The welfare of the nation can be measured by the wellbeing of the people that compose the nation. National development is not only an abstraction represented by economic figures but is reflected in real and material conditions such as food on the table, decent shelter, accessible education, and employment for the people.
As the national university, the principles guiding the University of the Philippines should therefore embrace the long-term interests of the Filipino people for nation-building and genuine social reforms. At the outset, the university administration and the next UP president must unite with the students and entire UP community in the struggle for greater state subsidy for education and against the intensified commercialization and privatization of the university if this is to be achieved.
The UP Visayas Miagao campus was founded in the 1980s by Presidential Decree of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos. It was established as one of the preconditions imposed by the International Monetary Fund – World Bank (IMF-WB) in return for the dictatorship’s uninterrupted receiving of loans and hence continuing of the vicious cycle that led to the ballooning of the country’s debt to $26 billion when Marcos fell in 1986.The founding of the Miagao campus was therefore premised on the integration of the local economy to the logic of the world market. This dynamic caters to the demands of foreign monopoly capital rather than the actual need to develop our very own aquatic and human resources.
Such a beginning has led to the domination of a productivist spirit in UPV. Rather than producing knowledge for the requirements of national industrialization, the overall thrust has been that of providing skilled labor for advanced capitalist centers of Western Europe, North America, Japan and their profit-making transnational operations all over the Third World.
For decades now, the university system itself has been caught in a grave contradiction where its formal statement of principles, such as the upholding of academic freedom and democracy, are belied by actual practice. How can one speak of academic freedom, for example, if the lone student representative of 40,000 iskolars ng bayan, was unceremoniously ousted from the highest decision-making body in the university? The travails of former Student Regent Charisse Bañez in the previous academic year is an example of campus repression. There can like-wise be no real democracy if thousands are deprived of democratic access to UP education due to the intensified commercialization of the university as exempli-fied by the 300% tuition increase first implemented in 2007.
The existence of the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) can counter the complete domination of a mechanistic logic that seeks to transform the university into an assembly line that churns out graduates with no other ambition than to go abroad and earn dollars. The offering of courses in the humanities and social sciences apart from the hard sciences opens many possibilities to the university’s students apart from the ones determined for it by the late dictator and the IMF-WB.
The question, however, is how the CAS can go beyond giving a human face to the bleaker reality of the university’s functioning as a mere cog in an international division of labor that privileges the advanced industrial centers and relegates the country to the periphery.The CAS can give free play to the creativity of the students by encouraging the flowering of the culture and the arts in the campus and by upholding the rights of the students to freely express grievances, peaceably assemble, and organize for their national democratic interests.
The CAS can help reclaim the university’s role as the bearer of the Filipino people’s welfare by aligning its programs to the requirements of nation-building and the raising of the nationalist consciousness of its graduates. The offering of programs such as the community-based Public Health (PH) and Community Development (CD) as well as the retaining of Literature is a step in the right direction in a country with a predominantly agricultural, backward, and export-oriented economy.
This does not mean neglecting the hard sciences as these are equally important if the nation is to make a great leap forward towards a nationalist industrialization and a truly self-reliant economy that can provide for its people. Ultimately, what matters most is for the university to advance the interests of the greatest number of people by ensuring democratic access to quality education.
The figure of the UPV diwata graphically illustrates the mechanist sprit or factory mentality pervading the university. Instead of facing the ocean, our diwata turns its back to the sea and hauls off nature’s bounty with a net. Diwata, rather than standing for nourishment and the protection of the native community and the environment, instead stands for rapacious exploitation.
The CAS can do more to overturn this dominant paradigm by embodying a truly nationalist, scientific, and mass-oriented education and culture. ■
Note: Published as the editorial of the June-September 2010 issue of Pagbutlak, the Official Student Publication of the University of the Philippines Visayas College of Arts and Sciences.