Far beyond the confines of its walls, the University of the Philippines (UP) has long stood for causes bigger than itself.
More than the prestige of its academe, the university prides itself in the artists, politicians, and activists who have upheld the tenets of honor and excellence.
Since its establishment in 1908 during the American occupation in the country, UP has been living up to the mandate that comes with the title of being the Philippines’ premier university: to be at the forefront of defending the rights of the Filipino people.
Generations of Iskolar ng Bayan have been pulling the tides of the country’s narrative, raising the discourse and struggles of different issues such as gender emancipation, education and national industrialization to the national level.
History witnessed UP’s studentry against state oppression in the form of widespread corruption in the government and oil price hikes during the First Quarter Storm of the 1970s. Together with students from schools nationwide, UP led the movement to overthrow former President Ferdinand Marcos from his second term. These series of protests in the first three months of the turn of the decade led Marcos to declare Martial Law, using the threat of communist insurgency as an excuse.
In 1971, UP Diliman barricaded itself from Marcos’s Metrocom police, marking the university’s reputation as a hotbed for militant and progressive activism with what the Philippines now calls the Diliman Commune.
This period in UP’s narrative gave recognition to names such as Ma. Lorena Barros, Maria Elena Ang and Communist Party of the Philippines founder Jose Ma. Sison.
Alongside the university’s solid foundation in fighting oppressive hegemonies, however, exists at least six years of ironic divergence from UP’s militant, pro-people nature.
The term of current University President Alfredo E. Pascual bore witness to several protests from different sectors of the UP community brought about by anti-student and anti-people policies.
One policy that marked the Pascual term is the replacement of the Socialized Tuition and Financial Assistance Program (STFAP) with the Socialized Tuition System (STS) in 2013.
Pascual had deemed STFAP, established in 1989, as “no longer responsive to the needs of UP students,” after a UP Manila student committed suicide apparently for being unable to pay her tuition fees.
With an online two-page application process instead of STFAP’s required 14-page application form, STS also has a different income bracketing system from the previous tuition system, yet students still condemn the new system for the same problems the administration promised it would solve: mismatches between students and brackets, non-comprehensive application process, and inadequate provisions and benefits for those in the lower brackets.
Pascual’s term impacted not only the university’s academic community. In 2014 threats of eviction from the Business Concessions Office worried the campus vendors, in addition to an order for the removal of chairs and tables in front of the kiosks.
The latest in the list of anti-student decisions is Pascual’s controversial eUP Project.
Opting to import technicians and computer systems instead of utilizing homegrown talents, the current UP President shows no plans of relenting in the face of the opinions of the biggest stakeholder in the university–its students.
With the selection of the 21st UP president comes the hopes for change—for the readiness of the university’s highest official to listen and consider.
With the selection of the newest member of the highest decision-making body in the university, the UP community emphatically calls for a shift in perspective, for the biggest stakeholders to be the priority and be included in the decision- and policy-making processes in order to be represented properly.
We call for no hesitance in standing with the marginalized. We call for the scrapping of oppressive policies that plague our students, our faculty and our employees. We call for approachability, transparency, and accountability.
With the selection of the new UP president, we call for change.