The 2008 UP Charter: Forging the Transition from the Premier State University to a Privately Run Corporate Enterprise Driven by the Search for Profit
From State to
The first thing which would probably strike a casual reader of the "Centennial Charter" (RA 9500) is the replacement of the conventional label of "state university" by the term "national university." The current nomenclature rests on the crucial distinction between Private Higher Educational Institutions (PHEIs) and State Universities and Colleges (SUCs). Indeed, the yearly General Appropriations Act (GAA) only mentions SUCs as recipients of government subsidy. The studious elimination of all mention of the term "state university" in the Charter sends a message that this distinction no longer holds for the University of the Philippines . This suspicion is confirmed by the contents of the Charter itself.
UP and the Rise of a New Managerial Stratum
One salient characteristic of the Charter is the creation of a managerial stratum distinct from the existing governance structures of the University. The UP President, aside from being referred to as the "chief academic officer," is also labelled in the text of the Charter as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), which means no less than that she/he shall henceforth serve as the highest ranking officer of the corporate entity which is the "national university." Since the President shall be appointed in this capacity as the head of a corporation and since good CEOs don't come cheap, she/he shall also receive a salary befitting a CEO. In 2007, CEOs in the Philippines received an average base salary of $44,496 and $51,519 in annual cash or PhP4, 271,899 or PhP355, 991 a month (www.mercer.com). Bear in mind that this is only the average. The Charter consequently states that the Board shall deem it within its powers to "determine the compensation of the President of the University" (Sec. 14). Despite the efforts of the promoters of the Charter to allow the UP President to have an unprecedented two terms, this proposal was eventually withdrawn because of strong opposition. Quite disturbing, however, is the fact that the Chancellor of each constituent unit will not only receive an unspecified amount to be determined by the Board but will also serve an unspecified term likewise to be determined by the Board (Sec. 18: "The Board shall determine [both] the term and compensation of the Chancellor") .
Combining managerial and governance roles, the President shall serve simultaneously as the co-Chairperson of the Board of Regents (with the Chairperson of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED)) and as the Chairperson of an Independent Trust Committee (ITC) to be made up of representatives nominated by the following private entities explicitly specified by the Charter: Bankers Association of the Philippines (BAP), Investment Houses Association of the Philippines (IHAP), Trust Officers Association of the Philippines (TOAP) and the Financial Executive Institute of the Philippines (FINEX). Furthermore, in case of two failed biddings these same private entities shall nominate representatives which shall make up the majority of a "third-party body" tasked with making a "fairness opinion report" (Sec. 23). The individuals making up the ITC and the "third-party body" shall be "entitled to a reasonable per diem as the Board may specify" (Sec. 23 & 24). Some information about these private entities is in order. The BAP was founded in 1964 and aims to provide "a necessary avenue for member banks to raise and discuss issues that affect the commercial banking industry." It counts among its members, 40 commercial banking institutions covering 26 local banks and 14 foreign bank branches (http://www.bap. org.ph/). The IHAP was founded in 1974 and its current membership consists of "fifty-five (55) member houses, which include the top players in the investment banking industry" (http://www.ihap. org/). Established in 1964, the TOAP's aim is to unite, professionalize and promote the Philippine Trust and Investment Management Industry http://www.toap. org.ph/). Lastly, the FINEX, founded in 1968 is said to be an "organization (which) is devoted to the continuing development and improvement of financial management techniques and the promotion of efficiency in business enterprises" (http://www.finex. org.ph/).
There is no good reason why these entities should have their names inscribed in such a solemn document such as the UP Charter. These are plainly transitory private entities which do not sit well in a national public document drawn up with claims to perenniality such as the UP Charter. They could always be hired if and when consultants are needed and paid their "reasonable compensation. " As it is, they could just fold up in a couple of years and leave embarrassing blank spaces on the Charter. This is almost equivalent to putting the names of private businesses in the Philippine Constitution. Being in the UP Charter lends these private entities more prestige than they are worth.
