Mar 222013
 

The University of the Philippines Amidst a Nation in Crisis: Its History, Role and Directions

 

 

C. Angara and the Continuing Crisis in U.P. Education

 

The 1980s started off with the regime’s attempt to totally place under its control the educational machinery, as it had systematically done so in the U.P. This attempt met stiff resistance from various sectors which were able to deduce what this would mean for academic freedom.

 

The U.P. registered the most united opposition to the scheme propounded in the Education Act of 1980. It rejected this ‘assault on academic freedom because it proposed a control structure (thereby) viewing the problems of the educational system as primarily managerial’. United opposition by the University community signaled the attempt of the U.P. to break off from the narrow confines of its dictated role as ‘partner’ (of the regime) for ‘national development’.

 

The Education Act of 1980 represented the regime’s blueprint for applying the sophisticated ‘management control system’ it had systematically tested in the U.P. system upon the whole educational machinery of the State. The U.P. was envisioned to be the ultimate ‘technology resource center’ which could service the high-level manpower needs of various state agencies and their corporate and multinational counterparts. A further overhaul of the U.P.’s structure was needed to ensure that the University maintain its collaboration with the bureaucrat-capitalists to further the goal of continued imperialist control.

 

It is in this context that a corporate lawyer extremely loyal to the maintenance of the interests of the regime and its foreign backers was appointed the U.P. president.

 

Angara’s qualifications, unlike his predecessors, did not include being an academic. Angara, however, clearly represented the interests of the big comprador bourgeoisie. His law firm, the Angara, Concepcion, Cruz, Regala and Abello law office (ACCRA) is closely linked to the coconut bloc led by Eduardo Cojuangco Jr., the big landlord and Marcos crony. Cojuangco is overlord of such shady business conglomerates as the Unicom, the UCPB, the Cocofed, and the Unichem. The ACCRA is the retained law firm for these businesses and has benefited immensely from the crony ‘capitalism’ of the Marcos regime.

 

ACCRA is also the corporate counsel for a big number of companies engaged in partnerships and joint ventures with American capital. In mid-1983, Angara was appointed director of the San Miguel Corporation. In addition to this, he is a director of various other banks and companies engaged in manufacturing, securities, mining and exploitation of the country’s natural resources. ACCRA is further involved in developing a 12,000 hectare plantation in Agusan del Sur for coconut and logging concerns.

 

It can be fairly concluded that the Board of Regents, whose members are predominantly hatchetmen of the regime, chose Angara as the U.P. president for what he is: an efficient conveyor of corporate values and priorities into the academe and a reliable defender of imperialist, landlord-comprador and bureaucrat-capitalist interests.

 

Administrative eclectism – the habit of always finding a most advantageous way out of deeply embedded academe problems – tends to characterize most of Angara’s major policy decisions and pronouncements. For instance, the elaborate campaign to solicit funds for the U.P. Diamond Jubilee served to deflect the selective financial crunch imposed by the regime upon the U.P. The campaign also effectively hid the continuing policy of the U.P.’s financial partnership with, or better yet, dependence upon imperialist-sponsored programs and well-funded projects using University resources. The rhetoric of ‘nationalism’ and self-reliance have had the effect of preempting a militant nationalist stance by University sectors.

 

The U.P. president’s preoccupation with financial and managerial details highlights his role as an ‘efficient administrator’ of the overall scheme to prepare the U.P.’s role as a technological resource center in higher (graduate level) education in the country and even in Asia. Such a preoccupation hides – consciously or otherwise – his sidestepping the clearly visible contradiction in the U.P. education – i.e. its dominant anti-national and anti-progressive thrust, and its being an institution supported by the people.

 

The Fact is that the U.P. is Being Systematically Starved of Funds by the Regime

 

Programs and curricular offerings not supportive of the regime’s ‘development priorities’ are allowed to languish and die. In contrast, programs which fall in line with the World Bank-IMF’s scheme of support in the fields of agricultural and fisheries development, educational realignment for ‘skills formation’, and population studies are given the highest fiscal priority. As corporate and foreign assistance in the form of pledges / endowments from powerful and well-entrenched alumni flood the academe, the University is further emasculated of its critical functions. The feverish fund raising activities attract well-heeled alumni to give support to the University and places the U.P. on the same level as private institutions. Such exercises further legitimize the regime’s responsibility for allocating less and less public funds to the U.P. and educational services in general.

