By Mariejo Ramos
The University of the Philippines is home to powerful minds who serve as movers and shakers of the country. To leave a lasting mark in such a renowned institution may seem a daunting task – to some, it may as well be impossible.
But others take it quite literally. Some opt to have their names inscripted on walkways along the Academic Oval, while some settle with classroom labels, where each letter of one’s moniker corresponds to their generous donation.
As a public institution, UP may actively seek donations from willing alumni. Naming rights to buildings, markers or sidewalk blocks are just some forms of this exchange deal.
It came as a surprise, however, when the Board of Regents approved the proposal of the UP College of Business Administration (CBA) faculty to rename the college after its former dean, Cesar EA Virata. This ‘rebranding’ move is not unheard of in the circuit of business schools, following Ateneo’s John Gokongwei School of Management and the Ramon V. del Rosario College of Business in La Salle, both largely motivated by the lavish donations of these business magnates.
Unlike these schools, however, the 82-year-old Virata shelled out nothing for such an honor, according to incumbent CBA (now VSB) Dean Ben Paul Gutierrez.
Some are quick to conclude that renaming the country’s premier business institution without any financial gains is a wasted opportunity to solicit funds for the college. Others are left to speculate that the sphere of influence may have been so wide to entitle the former politician to a tribute of this extent.
The rest of the UP community, who can only watch this historical yet controversial event unfold before their eyes, can no longer speak of its value in sums of money, business opportunities, or profit and funding motives. The main question that hangs for everyone is this: what kind of brand does the college want to further?
Or without an effort for euphemism, who is Cesar Virata?
An announcement ran by UP-CBA Alumni News quoted an excerpt of the BOR’s minutes of the meeting, which says “Virata has served UP, the Philippine government and the country for many years and with clear distinction.”
If the definition of service three decades after the Marcos regime means working as a Secretary of Finance and Prime Minister during the Martial Law era, then Virata clearly deserves the honor. The economy under his term suffered from budgetary deficits and high poverty threshold which eventually collapsed in the middle of political instability.
He was a bona fide alumnus and a distinguished intellectual – his credentials speak for themselves. But do one’s credentials still hold their merit after one chooses to render his competencies to a dictator, at a time when the rest of the country needed him the most? Following an Iskolar ng Bayan’s battlecry, Virata may have done his part to serve the people – but only a select few.
One can only wonder whether this move was neatly engineered, but certainly the Board of Regents should have known better.
Dean Gutierrez submitted the proposal for renaming the College to the BOR on March 15 this year, and it was hastily approved on April 12 – barely a month after – which casts a doubt on the extent of study and evaluation done by the highest decision-making body of the University.
The BOR has done more unpopular decisions in the past that one may see the issue as a drop in the bucket.
An institution like UP may choose to peddle naming rights for as long as its walkways, buildings or classrooms can handle, but to use one’s name to brand a UP education is not a kind of business that should be driven only by ‘profit’ motives, in every sense of the word.