You might have read Solita Monsod’s letter to the University of the Philippines Board of Regents published yesterday through her column “Get Real” in the Philippine Daily Inquirer. With her essay, “A matter of justice-and courtesy”, Monsod finally broke her silence over the case of Dean Enrique Avila of the University of the Philippines Cebu.
To recall, Dean Avila was sacked by the university from his position as dean of UP Cebu. This was protested against and questioned by no less than 3 previous UP presidents. This column, Kinutil, joined in that effort. This writer served as chairperson of the Humanities Division until his term ended last year. He served under Dean Avila. And while they had differences, he cannot see how Dean Avila could have been guilty of those complaints raised against him. He was more inclined to believe that Avila fell victim to the usual dynamic of university politics. This case was used only as pretext by some people who wanted to rise in power inside the local bureaucracy.
This writer felt good cause to pursue the case knowing fully well that if UP Cebu, which he served in various capacities over a period of more than 20 years, was ever going to develop, it must have to rise above its scourge of politicking and found itself on the fundamentals of doing the right thing under a premise of justice and fair play.
The case of Dean Avila shows this is not going to be the case with UP Cebu. And it is a big tragedy especially because one of the last achievements of UP Cebu under Dean Avila was to successfully draft and then have approved the proposal to make UP Cebu an autonomous campus inside the UP system. Before this, UP Cebu had been only a college under UP Visayas, with its main campus in Iloilo. UP Visayas was a fisheries school and so it is easy to understand why Cebu campus figured low in its mission goals.
And then there was the issue of public accountability. Since UP Cebu was under UPV in the distant Panay Island, it had an easy answer to such a question as why it is slow to grow as an educational institution. Consequently as well, its main office could easily cite its mandate as a fisheries school and thus rationalize why for several decades UP Cebu received little infusion by way of capital for development.
But with the approval of its autonomy, UP Cebu would have been able to establish its own identity as a campus. It would still be technically under the office of the president for an interim period but it was well on the way to identifying its own targets and reverse what has been called its “decades long drift to mediocrity”.
The UP Cebu campus was expectant of future growth by the time the proposal for autonomy was approved. Plans for future infrastructure growth was well as the restructuring of its academic programs were well under way when the case against Dean Avila was suddenly and surprisingly filed. This filing was preceded by mass actions by students and some disgruntled employees who judging by their vocal and written pronouncements had few stakes on the campus’ development.
The rhetoric made it obvious they were more interested in “ideological” goals signified by the usual “activist” cliches. And if anything had been demonstrated by that sordid event it was to demonstrate how easily it is for some teachers to bring students into the streets to fight their little battles for them. In the mean time, who really thinks about what should be done to make the campus truly grow? What hard decisions should be made? How do we summon the courage to do what’s right even if they seem painful and unpopular?
How painfully ironic it seems that UP Cebu is immediately defeated soon after achieving something meaningful after decades in a purgatory where nothing meaningful ever happened besides the endless cycle of writing proposals that ended inevitably in the dustbins? How painfully ironic that its first steps after autonomy should be clearly the wrong ones?
How do we know something is wrong somewhere? Dean Avila’s term formally ends this month. UP Cebu has been searching for a new dean. What has happened since Dean Avila appealed his dismissal? NOTHING official! In the meantime, he has not received his pay. The Board of Regents has yet to make a decision on his case. Out of courtesy to the Regents, Kinutil has been silent over his case since Dean Avila’s appeal. This was to give the BOR enough time to freely deliberate the case without undue public pressure. But with UP Cebu now searching for a new dean, there is the risk the case becomes, well, academic. The university sweeps the case into the dustbins of bureaucratic Limbo notwithstanding a clear case of injustice that has left Dean Avila in the words of Monsod “twisting in the wind”. How can the university do that to one of it’s own is beyond this writer. Monsod is entirely correct to come out of her silence. It’s time we all do our duties and “man up” to this particular occasion, the UP Board of Regents included.
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