 

The Review Committees: Corporate Approach to the U.P. Education

 

As a master of corporate strategies, the University President upon assuming office exhibited his penchant of initiating his own form of control mechanism through the creation of innocent-sounding ‘review committees’.

 

Angara’s starting point was to seize upon the University’s recurring financial crisis; he considered these mainly as ‘fiscal management’ problems – inadequacy and uncertainty of its fiscal resources. Commenting that ‘no attempt has been made to establish correlation between the University’s wide purposes and limited resources’, he proceeded ‘to strengthen the U.P.’s mission’ by making it ‘more responsive to social realities’.

 

In the main, such a response would be in the form of supplementing state support by generating funds from other sources. At the same time, he reaffirmed the assumptions behind the multi-versity concept of the U.P. (‘we are not one, but many universities’). The multi-versity concept emerged from Carlos P. Romulo’s mendicant policies and brazen Americanization of the University in the late 1960s.  Romulo accepted US grants and other forms of aid to establish units and programs left and right fundamentally because there was funding available from such imperialist agencies as the USAID and the private foundations.

 

The review committees did not serve to effectively isolate the backward aspects of the multi-versity concept. As could be borne out later, the review committees served to rationalize further the conglomeration of the University as a ‘complex organism’.

 

The Committee to Review Academic Programs (CRAP)

 

The CRAP was created to ‘review all academic programs, define the goals to which these should be directed and recommend which ones to continue, discontinue, expand or reduce’.

 

The CRAP made use of twelve comprehensive criteria in their task of evaluation. The criteria, ranging from mainly economic considerations to philosophical programs, were assessed in terms of the capacity of the University to offer the program with reference to faculty competence and research output; scope, viability and attractiveness to students; continuing validity – i.e. ‘to contribute to Philippine development’; enhancement of ‘the quality of life’; service to an important sector of the community; graduates who would be assets to the country; and promotion of ‘national dignity and self-respect’. Budgetary considerations were also paramount: whether the program can be so arranged that it can be realized at less cost.

 

To some extent, the CRAP represented an honest effort by senior academicians to review and recommend directions for academic programs. The committee’s composition was reasonably respectable: Francisco Nemenzo,Jr., Jose Encarnacion,Jr., Gloria Feliciano, Irene Cortez, Gloria Aragon, Priscila Manalang, Jesus Montemayor, Paz Ramos, and Ramon Santos.

 

Several recommendations were outstanding insofar as democratic and anti-imperialist sentiments were concerned. The committee questioned for instance, the wisdom of creating units largely by external pressures, such as offers of initial funding from extra-university agencies, statutory enactments and the like. Thus, the CRAP recommended that the University exercise the sole right to establish and develop new units, colleges or centers. A case in point is the U.P. Visayas, whose rationale for establishment mainly depended upon the availability of foreign loans and grants. The U.P. Visayas has very few students and graduates even in the Fisheries course itself. (The faculty of the College of Fisheries opposed the transfer of the college to the Iloilo campus.)

 

The CRAP also observed that statutory enactments on academic programs are not only unwise, but more importantly, violate academic freedom. In particular, it recommended the repeal of the onerous Spanish law and similar academic impositions.

 

The committee further noted the ‘imposition of research priorities by funding agencies’ – e.g. the ‘mission-oriented’ research required by the NSDB (now NSTA). The immediate effect is neglect of the basic disciplines because applied / market research is more rewarding. Thus, these type of researches actually impinge upon academic freedom. There is no distinction between purely utilitarian research, from researches which enhance academic excellence.

 

Other recommendations included the abolition of the Bachelor of Tourism program of the Asian Institute of Tourism. An expensive course, it also competes with scarce University resources by its having a losing hotel and restaurant operation subsidized by U.P. funds.

