Last month, a group calling itself the Movement for Democratic Governance in UP, or MDG-UP, issued a statement titled “Accountability and transparency issues continue to hound UP Board of Regents.”
It is actually their position on the recent selection of the UP Diliman Chancellor by the governing body of the premier State University.
The group slammed the BOR for its selection on April 3 of Atty. Edgardo Carlo L. Vistan II as UP Diliman (UPD) Chancellor as the product of “transactional politics,” and urged “greater accountability and transparency” in its decisions.
Last April 17, Dean Ma. Antonia Tanchuling of the UP College of Engineering said the selection of the new Diliman chancellor compromised the university’s long-standing tradition of choosing university leaders on the basis of academic and administrative qualifications as well as the support of both the academic and non-academic community.
She lamented the credentials needed for an academic leader and the sentiments of the UP Diliman community were not given due consideration in the selection of chancellor, and called on UP President Angelo Jimenez and the other regents to disclose how they voted.
“University leadership positions are not simply managerial positions. The entire ethos of the university is based on the idea that intellectual and academic excellence, as well as a record of accomplishment, is necessary. Unlike corporations, universities rely substantially on processes of self-governance. Articles are peer-reviewed, departments vote on the tenure and promotion of colleagues. For these decisions to have authority, academic standing and intellectual leadership matter deeply. When the Board of Regents ignores academic credentials and intellectual capability in the selection of leaders, it eviscerates the very life blood of the academy,” the group said.
The MDG-UP also raised concern over the growing centralization and secrecy of decision-making at the BOR in relation to appointments and infrastructure development.
In 2019, sectoral members of the BOR had already observed the diminishing importance of the UP community’s inputs in the BOR selection of deans.
The BOR regents representing the faculty, staff, and students cautioned: “In the past months, a spate of selections for Deanship seems to have been undertaken by the BOR with an apparent disregard for Search Committee reports and the recommendations of the Chancellor.”
Among these appointments was an outsider, a former Bureau of Internal Review (BIR) commissioner, as the dean of the Virata School of Business (VSB).
The new dean prevailed over nominees who had PhDs and other academic credentials, real-world business experiences, and VSB support.
The dispute between the VSB faculty and the BOR led national media to expose “political appointments” in the selection of UP officials.
But instead of making the selection process more transparent, the BOR opted for more secrecy, the group said.
In January 2020, the sectoral regents wrote the BOR an open letter, raising concerns over the increasingly arbitrary nature of the decision-making.
The letter pointed out it was during the Concepcion administration (2017-2023) that the BOR did away with “the practice of a written endorsement, with clear justifications, by the UP President of his or her recommended candidates.”
The three regents also noted the frequency of executive sessions (when staff is asked to leave the room, and no minutes are taken) and secret balloting. While there were executive sessions in the past, the regents said these were “invoked judiciously and selectively.”
Only under Concepcion was there a “blanket invocation” of executive sessions for “all deliberations on appointments of University officials such as Chancellors.”
Today, the MDG-UP said, there are clear indicators of the emergence of an all-powerful BOR. Not only does it have greater control over the appointments of the chancellors of the eight constituent universities and the deans of colleges in the UP System’s 17 campuses in the country.
It also has greater control over university property and its development, scattered all over the country.
Given all this, the BOR selection of the chancellors has serious implications not only for how the campuses will be run, but also the quality of its output for the country.
The statement quoted Professor Emeritus Eduardo Tadem, who said in a public forum: “The BOR, as presently constituted, may have seriously damaged and compromised its credibility as a body that can make informed, impartial, and just decisions for the good of the University, its community and the Filipino people.”
The group concluded: “The outcome for the current push for BOR transparency and accountability—twin pillars of democratic governance and meritocracy— will determine whether UP will be able to hold the line against vested interests, out to make the country’s premiere national university no different from other state institutions in the country that have become a base for influence-peddling and patronage.”
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