NOTE: This is the second part of a two-part article. Click here for the first part.
Words by Sam Delis and Norland Cruz
The six candidates vying for the 22nd UP presidency are in a delicate balance – three candidates are current UP faculty members, while the other three are no longer affiliated with the university. While it is not a prerequisite for the next UP president to be affiliated with UP, it seems that history repeatedly favors those who are.
Nemenzo, Pacheco, and Sanchez are the three current UP faculty members vying for the fixed six-year term of UP presidency. In the recently conducted public forum, nominees who are current faculty members stood out when asked about the current issues in the university. However, the public forum was just a tiny part of the selection process on the 9th of December – there are a lot of factors that the BOR considers in choosing the next leader of the national university.
Steering the wheel of Nemenzo’s kinesthetic leadership
Bred from a clan of prominent scholars, educators, and administrators in the university, Dr. Fidel R. Nemenzo is the third-generation Nemenzo and the son of Francisco Nemenzo, the 18th UP president (1999-2005). Growing up, Nemenzo was one of the “mga batang UP” who were exposed to the complexities of UP culture, as he was a product of UP education – from nursery to college. Nemenzo developed an intimate understanding of the UP system, and enabled him to develop a kinesthetic or proprioceptive sense of dynamic leadership.
Nemenzo is an acclaimed and multi-awarded Mathematics Professor and currently the 11th Chancellor of the University of the Philippines Diliman (UPD). Before his chancellorship post, Nemenzo served as the Vice Chancellor for Research and Development during 2014-2020.
As the UPD chancellor, Nemenzo was known for his civic-minded leadership, especially during the pandemic, where he led the university’s pivotal COVID-19 task forces. The task force was established for a quick response to the health needs of the community during the pandemic, ensuring the stability of services and functions of different UP Diliman colleges.
He also initiated innovative data management systems to strengthen the efficiency of administrative processes, and these actions manifested in his mission-vision paper centered around Agile, Smart, and High-Impact UP.
Nemenzo foresees UP to be technologically progressive and aims to respond quickly to disruptions by developing and expanding programs in bioinformatics, data science, and artificial intelligence – a vision which he called Agile UP. He also stressed that an agile mind is also fostered in an environment of critical thinking and democratic culture.
The second point in his plan of action, namely Smart UP, aims to push through with digital transformation through hybrid modes of learning and digitization of learning resources, archives, and research materials. Lastly, the High-Impact UP entails the university’s role as a “premier policy and innovation hub” by collaborating with other state universities and colleges (SUCs) in enhancing education and research programs.
After the public release of the candidates’ plan of action and the recently held fora, Nemenzo earned the endorsement of UPD-USC, UPB-USC, Philippine Collegian, General Assembly of Student Councils, and other professors, organizations, and student publications.
Moreover, Nemenzo was also known for his progressive stances, especially against red-tagging. “If being an activist is siding with the oppressed, then I am an activist. If being an activist is working for change, then I am an activist. Red-tagging has no place in this university”, asserted Nemenzo in a 2020 forum for UPD chancellorship.
It was not a surprise for Nemenzo to take progressive stands, as he was a known student activist amid the repressive Martial Law era. During the Welcome Rotonda rally in 1984, Nemenzo was shot in the back and almost died.
Despite being called the pro-student, pro-people chancellor, clamors were also amplified against Nemenzo for not heeding the calls of UPD constituents. This was after Nemenzo rejected the appeals for a two-week academic break and the calls to move the resumption of the 2nd semester, AY 2021-2022. Instead, he opted for a band-aid solution of one-week easing, iterating that: “We are on the same boat.” This narrative was uttered despite the surge of COVID-19 cases in UP Diliman prior to the resumption of the 2nd semester.
Moreover, during the Kilatis forum fast-talk segment, Nemenzo was the only one who voted “no” for establishing the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs (OVPSA) within the system, asserting that he will give more importance to student affairs, not another “bureaucratic layer”. Nemenzo also highlighted the significance of onsite learning as a lifeblood of UP education and immersing oneself in different walks of life and contexts, reiterating that the flagship university will be implementing a full campus reopening in the next semester.
In relation to the return-to-campus policy, he vows that if he wins, GE Program Reform will be reevaluated – either retaining or revamping the conduct of the GE classes instead of reducing from 45 to 21 at minimum units, aspiring to produce professionals who have an empathic grasp on the field of humanities.
Given his aspirations for UP, will Nemenzo go against the motion – steering the wheel to a better direction or only going through the path of a status quo-maintained image?
Pacheco’s plans: An aroma or a stench?
