In Defense of Academic Freedom
The University Council of the University of the Philippines Diliman (UPD UC) supports the recent statements of the UPD School of Library and Information Studies (SLIS), UPD Office of the Chancellor Executive Staff (OCES), and UP System-wide University Library Council in denouncing the removal of books in the libraries of three higher education institutions (HEIs).
In his statement on November 2, Commission on Higher Education (CHED) Chair J. Prospero De Vera III said that the decision of Kalinga State University, Isabela State University, and Aklan State University to remove these books is “in the exercise of academic freedom,” in which UPD has no business interfering. In doing so, he implicitly supports the Commission on Higher Education in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CHED-CAR) Director’s Memorandum No. 113 (series of 2021) encouraging the removal of “subversive” references in university libraries.
Academic freedom is enshrined in Republic Act (RA) No. 9500 (The University of the Philippines Charter of 2008) and in RA No. 7722 (Higher Education Act of 1994). The UP Charter states that the “National University has the right and responsibility to exercise academic freedom” (Sec. 5 – Academic Freedom). This responsibility includes the defense of academic freedom.
On the other hand, RA No. 7722, which establishes CHED, affirms this principle: “The State shall likewise ensure and protect academic freedom and shall promote its exercise and observance for the continuing intellectual growth, the advancement of learning and research, the development of responsible and effective leadership, the education of high-level and middle-level professionals, and the enrichment of our historical and cultural heritage” (Sec. 2 – Declaration of Policy).
With De Vera’s statement, CHED is not defending academic freedom because it endorses the move of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) to intrude into academic matters, control the contents of libraries, and suppress the academic freedom of students and faculty in the three universities. His reproach of UP’s “interference” signaled his support for further removal of radical reading materials in other libraries, which betrays the notion of academic freedom that he professes. We are appalled that the CHED, through its Chair and a Regional Director, has failed in its mandate to uphold the higher education institutions’ revered tradition.
The purging of books is an attack on the life of the mind. It runs counter to the mission of universities to nurture critical thinking and expose students to the widest range of perspectives. It betrays what lies at the very heart of a university: critical thought, free discourse, and academic freedom.
The University Council of UP Diliman calls for the defense of academic freedom wherever it is under attack and the protection of university libraries as sanctuaries against bigotry and obscurantism. It calls on the CHED Chair to ensure that the constitutionally guaranteed right to academic freedom is respected in ALL institutions of higher learning. UP Diliman stands in solidarity with all HEIs in protecting our libraries and in defending academic freedom.
The UP Diliman University Council is composed of the chancellor (serving as chair), professors, associate professors, and assistant professors.