The threat to defund UP stemmed from a misunderstanding that UP does nothing except to recruit communists. Those who blame UP for breeding communists forget that UP has bred more scientists, artists, doctors, lawyers, diplomats and civil servants.
What the UP critics brand as subversive comes from discontent at the way things are, and a desire for change. UP education exposes our students to a wide range of perspectives. During their time in UP, students learn to think on their own, to think critically, to reason out, and distinguish truth from lies, right from wrong.
In keeping with its tradition of academic freedom, UP is a safe haven for civilized and intelligent discourse. But it has no place for intolerance, bigotry and red-tagging. Red-tagging in particular is dangerous, because it focuses on labels over substance and encourages intimidation and violence.
Even the vociferous critics of UP are welcome to espouse their ideas, but they have to be prepared to defend these before the community. Academic freedom is essential for the life of the mind and for UP’s dual role as knowledge producer and social critic. We play the role of social critic from a position of evidence-based scholarship and moral courage. This role is a distinct service to the nation.
The choice of faculty and students to express their grievances, criticize the government and call for policy changes, is their fundamental and inalienable right as Filipino citizens. And whatever one thinks of their call to ‘end the semester,’ it should not be construed as abandonment of one’s education, but as a legitimate expression of their commitment to teaching and learning, which has undeniably suffered due to the pandemic and recent spate of typhoons.
In the calls by some quarters to “end the semester now,” we recognize and understand the hardship, frustration and fears of our students and faculty, having borne the brunt not only of the series of typhoons and flooding, but also the continuing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the transition to remote learning and teaching. This is why the University has issued a policy on teaching and grading that is guided by compassion and flexibility, while still doing our best to meet the learning needs of our students. And we will continue to explore ways to address recurring and emerging concerns and respond to the different needs and circumstances of our faculty and students.
We recognize and will defend our faculty and students’ right to protest, but UP, as an institution of higher learning, cannot renege on its responsibility to educate. At a time of great economic need and political ferment, the University is all the more needed—as a place where we can challenge ideas, sharpen our positions, and gain clarity about the social and political issues confronting our society. This is UP’s mission and we have to continue this task.
We will strongly defend the University’s time-honored traditions of academic freedom and critical thinking. UP’s proud history of service and activism has shown that we can do both.