Coming from the field of research, teaching, and engineering, UP Diliman Professor Dr. Benito M. Pacheco envisages the UP System as an academic institution that advocates humanity and development. He asserts that UP, being the national university, should prioritize public service and outreach, humanist enhancement, and honing educators and future leaders ratified on serving the nation— evident in his mission-vision paper, Imagine UP to 2050.
It explicates his proposal of reimagining UP Education anchored in “Future Triangles Pedagogy” in the form of wider democratization of student admission, quality of academic programs, excellence of teaching, integrity of student evaluation and graduation, and thriving in a humanistic technology veering from “leadership by algorithm”.
A professor at the Institute of Civil Engineering, College of Engineering, Pacheco earned his BS and MS in Civil Engineering from UP Diliman in 1980 and 1984, respectively, where he graduated cum laude during his tertiary education. He obtained his Ph.D. degree under a Monbusho scholarship from the University of Tokyo in 1987, notably being the first foreign graduate student to be immediately appointed to the faculty of a national university in Japan.
He poised his administrative positions after serving as the Vice Chancellor for Research and Development in 2011 and Vice-Chancellor for Academic Affairs in 2017. Back in 2016, Pacheco was nominated for UP Presidency, competing against the incumbent President Danilo Concepcion, but he failed to secure the post. To his comeback, he smells something invigorating this time, persistent to finally land to the highest post. “Wala namang masama sa take two”, he contended.
His mission-vision paper highlights the 15 possibilities for recalibration of the university’s rules. He offers an alternative “equally qualitative indicators” proposing rules including democratic access and diversity at admission, removal of Maximum Residency Rules (MRR), removal of minimum load requirement to qualify for Latin honors, and the implementation of a non-numerical grading system, among others.
Additionally, during the Kilatis student-led forum, he disagreed in the resumption of UPCAT 2023 substantiating that it can be improved through adding curricular and co-curricular achievements as a factor of acceptance in the university.
From his notion of admission’s accessibility, Pacheco laid down his vision that annually, every municipality of the Philippines must be assured of at least three new undergraduate student admissions, and at least ten for every city. He calls the proposal a “local competition”; still, only a limited number of students are to be allocated.
Furthermore, the question heavily relies if Pacheco’s plan for MRR exudes an aromatic or pungent smell of gaps. In his exclusive interview with the Philippine Collegian, he vowed to remove the MRR – but the catch is, the continuation of free tuition under MRR is only for those belonging to low-income families. Payment of tuition fee is required for the students who will shift under the MRR, as they will “take a lot of resources”. Pacheco argued, “They are welcome to extend one more year basta mag-contribute sila.”
On the other hand, UP Mindanao continues to face state intrusion with the militarization under 11th Regional Community Defense Group (RCDG). The 11th RCDG is requesting for a 20-hectare land transfer from UP Mindanao lands to use for military reservation and facilitation of Reserved Officer Training Corps (ROTC). During the Kilatis forum, Pacheco was among the three candidates who agreed to grant alternative lands to transfer RCDG. The constituents of UP Mindanao condemns this land transfer, asserting that it makes the campus vulnerable to military presence, state terror, and repressed academic freedom.
Given his aspirations and laid-out plans for the university, will Pacheco finally smell the victory he did not clinch in 2016, or only trapped to the stench of loopholes?
Sanchez and his tone-deaf leadership
Marred with controversies surrounding his six-year chancellorship (2014-2020) in UPLB, Dr. Fernando C. Sanchez, Jr. still ran for the 22nd UP presidential post – news that dismayed the UP studentry, especially in UPLB.
Prior to his six-year UPLB chancellorship, he was the Vice Chancellor for Planning and Development from 2011 to 2014. Sanchez was born and bred in Los Baños, taking up his tertiary education in BS Agriculture and graduate studies in MS Environmental Science, both at UPLB. Currently, he is the Division Head of Crop Production and Management at the Institute of Crop Science, College of Agriculture and Food Science (CAFS).
In the upcoming UP presidential selection, Sanchez’s flagship vision is “Synergy in Diversity: UP as a Catalyst for Inclusive National Development”. His vision includes six main points, each highlighting various aspects.
Sanchez aims to diversify UP public service and development linkages by having formal and more meaningful partnerships among local government units (LGUs), non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and state universities and colleges (SUCs). He envisions these partnerships to address the needs of marginalized communities and to uphold inclusivity. Moreover, Sanchez also emphasized the need to dismantle the silent culture of hierarchy among UP units by establishing system-wide studies centers and conducting mandatory system-wide training for UP administrators to secure UP’s academic leadership. Basically, Sanchez highlighted the importance of inter-UP cooperation, collaboration, and development linkages.
