UP Close and Personal
By Hilda Monica C. Naval
- N.V.M. Gonzales, National Artist for Creative Writing;
- Fernando Amorsolo, National Artist for Visual Arts;
- Lino Brocka, National Artist for Film;
- Ryan Cayabyab, Composer;
- Teodoro Agoncillo, Historian;
- Gerardo Sicat, Economist;
- Randolf “Randy” David, Sociologist;
- Hilario Davide, Chief Justice-Supreme Court of the Philippines;
- Miriam Defensor-Santiago, Senator/Ramon Magsaysay Awardee;
- Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, President of the Philippines.
And the list goes on… Indeed the margin of this paper is too narrow to contain such roll. These people have at least two things in common: firstly, they have been respected in their respective field of expertise. In addition to that, they all became part of the country’s premiere State University--the University of the Philippines.
As I walk about the Faculty Center (one of the many common things I do in my college life) I am reminded of the above mentioned listing. There at that vicinity, I pass through the office doors of the UP professors, and I am amazed by what I see. The names posted on the doors are indeed familiar for many of them have been authors of different sorts of books—from Literature to Political Commentaries. Sometimes I hear their names either mentioned on the news or printed on the ISI journals. It’s even a common sight to see several of them being interviewed on TV.
I feel so privileged to know that these educators chose to teach at the university where I am presently enrolled in (although it implies too that they receive relatively lower wages compared to other government employees). Despite all hardships, they chose to stay at the same academic environment as they impart their knowledge to us students. As a result we, they and I, both walk through the same rough pavements daily—figuratively and literally.
I take turns and pass through many other buildings until I reach my classroom. Within the four corners of this place, you’ll see a microcosm of the society. People with different political, social, financial, religious and academic backgrounds meet at this specific area and discuss matters related to the course. Most of the time students go beyond what is being discussed by relating the topics to problems the society is presently facing.
As a manifestation of the so-called academic freedom, UP students don’t follow any dress code. Professors, too, enjoy this benefit. For this same reason you don’t know what to expect from them for they could be trendy, dressed in a business suit, or very casual. But don’t be fooled by the looks for even a “rugged-looking” professor could be someone whom pupils ought to respect. Try to look at his credentials and you might be surprised that he finished his Ph. D. before he reached his thirties. In my years of stay in UP I have realized that good educators need not wear a neatly pressed polo and thick spectacles, for on the contrary they could have a long “unkempt” hair and/or a pair of faded pants. To analyze the matter deeply, their clothes really have no effect whatsoever on their competence as scientists or literary writers. Cliché as it may seem but, more often than not, it is wiser “not to judge the book by its cover.”
Academic freedom is more than just having a choice what to wear inside classrooms. It also includes how the teacher would deliver his lectures and what topics to discuss or not. It also gives the students the choice on how to express themselves during discussions, and what position on a given issue they want to take. In the university, it is one point to make a stand on an issue, and it is another to defend it properly. Perhaps that is the very reason why UP has always been associated with its highly-politicized students known to fight for a cause they want to advocate. The university has also been known for its fraternities and sororities which are, unfortunately, usually associated with hazing and violent frat wars. But to look at things at a brighter perspective, these same fraternities have produced some of the notable gentleman in the society, like Benigno Aquino (Upsilon Sigma Phi), and Sen. Franklin Drilon (Sigma Rho Fraternity). In addition to that, these fraternities were one of the many groups that strongly opposed the Marcos dictatorship during the 1970s. History has proven that the students of UP As how I see it, UP’s aim is far more than breeding academically-inclined individuals; it also aims to produce leaders that would be of service to the community through their skills.
This particular trait is perhaps what separates UP from the other universities making it the top state university in the country. BUT does it have the right to claim to be the nation’s leading academia? It depends on what standpoint, and perhaps the person (or group of persons for that matter) analyzing the claim. If we refer to the study presented by the Times Higher Education Supplement-Quacquarelli Symonds (THES-QS) World University Rankings, we’d find it incontestable that UP has obtained the highest rankings among all Philippine universities—be it state-funded or private. Asiaweek’s rankings of multi-disciplinary universities in Asia for the past years say almost the same thing. But, as expected, few institutions would react negatively to the validity of these declarations. This reaction might mean exerting so much effort in posting statements not only on their privately-owned website but also in famous spreadsheets in the country.
How did the UP Admin react about the disclaimers? Well, it didn’t say anything about the matter. Surprising as it may seem but I found that act astonishing rather than disappointing. To quote former UP President Nemenzo’s statement on UP FORUM, UP doesn’t need to advertise itself. According to him, what it needs to do is the opposite of it. Probably the same sentiment is shared by the new administration. Amidst the many controversies regarding the THES-QS world rankings, UP stayed silent and it never released any statement that aim to say “we are the best university” but rather continued on researching and dealing with the issues it faces, like making the most out of the very little subsidy it receives from the government. In point of fact, nothing about those controversies were placed in UP’s official website. What I saw was about the Photonics Research the National Institute for Physics (NIP) did, and how the Optics Society of America (OSA) commended it. In addition to that, an example of the commentary I saw is about Anti-Terrorism Bill—an issue that is of great concern to us Filipinos, and is undeniably something far greater than the fancy rankings.
Yes there are issues far more important than the THES-QS ranking. Seeing things on a macro (instead of micro) perspective the Philippines, being a second world country, is lagging in academic development and performance compared to its neighboring countries in Asia. Japan, Singapore, and China even made it to the top twenty—far better than how our Philippine schools faired. Competing for the number one spot (among Philippine universities) could be illustrated by three dogs fighting over few crumbs of bread when in fact they can aim for the moist sponge cake on the floor, barely a meter away from were they are. Until they realize what their greater need is, these canines would forever reap the wages of their stupidity.