The Recent Tuition and Other Fee Increase(TOFI) in UP exposes the
Undemocratic Governance of the University
The manner in which the UP BOR has approved the tuition and other fee increase(TOFI) last December 15, 2006 has clearly manifested the undemocratic governance prevailing in the University. It exposes the utter disregard of an hierarchical leadership of the sentiments and grievances of its constituents. Our University, which should be at the forefront for the learning and practice of democratic values, has instead been demeaned by the brazen and arrogant authoritarianism in the behavior of President Roman and seven of the BOR members.
Without holding systematic and thorough consultations with the student population of the University through their student councils and representatives from parents and alumni, the UP leadership has railroaded the decision to approve TOFI in a hurriedly-held meeting at the College of Law. Refusing to meet with their student, faculty and non-academic constituents for a dialogue at the steps of Quezon Hall last Dec. 15 before their regular monthly meeting, the UP president and the aforementioned group of BOR surreptitiously escaped to another venue. The students were forced to barricade the doors of Quezon Hall as the UP administration was bent on pushing for the approval of TOFI without first undergoing democratic dialogues with the different student councils of the Univeristy. The students would want first for the UP president to defend the rationale of TOFI before them as many of the BOR members may not be fully informed and conversant of the methods of how the TOFI was arrived at and its impacts on the lives of the families of UP students. After all, the proposal for TOFI and the re-bracketing of STFAF were done by a small clique of the UP president, the de dios Committee and the Atanacio committee, whose premises and techniques for TOFI were highly questionable. Experts from the student and faculty sides were prepared to present their arguments vis-à-vis the position of the Roman clique if they were just given an opportunity to do so. The students were waiting to discuss rationally before President Roman and the BOR in the Quezon Hall steps and to later let the BOR, after being duly informed of the issues, continue with their regular meeting at the Board Room of the building. Instead, the UP president and her staff, scaring the other members of the BOR, avoided the crowd at the Quezon Hall and transferred, like thieves in the night, to Malcolm Hall, College of Law, invoking violation of protocol on the part of the students and their proneness to violence. Is this the way for a supposed rational and responsible UP administration to be expected to behave, fearful of and distrusting their own constituencies? No, this is the way of unpopular tyrants, of trembling and guilty dictators.
This undemocratic behavior of President Roman, dragging the members of the BOR with her, was exhibited once more at the regular meeting of the BOR in January 26, 2007. This monthly meeting was scheduled to be held at UP Clark, but when the BOR was confronted by a group of student and faculty demonstrators at the gate of this campus, the UP leadership decided to transfer the venue to the posh Oasis Hotel at Dau, Pampanga. Talk about the lack of funds of UP and the need for TOFI! What makes matter worse was that the Student Regent, who is opposed to TOFI, was billeted in another venue, a motel, to avoid his interacting with the other members of the BOR before the meeting and perhaps explain his position. What expectedly turned out was that his motion, supported by the Faculty Regent, to halt the implementation of the TOFI this June, 2007, was not acted upon.
The UP administration accuses the opposition to TOFI as constituting only a mere minority of the UP constituency. Has the UP administration undertaken dialogues with the different student councils of the University? Have they conducted a referendum regarding TOFI to support their contention that the opposition is only a minority? No, therefore, their charge that the dissenters to TOFI constitute only a minority has no objective basis. On the other hand, it is a concrete fact that those who approved the TOFI is composed of a very miniscule minority of the UP body, the UP president and the seven BOR members. To invoke unilateral power for this body to decide for the whole population of UP while accusing those against TOFI of violating the democratic principle of the majority is indeed the height of hypocrisy and arrogance.
Now, the UP president is moving heaven and earth to revise the UP charter, which will extend greater authority to the BOR to decide unilaterally on matters involving the University as a public educational institution. The UP administration version for the revision of the UP charter is for the BOR to be given added powers to commercialize UP, including the sale and lease of its assets and properties to private entities, registering UP in the stock market and other financial and corporate mechanisms, besides annual TOFI which is to be implemented already this June. With this revised UP charter, approved by the Senate on third reading with the help of the incessant lobbying of President Roman, UP may end up just like any other private profit-oriented schools like La Salle and Ateneo. It is to be noted that the de dios Committee has held up these schools for emulation regarding their capacities to increase tuition fees. In her turn, President Roman, as becoming her business administration background, has even compared UP to a private bank and credit institution, forgetting that our University is supported by taxes of the people, including those of the families of UP students.
We call on all those who still cherish the mission of UP of providing affordable and quality education and upholding the democratic and libertarian values of the Filipino people to frustrate the attempts of the current UP administration to transform UP into a corporate institution, no different from a private business company. The Senate bill is still to be discussed in a bicameral committee meeting in June, so that the UP constituents and their supporters can still block the approval of this bill through fervid lobbying and other means. For after all, UP was meant to serve the poor and deserving Filipino youth and not to profit from the material possessions of others like a capitalist concern.
We call on all to fight for a democratic UP, whose policies and decisions truly emanate from its constituency and not from a few whose main interests are to win accolades for themselves like President Roman. The UP Academic Union is supporting the UP-Wide Democratization Movement for the passage of a new UP charter in Congress which will re-structure the hierarchical system of the BOR into one that will enable the different sectors of the University to participate in the making and implementation of decisions and policies that will affect the whole UP constituency. The UP Wide-Dem is working for the replacement of the present BOR, a colonial remnant from our past, with a democratically-elected system-wide University Assembly, whose members will come from the sectors of students, faculty, REPs, non-academic personnel and alumni.
If UP is transformed into a democratic and pro-people university, as befitting the heart and soul of a true state school, then unfortunate incidents of authoritarianism, which the recent TOFI is the most notorious, can be prevented. Finally, the rule of a few shall be ended in the people’s university.
All UP Academic Union
Feb. 18, 2007
The date posted here is due to our website rebuild, it does not reflect the original date this article was posted. This article was originally posted in Yonip in Feb 20th 2007