Aside from this, Sanchez also seeks to establish graduate programs across all college units that are “relevant and responsive to the niche and needs” of the region where the campus is located. He also aims to produce collaborative graduate programs with universities abroad, elaborating that UP degree programs and research should meet ASEAN and international standards.
While these programs aim to “develop collaboration”, forcing Filipino education to meet international standards screams neoliberalism and colonial weaponization, according to the IBON Foundation. The independent research think-tank emphasizes that the principle of education as a right of every Filipino citizen was replaced by neoliberal globalization that sees education as a “commodity sold by businessmen for profit”. (Read: Youth in Peril: Faults and hopes of the Philippines’ educational system)
Furthermore, Sanchez also assures in his plan of action to provide an “enabling and inspiring environment” should he be selected for the top post in the university. With UP System’s transition from online to blending learning and the expected resumption of full face-to-face classes in the upcoming 2nd semester, Sanchez aims to improve UP’s internet connectivity, build communal classrooms and joint laboratories, and modernize research laboratories.
Despite his “vows” to provide an enabling environment, especially during the transition period, his stances in the Kilatis forum fast-talk segment speaks volume. Sanchez answered “no” in lifting academic ease policies during the transition period; at the same time, he favors full face-to-face learning.
Last September, OVPAA Memorandum No. 2022-88 was released, which urged students across different UP campuses to mobilize and call for the reinstatement of academic policies. The memorandum lifted academic policies amid the University’s announcement of its transition to blended learning. The no-fail policy was lifted and the regular course load was returned to 15 units. Academic delinquency rules such as warning, probation, and dismissal were reinstated, and the Maximum Residency Rule (MRR) meeting was enforced again. (Read: UPLB students demand inclusive acad policies amid blended learning woes)
In his mission-vision statement, Sanchez reiterated: “I believe that what sets a true leader’s vision apart from the rest is a leader’s authenticity to empathize with his or her fellow constituents’ yearnings and realities and take action on what needs to change.”
His words, however, did not complement his six-year UPLB chancellorship, an infamous tragedy filled with controversies – from his Ombudsman cases and administrative complaints to Student Academic Information System (SAIS) woes and MRR and readmission cases. (Read: Sanchez legacy: A tragedy)
The UPLB administration during Sanchez’ chancellorship has long been criticized for its indifference and its anti-student policies, specifically on the Maximum Residence Rule (MRR) and readmission appeals. (Read: Singko-Worthy Service: UPLB admin’s handling of MRR/Re-ad cases)
Sanchez’s term in UPLB was chaotic. From his rigorous anti-student policies and absence of genuine student spaces to lack of dialogue and support to its constituents, Sanchez was a tone-deaf chancellor from day one. Thus, his run for third-term chancellorship in 2020 was bombed with coalitions, mobilizations, and collective action – all share a collective noise: #NoMoreSanchez. (Read: Coalition against Sanchez’ third term established)
When the BOR released the shortlist of nominees for UP presidency, bearing Sanchez’ name in it, the call for #NoMoreSanchez amplified more than ever. Several UPLB student institutions and stakeholders collectively released statements opposing Sanchez’s run for the UP presidency. A coalition named “No More Chances, Sanchez” was also established and supported by UP constituents – inside and outside UPLB.
The next UP president should know how to listen to his constituents, amplify and heed their calls, and silence the repressive policies that burden them. Sanchez’ two-term chancellorship in UPLB is a tone-deaf administration, which is reflective of the constituents’ woes and oppositions for his nomination as UP president. (Read: Student institutions, organizations oppose Sanchez’s nomination as UP Prexy)
The search for the 22nd UP president is not just about electing the national university’s leader. To be the next UP president means facing the challenges of UP and the Filipino community – especially in these uncertain times. The next UP president should uphold honor and excellence – and, more importantly, act upon those values.
The next six years will certainly be crucial, especially under the Marcos-Duterte administration. Thus, the next president of the country’s national university should possess a critical and heightened sense – a transparent vision for the university, a keen sense of smell for the current issues, a sumptuous taste of honor and excellence, a sharp-eared administration, and a leader who is in-touch and can manage kinesthetic actions.
Through the sensory level, the six UP presidential nominees were assessed and critiqued based on their mission-vision statements, plans of actions, exclusive interviews, and answers to the conducted public fora. However, if elected as the 22nd UP president, a sensory-level of critiquing will not suffice anymore. It is important to evaluate and remain vigilant on their programs, administration, and dialogues with the constituents – through a deeper level of scrutiny beyond our six senses.
Now, more than ever, we need a UP president that serves the welfare of the UP constituents and the interests of the Filipino people. To the next UP president: “Padayon! Paglingkuran ang sambayanan.”[P]