when Mr. Kalanduyan was appointed SFSU’s distinguished artist in residence. Collaborating with Ating Tao, the SFSU-based drum ensemble, his presence generated a lot of exposure and attention for kulintang music.
“After his distinguished artist of residence was over,” said Professor Danilo Begonia, “We started to think ‘How could we keep him on campus because he was such a major asset to the community and to the university.’” What Mr. Begonia came up with was the creation of a Kulintang course, ETHS 545, which would be listed under Ethnic Studies.
But here’s the catch. When Mr. Begonia and the Acting Dean at the time, Tomás Almaguer went about doing this, steps were taken which strayed beyond normal university procedures. “When Professor Begonia wanted to offer that course,” said Professor Daniel Gonzales, “he should have had some communication with Asian American Studies (AAS) since it’s obviously a Filipino contact course. But there was never any consultation to my knowledge between AAS and Professor Begonia and Dean Almaguer. Basically, they did this to exclude AAS from the process of making the decision.”
Huh? Why would the previous administration want to leave out the AAS from a class that was clearly Asian-involved?
Well apparently, Mr. Almaguer held favoritism over some Ethnic courses. “Almaguer had a habit of taking resources away from different departments, shifting them over to the Ethnic Studies area and hiring whichever way he wanted,” said Mr. Gonzales. By doing so, Mr. Almaguer would have by-passed certain channels that would have gone against him, saving certain classes at his choosing from budget cuts. Such was the case for ETHS 545.
Now this arrangement would have been all honky-dory for all the classes under the Ethnics banner had it not been for the recent abdication of Mr. Almaguer. His abrupt departure caused a firestorm between the four departments with supporters of the former Dean accusing his critics of ousting him due to racially motivated agendas. Even worst, his swift departure spelled disaster for classes caught in the cross-fire such as Mr. Kalanduyan’s.
The correction to undo much of the prior damage caused by Mr. Almaguer would have eliminated many of funded courses under the imaginary Ethnic Department. Had it not been for the courage of a fearless few, Mr. Kalanduyan’s class would have been lost.
But no matter, even with his recent reinstatement, the damage to Mr. Kalanduyan had already been done. Because of the hasty way the class was introduced, the class has and will continue to remain in limbo, as a temporary class under the whims of the mythical Ethnics Department.
Mr. Kalanduyan would continue to receive more of the same: perhaps the lowest pay a lecturer could ever get under the curtain of a special contract. In fact, Mr. Gonzales said that had they in the AAS listed the course, “we would have asked that he be paid the appropriate level to his expertise, which would be much more, almost twice, what he is
actually getting paid. We couldn’t afford that... maybe only once a year, in a rotational cycle but at least he would have been paid a lecturer’s pay.”
And even worst, if ever the class is discontinued, only a very few would ever know about it.
University policy dictates that a class slated for elimination must undergo a full review by the faculty, the college, the Academic Senate, and even the president who would base the discontinuance of program according to such measures as its importance in addressing the university’s overall mission and the quality and excellence of the discipline.
ETHS 545 would surely qualify for many of those criteria but because this class never went through the proper channels on its inception, this class will never receive this luxury.
This therefore leaves ETHS 545: Traditional Music of the Southern Philippines at the mercy of the ebbs and flows of erratic monetary funding where only student intervention remains the only hope if the class does succumb to another budget axe.
It may be welcoming to hear of the class’ continuing run into the coming semester but it’s disheartening to see that nothing was done to address the class’ vulnerabilities or Mr. Kalanduyan’s own welfare. Such augmentations may insure the survival of the class in the near future but such quick fixes continue to do a great disservice to this master of all masters. – PDM
See this article,"A Hollow Victory" in Philippine News. Click here