Posted on March 5, 2010



March 3, 2010

Pres. Emerlinda Roman and her empire is an embarrassment to UP and everything the University stands for. Starting off with a few half-hearted and unsatisfactory gestures at “consultation” and community dialogue five years ago, Pres. Roman has since then moved increasingly towards open conflict with the UP Community she had pledged to lead and to serve. In order to push for policies towards the greater privatization and commercialization of the University, she consistently allied herself with the Malacanang appointees in the Board of Regents against the sectoral representatives from the faculty, students, REPS, and administrative staff even if it meant sacrificing the Boards’ integrity and violating the principles of democratic governance that is so cherished in the University.

In vulgar displays of abuse of power, she has maneuvered together with Malacanang-appointed regents to ensure that her preferred candidates are installed as the PGH Director. The recent walkout from the January 29, 2010 BOR meeting of all four sectoral representatives, and the events that transpired during the February 25, 2010 BOR meeting underscore her grave

In the previous BOR meeting of Dec. 18, 2009, it was Pres. Roman herself who played the ignominious role of raising the question of the enrollment status of Student Regent Charisse Banez while moving for her to be stripped of voting rights. SR Banez was still in the process of appealing for residency and therefore was not a bonafide student according to their interpretation – a matter that would have been easily resolved if the UPLB Chancellor did not withhold the approval of her appeal for  residency. In that meeting. the BOR put the matter to a vote and it was duly resolved that the SR would continue to serve as a full member. The agenda of the meeting then moved on to the selection of the directorship of the PGH which Dr. Jose Gonzalez decisively won with six votes.  Dr. Gonzales formally ­assumed the position of PGH Director when he was sworn in on January 7, 2010 after an unexplainable delay on the part of the Roman administration to declare and install him as the new official.

In the following January 29, 2010 meeting of the BOR, the Roman bloc in the BOR then moved for the nullification of the previous decision on the selection PGH Director Gonzales based on the supposed invalidity of the Student Regent’s earlier vote. The alumni Regent objected that an official who has already been sworn in cannot be summarily removed from his post without having been given due process and the opportunity to present his side. Pres. Roman and the Malacanang appointees did not budge from their position. The sectoral regents, their arguments disrespected and igno­red, then deemed it fit to leave the meeting without a quorum.

The events of the more recent BOR meeting last February 25, 2010 reveal the extent to which President Roman and her ilk would violate democratic processes just to install their preferred candidate even if the consequence is to denigrate the University’s highest policy-making body and strip it of its integrity. President Roman and her bloc maneuvered to nullify SR Banez’s vote, effectively removing student representation in the Board, and called for a new votation in the BOR to replace newly-installed Director Gonzales with their preferred candidate. Amid questions about the lapse in the appointments of the Malacanang regents, a culpable violation of the Administrative code, and the removal of Dr. Gonzales without just cause, President Roman and her group railroaded the appointment of another candidate, Dr. Domingo.

This rift between the sectoral representatives of the University and the Malacanang appointees allied with her, including one with an inexplicably bloated sense of self-importance, there is no one else to blame but Pres. Roman herself for choosing to turn a deaf ear to the representatives of the UP students, faculty and staff in the highest policy-making body of the University. She had sacrificed student representation in the BOR and, on top of that, antagonize all the remaining sectoral regents in order to push for her favored candidate for the position of PGH director. It is obvious that this position is an extremely strategic one in determining the direction of the University as Pres. Roman envisions it. She therefore wants someone she can rely on to be appointed to this post.

However, the deeper and more fundamental issue separating Pres. Roman from most of the sectoral regents is her unrelenting effort to transform the University into a private commercial educational institution. One example of this is the proposal for large class sizes of 150 to 200 in general education courses starting in UP Los Banos which considerably lowers the expectations for quality while blatantly hewing to the logic of mass marketing. The attempted closure of the UP Visayas Cebu High School (UPVCHS) bodes ill for all academic programs which may be unable to generate sufficient revenues for their own upkeep. President Roman also has the propensity to appoint and re-appoint her trusted minions in the University even if the various communities have relayed their displeasure over these personalities. Take the reappointment of UP Mindanao Chancellor Rivera who spent a whopping seven hundred thousand pesos for her investiture as Chancellor when the approved budget was already a scandalous three hundred thousand pesos. Pres. Roman also rejected Sociology Prof. Sarah Raymundo’s appeal for tenure despite the latter’s excellent credentials and the adamant refusal of the Dept. of Sociology to provide any reason for their negative decision on her tenure. This sad affair which portends the cretinization of the University, demonstrates Pres. Roman’s unwillingness to act in the interest of protecting the rights of young faculty even when the central value of appointment based on academic merit  is at stake.

Her philistine imposition of the narrow parameters of profitability for measuring or evaluating academic excellence in the University is simply unacceptable for any institution genuinely dedicated to teaching, learning and the deepening of knowledge. Her desire to transform the University into a privatized educational corporation is incompatible with the ideals of the University to serve the people and provide education for the poorest and least privileged in Philippine society. However, these plans are completely in agreement with Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s anti-people agenda in Philippine education. Like her boss in Malacanang, Roman’s vision of pedagogical success is to transform the intelligent youth of the nation into mindless parrots in call centers and produce a subservient army of workers for the broader service sector. Thereby trapping the nation into a “cyber corridor” of illusory prosperity while the genuine development of Philippine productive forces in industry and agriculture remains out of reach.

But beyond this common allegiance to neoliberal policies towards education are even glaring similarities between President Roman and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Both have an unhealthy obsession with power that they find it difficult to part with. While we remain vigilant against Arroyo’s attempt to remain in power, there is a need to extend this vigilance to the University as President Roman has laid the political groundwork for another term with her preferred appointees.

Incurably blinded by the faded promises of neoliberal doctrines and drunk with power, Pres. Roman forges on ahead in crafting policies which serve her narrow personal interests and that of the few while excluding and marginalizing the many and enforcing these through undemocratic means.­ Forgetting that people in power are nothing without the power of the people, she has not only failed to unite with her constituency, she has completely turned her back on them. It is about time that we, the people, end her empire.