Open Letter to the UP Board of Regents: On Prof. Sarah Raymundo’s Tenure

Posted on June 2, 2010

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OPEN LETTER TO THE UP BOARD OF REGENTS

From the Rights of Untenured UP Faculty Alliance (RU-UP Faculty)

We wish to thank the majority of the UP Board of Regents (BOR) which voted in its last meeting (May 27, 2010) in favor of granting tenure to Prof. Sarah Raymundo (5 for, 2 against, 1 abstain). This vote was a great victory for the advancement of the rights of untenured and junior faculty in the University of the Philippines and will be remembered as a historic moment.

In light of this event, we wish to correct the probably false or misleading information which led five Vice Chancellors and 22 Deans and Directors from various academic units in UP Diliman to sign a “Statement of Concern” (dated March 22, 2010) essentially taking a stand against the BOR making a decision in favor of Professor Raymundo. In the first place, such a statement was not necessary and gives the rather unpleasant impression of a bunch of the most powerful University officials “ganging up” on a powerless untenured faculty member who did her best to achieve all the academic requirements of tenure during nine years of committed teaching and service to the University. On top of this, she had to endure the anguish of two long years while appealing her case.

The “Statement of Concern” urged the BOR to adopt and accept on faith the earlier decisions of the President and the various layers of authority and officials under her. We take issue with the arguments of the aforementioned statement for the following reasons:

1. The BOR represents an essential element of the system of checks and balances within the University, it is not a mere rubber stamp of the President. It has the authority and responsibility to decide on appeals based on their respective merits. The BOR can make decisions upon matters where other administrative levels of the University are perceived to have failed. The UP President is definitely not an infallible being like the Pope.

2. The fact that the President or the several levels of authority under her have made various and sometimes conflicting decisions on the matter is not at issue. The actual substance of the President’s final decision and, ultimately, that of the Department of Sociology are precisely what are being questioned. The President just tossed back the nagging problem of Prof. Raymundo’s tenure to the Department of Sociology without acting on the substance of her appeal regarding the mysterious lack of transparency on the criteria used in its decision against granting her tenure.

3. According to the “Statement of Concern,” “the best judge of whether a faculty member is fit to join the ranks of tenured faculty members in a particular Department rests with the faculty members of that Department.” This is indeed true as long as exclusively academic criteria are used to decide tenure. The procedure for tenure has to balance the right of the tenured faculty to make a qualitative judgement on the candidate for tenure and the equally sacred right of the the temporary faculty to “expect fairness, both in the process by which the tenure decision is reached and in the substance of that decision. The appeal procedure should take into account both these rights.” (“Shaping Our Institutional Future: A Statement on Faculty Tenure, Rank and Promotion” (OVPAA, 2004)).  Faculty Regent Judy Taguiwalo has correctly emphasized that the Department of Sociology has never revealed the academic criteria, if any, it used to decide against granting tenure to Prof. Raymundo.

4. Lacking any proper investigation undertaken by a formal body, the statement was also mistaken in asserting without proof that there was “an absence of manifest discrimination and abuse of discretion” in the present case.

No one has denied that Prof. Raymundo has fulfilled all the academic requirements for tenure as defined in the faculty manual. To just accept the President’s decision on faith equates departmental autonomy with the tyranny of numbers while never explaining the actual or real basis for the denial of tenure.  We hereby reiterate that using non-academic criteria to decide upon tenure will not only endanger academic freedom but will also lead to a precipitous decline in academic excellence.  Indeed, as the statement of concern points out, the procedure for the conferment of tenure needs to be stringent to protect academic excellence. However, the process of deciding tenure itself needs to be clear and transparent in the same measure in order to ensure that arbitrariness does not take the place of stringency.

The BOR granted tenure to Prof. Raymundo because of the simple fact that she had fulfilled, if not exceeded, all the academic criteria the University requires from its tenured faculty. We congratulate the majority of the BOR for taking a stand to uphold the appeals process and for making sure that the young untenured faculty can once again expect fairness as a matter of course in the crucial matter regarding their applications for tenure. Maraming salamat po!