 

The CRAP also proposed to abolish the U.P. Clark because it does not have a valid justification for existence. In particular, its graduates are not ‘assets to the country’, the majority being US servicemen performing military functions for US interests. Thus, the U.P. Clark programs do not promote national dignity.

 

The Management Review Committee (MRC)

 

There were other review committees to examine campus planning and land utilization and related matters, but the MRC was the most important.

As the acrimonious debates after the CRAP subsided, the recommendations of the subsequently created MRC took to the frontline.

 

The MRC mainly tackled the ‘anarchy prevailing in the administrative structure of the University’. The central administration in Diliman was buried in the operational details of running the main campus. Thus, the MRC was directed to conduct an ‘appraisal audit of the organization and management of the University’. This was intended by Angara to be the first step in ‘bringing about an effective and simplified management of the multi-campus University’ that the U.P. had become since Carlos P. Romulo.

 

The MRC recommendations were subsequently approved by the Board of Regents during the early part of 1983. The central administrative focus was to relieve the U.P. president of some of his supervisory functions, especially on the Diliman campus, to make him free for overall planning and finance. A powerful vice president for planning and finance was created ‘to forge friendly fiscal links with government offices and to generate funds for University projects and development plans’. This VP for planning and finance would be the source of all recommendations for the overall directions and priorities of the University. The transfer of the Budget Office to the VP for planning and finance underlined the attempt to institute total control over financial matters in the University.

 

The highlights of the MRC recommendations boil down to the following:

 

+ Soliciting loans and grants from foreign funding institutions (such as the World Bank and the private foundations of multinational business);

+ Raising tuition fees to marketable levels;

+ Marking up from consultancies and research projects for the use of the U.P. facilities;

+ Solicitation from abroad; and

+ Establishment of autonomous units in the major campuses and each headed by a chancellor who reports directly to the president

 

It is not surprising that the MRC’s recommendations on the financial administration of the U.P. are of paramount concern. The tone of the MRC’s lead statement on financing legitimizes without question the budget limitations set by the national government on the U.P., thus ‘we have to realize that we have to expand the resource base of the University. We have long depended upon the government subsidy and the meager income we earn from tuition and auxiliary enterprises.’.

 

In the face of the belt-tightening measures ordered by the World Bank-IMF conglomerate to the Philippine government as a precondition for granting additional loans, the MRC appeared to be Angara’s way of complying with the cost-reduction policy. By overhauling the organizational set-up of the U.P. system, it can be made more wieldy and less costly to administer. What is more, internal resource generating measures would be instituted supposedly to enable the U.P. to rely more on itself and less upon the annual government subsidy. Thus, the MRC complemented closely the thrusts of the CRAP to streamline the U.P. academic programs to effect savings in line with overall national policy.

 

Thus, the rationale for the MRC recommendations really served to lay the foundations for the long-term requirement of a U.P. educational structure needed by the continuing hold of multinational and corporate interests in the overall educational system of the country. The broad groundwork for this rationalization had earlier been laid by the various five and ten year national development plans formulated by the NEDA and other policy-making agencies, with World Bank-IMF blessing.

 

The most immediate and apparent impact of the recommendations is that the State University would now be more prone to the onslaught of foreign-dictated priorities thru the mere proferment of funds and fellowship grants. The central administration wants to relieve itself of supervising and subsidizing support services to the U.P. constituency by giving these away to private service entities (concessionaires). This corporate technique of subcontracting is indeed complementary to the overall objective of increasing resources through other means, such as savings, other than state support. Such policy directions speak well of the corporate background of the planners.

 

It could not be otherwise, since the MRC’s composition includes business and management consultants within the University. They could not be expected to shy away from their bias of adopting a corporate approach to the solution of problems in the U.P. education. The rule adopted was simply that of maximizing returns. The tuition fee recommendations of the Saldana committee is within this line of reasoning. With the U.P. tuition fee levels approximating that of private commercial / sectarian schools, government would be substantially relieved of a sizeable burden. The unintended effect would of course be the legitimization of an already distorted enrollment trend and student composition of the University, which is heavily in favor of urbanized youth from high income families who do not deserve any subsidy at all.

