Politicizing deanships: UP Chancellor questions political appointments of deans

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 06 2019 03:30 PM

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MANILA - Several members of the University of the Philippines' academic community are sounding the alarm over supposed irregularities in the selection process for the deanships of at least four colleges. 

Speaking to ANC's Headstart, UP-Diliman Chancellor Michael Tan said the complaints are against 4 political appointments, and not just the appointment of Joel Tan Torres as the new dean of the Cesar Virata School of Business.

"The important starting point, the Board of Regents must explain why they choose those 4, maybe they have a good reason, we're ready to listen and if they don't then we would have to fight this out," he said. 

Section 19 of the UP Charter states the Board of Regents would elect deans "upon nomination of the President of the University and recommendation of the Chancellor of the constituent university following a process of consultation with constituents of college based on standards and guidelines."

"This is not the only guideline. We have all those administrative orders of previous presidents and the BORs own resolutions, and given that the dean is an academic leader, I would have liked them to choose someone who is academically qualified," he said.

In the case of the deanship for the Cesar Virata School of Business, a search committee was formed to accept nominations and screen the nominees based on academic qualifications and leadership potential. The search committee cannot disqualify any of the nominees, Tan said. 

He said he recommended 2 nominees - faculty members Regina Lizares and Lorna Paredes - but the BOR chose Torres despite his lack of academic experience or PhD. 

In a previous interview, Committee on Higher Education chairman Prospero De Vera defended the BOR's choice, saying UP's rules do not require candidates for dean to be restricted solely to faculty members and those with a PhD.

He added Torres topped the CPA board exams and had served in the Bureau of Internal Revenue.

"Let me point it bluntly. Mike Tan accuses the Board of Regents of making political decisions and wants the Board of Regents to rely solely on the search committee report in making decisions,” he said. 

"When Mike Tan and university council start saying respect the search committee process, respect the choice of the search committee and the chancellor--what they're basically saying is substitute our choice to your choice."

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In the interview, Tan said he did not choose Torres because he was looking at the academic qualifications of the other 4 nominees. 

He also noted the BOR did not follow his recommendations at least 4 times but he had accepted the decision "because I felt the 4, pwede na ang academic qualifications. They could be better pero pwede na 'yung apat." 

The appointment of the 4 new deans including Torres, however, has led to protests, he said. 

"The reason why there is so much protest right now is because the feeling in the 4 academic institutions is that the other candidates were much more qualified academically." 

In the College of Engineering, faculty members have also questioned the selection of the new dean, with some saying the new dean should at least have a license to practice engineering. 

"The students don't know what to do at this point," he said. 

Tan said the selection process has led to disillusionment among members of the faculty in the college of business, with one faculty member even wanting to resign from post.

Around 36 out of 43 faculty members in the school of business, including 5 professors emerita, have signed a statement stating they do not accept its new dean, Tan said. 

The BOR, however, has yet to explain its decision to choose Torres over the other nominees. 

So what happens now for UP? 

According to Tan, he said he told the colleges concerned to "live with the appointments for now."

"Because for the welfare of the students, we cannot afford to have a vacuum. But we will be very vigilant in watching these 4. We will guide them, because I tell you they are just so clueless sometimes with administrative tasks. My work has become so much heavier because I constantly have to correct them," he said. 

Faculty members also remain committed to serving the students. 

"The UP president has offered to mediate and I have said yes please come in. This is not a battle between UP Diliman and the Board of Regents because there are good men and one woman in the BOR. I do see weaknesses in the existing rules. I would like more say on the part of colleges that it should not only be the chancellor," Tan said.

He urged other colleges to also speak out. 
 
"It all boils down to academic merit plus plus, and I wanted to say the plus plus. The political appointee goes in because of power play. I want to see a dean who goes in because he or she truly loves the students, he or she loves teaching, loves research. That is always in the back of my mind when I make these recommendations," he said.