Sunday, January 22, 2012

Salvador P. Lopez conference highlights U.P.'s current problems

By Chanda Shahani

A conference on the achievements and times of U.P. President Salvador P. Lopez held on January 19, 2012 at Faculty Center, U.P. Diliman highlighted the current problems now currently being faced by the University of the Philippines (U.P.) System.

The conference, entitled the Salvador P. Lopez Centennial Academic Conference dwelled on several themes which were relevant during S.P. Lopez's term of office as U.P. President from 1969 to 1975, and which have applicability to the situation facing the U.P. System even today.

U.P. President Pascual makes comparisons between his term and that of of former President Lopez

Speaking at the conference, U.P. President Alfredo E. Pascual said that his term began in 2010 as the 20th U.P. President. He said that the challenges facing former President Lopez were vastly different compared to today's job of managing a university system which, "as massive as U.P. is, is never easy."

He said that the idea of a U.P. System was originally conceptualized by S.P. Lopez in 1969 and that it was meant to be one overarching entity made up of organized but separate entities.

He said that the four pillars referred to by S.P. Lopez in running a university were still valid today. He said these four pillars were:
  • Accessibility
  • Democratization
  • Relevance
  • Autonomy
He said that the inspiration for creating a U.P. System was inspired by the University of California System with its flagship campus being U.C. Berkeley, which was roughly analogous to U.P. Diliman.

Pascual said the U.P. System was trying to develop linkages with various UC units, and that he was already in discussion with UC Berkeley's Health Sciences System wherein they are trying to develop a joint research institute with U.P.

He said that his administration faced challenges "unheard of in the time of S.P. Lopez." He pointed out that the U.P. System was made up of seven (7) constituent universities and one (1) autonomous college

Pascual narrated that the U.P. System itself "was tsked to ensure that all autonomous units develop to maximum completion." He pointed out that the differeent U.P. units were in different stages of development, with U.P. Manila, Diliman and Los BaƱos being the most favored.

He said that the overall vision was to equalize the standards throughout the U.P. System. Consequentially, and as a symbolic move, he said that since the graduates of the different constituent universities should be of the same caliber, that U.P.'s plan was to remove the name of the constituent universities from all of U.P.'s diplomas as a "symbolic move."

Unifying standards and quality assurance

President Pascual said that it was imprtant for U.P. to ensure a system-wide implementation of quality assurance. However, potential problems existed with the autonomy of U.P. units which "is an issue that is fraught with danger," he said.

He said the existence of different university councils among the different U.P. constituent unversities compounded the problem of standards. "There is no formal system at the system level at unifying reforms, for example, of the General Education Program," he said, adding that the value of general education is seen in conferences on education that he has attended all over Asia.

To unify the actions of the U.P. System, you must rely on the oneness of vision among its officials, he said.

He said that he would invoke Article 50 of the U.P. Code which gives the U.P. President the blanket discretion to modify any resolution of any body of the university in order to ensure that any collegial decisions made by lower-ranking bodies were consistent with U.P.'s overall vision.

U.P. Diliman Chancellor Caesar Saloma highlights UPD's problems

Speaking also at the conference, U.P. Diliman Chancellor Caesar saloma said that UPD has 136 degree programs offering the Ph.D. degree but only 73 Ph.D. graduates are produced by UPD every year. In other words, there are more programs than there are graduates. He traced this to the iffy quality of mentoring now in place in UPD and said this has to improve.

Chancellor Saloma said that U.P. Diliman has 1535 faculty members, but that only 528 or 36% of them had Ph.D.'s Of the existing Ph.D. holders, 46% of them were 56 years old and above; meaning that close to half were nearing retirement age.

The bottom-line is that there is a shortage of Ph.D.'s now in the UPD faculty, and aggressive measures will have to be undertaken to improve these numbers in order for UPD to remain a leading educational institution in the country.

He also said the Philippine population had increased by 20 million from 1999 to 2010, which resultd in more pressures being put on U.P. to provide more services, but without a corresponding increase in budget. He said that U.P. thus had a potent argument to increase government subsidies given the huge impact of population pressures on U.P, to provide more services.

Open forum, a former Faculty Regent questions U.P.'s policy on Corporatization

During the open forum with President Pascual, former Faculty Regent Judy M. Taguiwalo agreed with President Pascual that U.P. was on the right track to continue ensuring academic excellence, democratic governance and academic freedom.

However, Professor Taguiwalo expressed concern with U.P.'s policy of increasing "corporatization," which played into the hands of neoliberal advocates who wanted public universities such as U.P. to be subjected to market forces rather than as universities with a public character. She asked how the U.P. President would address this concern.

Answering Professor Taguiwalo's question, President Pascual said that U.P., did not have professionals among its administrators, unlike some other universities. He said all the supervisors of the university were derived from the faculty; and this helped ensure the university's public character.

President Pascual said that he came from the enviornment of the Asian Institute of Management (AIM) where the faculty there were jealous of safeguarding their role in running the affairs of the institute; rather thanletting professional managers call the shots.

But President Pascual was firm in advocating what he said was a global trend of increasing corporatization that U.P. could not escape. He said that U.P. should instead strive "to create its own brand" of corporatization with the overall consensus of its faculty.

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