 

There are two major shifts in emphasis with the reorganization of the University. Regionalization, through the ‘autonomy’ of regional campuses while posing as a decentralization process is actually a scheme to centralize more effectively the control of the U.P. president and the central administration. While indeed there has to be some streamlining of functions for efficient management, such changes as proposed by the MRC effectively centralize power.

 

In the ongoing structural changes, the U.P. president is relieved of ‘nuisance pressures’ which might come from restive students and the U.P. personnel, with the vice presidents serving as buffers. In particular, there would be centralized planning, direction and determination of priorities for fund allocation. The U.P. president, together with the powerful vice president for planning and finance and the offices under them stand as the most elite core of the U.P. administration. The other vice presidents for administration and academic affairs are charged with more routinary matters.

 

There is nothing wrong with the idea of having a more efficient and centralized power structure in the University. But within the present context of contradictions in Philippine education, such centralization could be used to serve dubious and questionable priorities. With the absence of an effective check and balance mechanism within the University itself, such as sectoral representation in the Board of Regents and a vibrant University Council or Assembly, academic freedom would be nothing but a mockery.

 

The reorganization of the University Council through the MRC seeks to remake it into an effective link between the administration and the academic community. Thus there is a semblance of academic freedom; yet the Council’s decisions are still subject to approval by the Board of Regents.  However, the institutionalization of a small core of active council members linked to the Office of the VP for Academic Affairs as recommended by another task force carries with it the danger of developing an elite corps of academicians in friendly collaboration with and coopted by the central administration. This core faculty within the committees would be actually tasked with mere monitoring, enforcing and reviewing powers. The more crucial task however, of planning and prioritizing still falls within the orbit of the central administration.

 

In general then, all the recommendations of the review committees still fall in line with the three ‘themes’ for the U.P. education which date back to O.D. Corpuz and Emmanuel Soriano’s policy thrusts to align the U.P. solidly behind the objectives of the regime and its imperialist supporters, namely:

 

+ Attuning the U.P. to the needs of ‘national development’ goals of government;

+ Increasing the U.P.’s presence nationwide to accent to national unity;

+  Institutionalizing changes to conform with these goals

 

Angara’s recent efforts easily conform with these three broad thrusts. The obsession for rationalization and efficiency betrays the superficial perception that the problems in the U.P. education are managerial problems mostly. It is an illusion to think that the problems which arose out of the unsound assumptions and lack of foresight of previous administrations in instituting programs and policies can be solved merely through administrative measures.

 

The review committee system, as instituted, entrusts to an elite corps of people the responsibilities of determining and formulating areas for change in the academic community. This elitist approach of solving problems, however honest, can never be a substitute for a democratically determined consensus for instituting change.

 

Sectoral Responses to the Recommendations

 

The most immediate response from the other sectors of the University came from the non-academic personnel who demanded the scrapping of the MRC recommendations which directly affected them, namely:

 

1.    Creation of new executive positions which would sacrifice the seniority of administrative employees;

2.    Sale or lease of the Basilan land grant which would mean the lay-off of U.P. personnel working there;

3.    Selective leasing of the University Food Service (meaning lay-off of UFS workers);

4.    Gradual phasing-out of janitorial services;

5.    Merging of the Physical Plant Office and the Campus Landscaping Office and the Arboretum;

6.    Phasing-out of the Office of General Services.

 

The non-academic personnel and others in the U.P. community also opposed the move to impose land lease or rentals for residence in the peripheral areas within the campus, where most administrative workers reside. Likewise, the move to impose rentals for sari-sari stores, eateries and other household businesses inside the University was opposed.

 

The major changes instituted by the review committees ‘effected adversely the conditions of life and work of many U.P. workers’, according to the non-academic personnel. In terms of actual implementation, the recommendations serve to hang a sword of Damocles over the employment and tenure of many personnel.