The function of the ITC, befitting its "independent" nature, is to recommend to the Board five banks aside from providing the "Board with direction on appropriate investment objectives and permissible investments with the view to preserving the value of the funds while allowing the University to earn a reasonable return thereon" (Sec. 24). Emphasis should be placed on the words "appropriate" and "permissible" in the above sentence in order to stress the actual managerial power of the ITC. These individuals, the President, the Chancellor, and these representatives from the BAP, IHAP, TOAP and FINEX shall henceforth constitute a distinct stratum of managerial technocrats whose "compensations" and privileges shall be at a qualitatively differently level than the ordinary faculty, REPS and administrative personnel making up the university community. It seems that such gains as the Staff Regent who shall represent the administrative personnel and the research, extension and professional staff was conceded by the framers of the Charter with the foresight that the BOR itself shall eventually no longer carry much weight in the scheme of things to come.
UP as a Commercial Area with an “Academic Core Zone”
The scope of the income generating activities which these individuals shall plan and undertake shall only be limited by the size of what is termed in the Charter as the "academic core zone." According to Section 22 of the Charter, "The Board may plan, design, approve and/or cause the implementation of land leases: Provided, that such mechanisms and arrangements shall … be exclusive of the academic core zone of the campuses of the University of the Philippines ." The whole territory of the University lying outside of this so-called "academic core zone," which is as of yet unspecified, is therefore declared as a commercial zone. Furthermore, lands donated to the University from hereon may simply be sold if the terms of donation allow for it.
Profiting from the Pursuit of Truth
It is hard to see, given the power enshrined in the new Charter which now gives private business interests a preponderant role in shaping the future of the University, how such half-hearted provisos in the Charter itself, such as one stating that "such mechanisms and arrangements shall not conflict with the academic mission of the national university" or that "any plan to generate revenues and other sources from land grants and other real properties entrusted to the national university shall be consistent with the academic mission and orientation of the national university as well as protect it from undue influence and control of commercial interests" (Sec. 22) can realistically be adhered to. Instead of protecting it, the Charter actually renders the University extremely vulnerable to the "undue influence and control of commercial interests" as never before. For example, Sec. 3 on the "Purpose of the University," states that the University is "a community of scholars dedicated to the search for truth and knowledge." However Sec. 13 specifies without irony "that research and other activities funded by the University shall likewise undertake research in fields of topics that have promising commercial applications. " ("Likewise" here means "also" and cannot be read as meaning "optional.") The message is clear: the scholars of the University shall be dedicated to the "search for truth and knowledge" only as long as these have "promising commercial applications. "
The Price of Higher Wages
The thoroughgoing commercialization of the campus and of the research and academic mission of the University together with projected substantial tuition fee increases are being sold to the faculty with the promise of higher salaries. This is the proverbial carrot. Indeed, Sec. 13 states that "any law to the contrary notwithstanding, to fix and adjust salaries and benefits of the faculty members and other employees: Provided, That salaries and other benefits of the faculty shall be equivalent to those being received by their counterparts in the private sector." Aside from the fact that a great part of these promised higher wages shall come from rising tuition fees and rampant commercialization, it is also more than likely that these salary increases shall come at the cost of undermining existing rights to tenure in the longer term and lead to a rising percentage of part-time and full-time non-tenure track teaching staff. This is already a problem in the US where according to the (AAUP), 68 percent of all university and college level teaching personnel comprise these so-called "contingent faculty," thus seriously undermining academic freedom, academic quality and professional standards (www.aaup.org).
This Charter marks the next 100 years of UP. What has been dangled to clinch faculty support—exemption from the SSL and salaries competitive with the private sector—is neither forthcoming nor will it be within the range of the compensation package of the UP President as CEO. This Charter legitimizes the neo-liberal turn to greater commercialization, privatization, and deregulation of UP and of higher education in general.
A Charter Against the University of the People
This blatantly neo-liberal charter accepts the conventional and deadly wisdom of aspiring to be "globally competitive" at the cost of erasing all traces of the University of the People. It accepts the assumption that the government cannot and will not provide a sufficient budget for UP. Its main direction is to forge the transition from being a service-oriented public entity towards being a privately run corporate enterprise with its own CEO and an independent trust committee driven primarily, if not solely, by the search for profit. This Charter is nothing but the tragedy of the UP Centennial.
As the UP administration advances its neo-liberal agenda in the transformation of higher education, CONTEND calls on the various sectors of the university to be militant and continue to struggle for a UP which may be called an exemplary university of the people.
Education is not a commodity!
Continue the Fight for a genuine University of the People!
*The Congress of Teachers/Educators for Nationalism and Democracy or CONTEND is a progressive organization of academics based in the upcontend@yahoo. com . Please email your comments to