Get real
Philippine Daily Inquirer, 21 September 2019


The Board of Regents (BOR) of the University of the Philippines is holding its monthly meeting next Thursday, and since yours truly is not the type to make “gapang,” i.e., visit them in their private offices or homes, this column is the only way I know to reach them. In any case, the issue is one which transcends the University, involving as it is the Filipino people whose taxes pay for all of the University’s costs.

“Honor and Excellence” is the University’s motto, and it is not by accident or literary standards that honor comes first. For without honor, excellence can be totally useless, if not misused. Only consider Ferdinand Marcos, an alumnus of the University. There was excellence, but honor was absent, and our country suffered for it. His dictatorship lasted 14 years, but it took the Filipino people 20 more years to get back the real per capita incomes they had lost as a result of his corrupt governance.

Cheating is a dishonorable act. Worse if it is done in order to obtain excellent marks so one can graduate “with honors,” not just to pass a course. The University, per the 2012 Code of Student Conduct (Code), is pretty tough on intellectual dishonesty. It is treated differently from other types of student misconduct. As it should be, because it is a violation of academic integrity (p.1). Corrective measures include suspension (minimum of two months) to expulsion, withdrawal of degree and of honors (intellectual dishonesty prescribes after 20 years), and disqualification from graduation with honors.

Who determines whether intellectual dishonesty has taken place? According to the Code, the Faculty has the right to determine standards for intellectual dishonesty and exact norms of academic scholarship. The College Disciplinary Committee (CDC), when convened for intellectual dishonesty, is composed solely of tenured faculty (in other acts of misconduct, a student representative is included). A tenured faculty member also represents the University, because it is the University which is considered the offended party in any intellectual dishonesty case.

A student respondent can get advice from counsel during hearings, but counsel cannot speak during said hearings. Intellectual dishonesty is a matter that involves solely the academe and the student.

In reaction to the column I wrote on Aug. 24, 2019, Fr. Jett Villarin, SJ, former president of Ateneo de Manila University, remarked to me in a private conversation that when he is approached to intercede in cases of cheating, he politely shakes his head and says that it is up to the academe to determine when a violation of academic integrity has taken place. Dr. Ben Malayang III, former president of Silliman University, told me essentially the same thing: It is a purely academic matter, the Faculty are the experts, so leave it to them.

While the Code provides that decisions of the CDC and dean can be appealed to the Executive Committee (composed of all the deans, and headed by the chancellor), and failing that, to the UP president, and onward to the BOR, I think that UP president Danilo Concepcion should, like the former presidents of Ateneo and Silliman University, have the humility to leave the decision to the Faculty, who are the best qualified to decide.

That he did not, and instead reversed the decision of the CDC and dean of the School of Economics and the Executive Committee on a case of intellectual dishonesty, indicates either that he has no respect for their judgment or that his decision was based on other considerations: Friendship? Power? Donor considerations? Either way, it does not reflect well on him or on the University as a whole.

And so now, the Faculty and dean of the School of Economics, with the chancellor’s endorsement, have appealed the president’s decision to the BOR, within seven days of receipt of the decision. I understand that the appeal did not appear in last month’s agenda. The BOR will meet again next Thursday. Please make sure, BOR, that it is part of the agenda.

The studentry (who rallied against the president’s decision), the Faculty, the entire academic community are waiting.