Get real
Philippine Daily Inquirer, 24 August 2019


This column is an appeal to the Board of Regents (BOR) of the University of the Philippines to reverse a decision by UP president Danny Concepcion regarding a cheating case in the UP School of Economics (UPSE).

I wrote about this cheating case two weeks ago. So why am I writing about it again? Well, Reader, because two weeks ago, I wrote about the students’ reaction to the UP president’s decision: They stood as one, roundly condemning the UP president’s decision to dismiss the case—the UP Diliman Student Council, the League of College Councils, not to mention the UPSE’s Alliance of Organizations. They upheld the University’s adherence to “Honor before Excellence,” and asked the Board of Regents to overturn Concepcion.

I write, because not only the students protested, but the members of the faculty of the School of Economics stood up to be counted also. And this, I think, should be made public.

The faculty did not even know about the case—that’s how discreet the dean and the College Disciplinary Council were—until the president’s decision came down, which ordered the school to reinstate the grade of the student involved which it had withheld. This would permit the name of the student to be included among the candidates for graduation, which required faculty approval—which was how the whole faculty became aware of the situation.

The faculty did not approve the inclusion. And thus my pride in UP students has been matched by my pride in the UPSE faculty (I am still a member, as professor emerita).

They decided instead to file an appeal to the Board of Regents. Signatures were strictly voluntary, and the whole faculty signed. There is a “joke”: Put 10 economists in one room and you get 11 different opinions. There is more than a grain of truth in that. So when the faculty stand together, it is a big deal.

I have been a faculty member of the UPSE for 48 years. And the number of times the faculty has stood together as one can be counted on the fingers of one hand. The first time, as far as I can recall, was in 1984, when, appalled by the events of the time, we came out with what is known as the UP School of Economics White Paper—“An Analysis of the Philippine Economic Crisis.” Other subsequent crises—the fiscal crisis under Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, for example—would get us together. Notice, crisis situations.

Does this case count as a crisis situation? The answer is definitely yes. What is the crisis? Let me quote from our appeal, which I proudly signed:

“Beyond the issues of fact and evidence raised in the above-mentioned documents, however, the case raises larger issues of academic governance that concern us all.

Intellectual dishonesty is a purely academic matter, the judgment of which is best entrusted to those directly involved in forming the minds and morals of students. The faculty are the best judges of student conduct and intellectual integrity. For this very reason, the rules on student conduct were recast in 2012 to step away from the overly legalistic procedures and standards of the past and to allow the process to be managed exclusively by academic peers. Among other changes, direct representation by lawyers was eliminated, and the standard of proof explicitly stated as ‘substantive evidence’ as befits an administrative case…

“By casting doubt on the capacity of academic colleagues even to act as ‘reasonable minds’ in judgment over academic issues, the President’s Decision erodes the faculty’s power to assess and to discipline students and sends a signal to students—particularly to potential witnesses—that truth-telling, honest work, and holding oneself and one’s peers to account will be unappreciated and not worth the trouble. That what matters instead is the same tiresome fact of one’s position of privilege and ability to appeal to higher powers.

“In this deeper sense, the President’s Decision undermines the University’s very basis of existence. It cannot therefore be left to stand.” (emphasis mine)

Members of the BOR, the studentry and faculty of UP Diliman look to you to correct the situation. Please do not disappoint.

Reader, now you know why I feel so deeply about this.