 

The rest of the sectors comprising the U.P. community could only view these recommendations as formulated without democratic consultation and devoid of any consideration of problems according to sectoral interests. For the non-academic personnel these interests include: security of tenure, wage / salary increases, housing needs, representation, consultation and viability of the personnel association and its recognition by the authorities. Such interests essentially ran counter to the managerial approach at the U.P. education adopted by the administration, where unrestrained exercise of authority is paramount to institute these changes with their underlying assumptions intact.

 

From the sectoral viewpoint of the studentry, outstanding issues could easily evolve in the light of the changes instituted by the review committees. Foremost of these issues as discussed earlier would be the resolution of the real nature and thrust of the U.P. education. The question simply put is: where does the administration want the students to go? To serve whom and how?

 

Corollarily, policy making and resource allocation structures should involve a sincere inclusion of a machinery for student participation, not in coopting them and diffusing tension.

 

The most immediate issues however, involve the financial and resource problems reflected in the policy of budget strangulation now taking its toll upon the wages and salaries of the U.P. personnel. The managerial problems perceived by the administration clearly are peripheral problems.

 

Financial strangulation could only mean the death of academic freedom within the University, and the destruction of the much-vaunted tradition of the U.P. autonomy already abused by a repressive martial law regime. It is high time that the various academic sectors dump the illusion that there is still academic freedom and autonomy left in the University. For in actuality, directions and priorities have long been dictated by the needs of foreign monopoly interests legitimized through various statutes and decrees. There has always been a mechanism of appropriation for pro-imperialist projects which the academe without its effective exercise of its critical intelligence is helpless to resist.

 

Summing up then: there is no way of hiding the fact that the U.P. education is in a state of continuing, and more acute crisis today. This is a crisis spawned by the contradictions between serving neocolonial ends and the needs of the ruling elite in Philippine society, on the one hand, and, on the other, the imperative of serving the interests of the broad masses of the people through a pro-people, democratic and progressive education.

 

The new structures of control and administration spawned by the review committees are based upon a narrow and limited perception of the nature of problems besetting the U.P. education. The sectoral opposition to this narrow conception of the crisis springs from need of Philippine society, which the U.P. education purports to serve, for a liberative and liberating education.

 

Only the institution of a truly democratic structure of policy-making and implementation within the University community representing the sectors comprising it and allowing the studentry adequate representation and participation can sustain the liberative aspect of the U.P. education.

 

The U.P. of Our Vision

 

The basic character of the U.P. as instituted by the American colonizers in 1908 still prevails today. It still is a potent instrument for the perpetuation of the power of the ruling class: an effective center for the dissemination of the pernicious ideology of that class, and a prolific supplier of high level manpower and basic research findings for its ideologies.

 

Through the years, it had changed its form of subservience while essentially retaining it basic character of serving the interests of the imperialists and their local cohorts.

 

But the U.P. has never been static. Each stage in its history, has been a struggle between the forces of reaction and the forces of progress. The struggle is fundamentally between the dominant reactionary forces’ efforts to maintain the U.P. as an effective apparatus of the ruling class, and the determination of the progressive forces to develop a U.P. in the service of the people. The U.P. presidents and their administrations have almost always been creatures of the establishment, while a minority of the faculty and students have constituted a source of alternative thought.

 

In a society in turmoil, these progressive forces have gained ground. In the whole course of the U.P.’s history, these forces have struggled and developed continually in scope as well as in class standpoint. It was through the persistent and laborious effort of these forces which made possible the historical hallmarks of protest actions against the ruling system in the first quarter storm of the 70’s, the many gains and achievements in the struggle for democratic rights in the University, and the inclusion of a pro-people content in some curricular programs of the University. As a result, a great number of the U.P. students and teachers have immersed themselves among the masses and are now performing tasks in various fields of activities for the liberation of the Filipino people.

 

Though still a minority in a predominantly reactionary University, progressive forces shall, in the near future, destroy the dominance and the basis of bourgeois reactionary forces in the University. It shall be the force which shall complete the transformation of the U.P. into a University truly serving the Filipino people. However, such transformation cannot be complete and effective, before the achievement of national liberation. Only then will the U.P. be called a true University of the people.

 

 

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 May 26th 2005

 

 

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