Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Commentary: A U.P. Professor seeks tenure but finds Happiness instead

By Chanda Shahani

Comes now an article entitled Tenure Untracked: I am happy about what we did! by U.P. Diliman Professor of Sociology Sarah Raymundo. The article somewhat obscurely refers to the bi-polar power sharing arrangement at the University of the Philippines between the so-called business professors best represented by outgoing U.P. President Emerlinda Roman and what Professor Raymundo ironically calls the “enlightened progressives.”

The “enlightened progressives” is another moniker for the so-called “revisionists” who broadly speaking have been identified with embracing parliamentary and other conventional forms of political struggle outside the university while the “rejectionists” famously called for the boycotting of parliamentary elections in the 1980s and thus missed out on a major opportunity to further their grip on power in the national stage.

But the great schism in the left between the revisionists and the rejectionists has taken its own life within U.P. and has resulted in the “revisionists” symbolized by former U.P. President Francisco “Dodong” Nemenzo, forging a tactical alliance with senior faculty of the College of Business Administration, represented most prominently by outgoing U.P. President Emerlinda Roman.

In fact our theory at the Diliman Diary is that the pendulum in picking the next U.P. President should have swung again towards the hand-picked choice of the “revisionists”  – U.P. Diliman History Professor Ma. Serena Diokno becoming the next U.P. President – with the full cooperation of outgoing U.P. President Roman – had not all these well-laid plans been rudely interrupted by the unilateral decision of President Benigno S. Aquino III to reverse all “midnight” appointments by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, including three critical last minute reappointments to the U.P. Board of Regents, who were expected to vote for Professor Diokno.

Aquino's last minute reversal of Arroyo-era "midnight" appointees to the BOR effectively scuttled Diokno's chances of becoming U.P. President as the three critical swing votes were removed from the eleven-member BOR; leading to a free-for-all voting last December 3, 2010 that saw former Alumni Regent Alfredo E. Pascual emerging as the clear winner after one round of voting.

But we digress. Going back to Professor Raymundo, who wrote that, “With all due respect to these academics I do not have to name, now we know how power blocs in the University can forge a strong alliance to block “untamed radicals". They say there are at least two power blocs in UP-Diliman. The business bloc and the bloc of the “enlightened progressives”. But both have done an excellent job blocking,stalling, red-baiting. No real difference when it comes down to concrete and practical engagement."

If we look at the very premise in which so-called ideological opposites – professors of business administration and “enlightened progressives” could come together and work shoulder to shoulder to control and dismember the university as a kind of mutual spoils of war; while abandoning the very people whom Professor Raymundo has fought for – the disempowered and the dispossessed – such as non-academic workers or even non tenured professors such as herself - we are compelled to ask - Why?

At the heart of it, of course is that the perception of some observers that both seeming ideological opposites are obsessed with grabbing and controlling power within the university, as well as its material fruits even as the University becomes commercialized and even as its very workers are discriminated against because they only provide less valuable manual labor as opposed to mental labor.

Ironically, Professor Raymundo should have been a shoo-in to be granted tenure on the basis of her excellent teaching performance and academic track record. However, her progressive views lead her to being shut out of being able to enjoy tenure under the current Roman administration, a price she says she has willingly paid for in practicing “the steely vigilance and dedication crucial to revolutionary struggle,” neither shirking “from the responsibility to expose various forms of abuse of authority among the ranks of academics, not so much as to censure anyone but precisely to remind everyone that the academe is not autonomous from the transmission-function of structural corruption.”

At the end of the day, Professor Raymundo was excluded from being granted employment and tenure because she chose to challenge the conventional morally corrupt power structure of career bureaucrats, running the university into a quagmire of mediocrity that it is now desperately struggling to extricate itself from. 

Nevertheless, Professor Raymundo says that she is "happy" for fighting the good fight.

And with the ascension of incoming U.P. President Pascual as the new U.P. President on February 10, 2011, there is every reason to assume that Professor Raymundo may finally obtain not only happiness, but the tenure she is seeking without having to sell her principles by the wayside, which is the tried and tested formula that the Outgoing U.P. Administration would have wanted for her before embracing her as one of their very own.

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