SARAH RAYMUNDO is an Assistant Professor from the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman's Department of Sociology, College of Social Sciences and Philosophy. She's been teaching in UP for ten years. She has met, and even exceeded, the minimum requirements for tenure. Why then, after a year since she applied for tenure, is Prof. Raymundo being denied permanent status in the university?

Sarah is the Secretary-General of the Congress of Teachers/Educators for Nationalism and Democracy (CONTEND), Treasurer of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) National Council, and an active member of the All UP Academic Employees Union (AUPAEU).

Monday, December 14, 2009

"Injustice in UP-Diliman" by Elmer Ordonez

Originally published here: Injustice in UP-Diliman

Lately we are witness to truly benighted decisions made by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) in rejecting the applications of Ang Ladlad and the Alliance of Concerned Teachers for party-list accreditation.

The other aberration is the decision of the University of the Philippines administration to deny tenure to a fully qualified assistant professor of sociology—amounting to what concerned faculty and students see as gross injustice.

The Comelec and the UP decisions are related as they manifest convergent ideological views, one straight from feudal times and the other from the Cold War. The denial of Comelec accreditation to Ang Ladlad, known for espousing the rights of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgenders (LGBT), reveals homophobia and extreme prejudice on grounds of medieval morality and an obsolete penal code provision dating to colonial times. (This provision must have been the same one that ensnared young poet Jose Garcia Villa, author of a poem “Man-Songs,” deemed “obscene.” A similar provision on obscenity in the US also banned James Joyce’s stream-of-consciousness novel Ulysses in the late twenties. Times have changed, but the Comelec panels as well as the Revised Penal Code have not kept up.)

The rejection of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) on grounds that it has no national presence is misplaced because it has chapters and affiliates all over the country. The more likely reason is that ACT is part of the progressive or Left bloc now represented in the House of Representatives by Bayan Muna, Gabriela, Anakpawis, and Kabataan members pursuing the principled politics of change as opposed to trapo politics.

Progressive party-list representation has faced an uphill battle because of efforts by the establishment to limit the number of representatives through biased interpretation of constitutional and enacting law. Furthermore, bogus groups (purporting to represent the dispossessed and the marginalized but are extensions of ruling blocs) are allowed by Comelec to come in as party-lists. Hence, the presence in Congress of a retired general accused of human rights violations by local and international agencies, and other fake champions of the disadvantaged.

The case of Sarah Jane Raymundo, assistant professor of sociology, MA, who has been teaching for nine years in UP- Diliman is a bizarre one. Raymundo’s tenure has been endorsed by majority of the permanent faculty in her department and the executive board of her college (social sciences and philosophy) but the case dragged on for some two years because of the opposition of a minority of three (including a former department chair) for other “academic” reasons. The latest is that the UP- Diliman chancellor used the minority report and the case of an associate professor in another college (science) as the basis for denying Raymundo’s tenure.

One who reads through the basic papers of the case can sense a strong Byzantine element in the latter part of the tenure proceeding involving the administration. Here it is apparent that the academe is not immune to pressure, convoluted reasoning, and arbitrariness.

While Raymundo’s peers acknowledge her “excellent quality of mind,” “expansive intellectual interest,” “competence in current and emerging academic discourses [as] reflected in her teaching” and “capability to engage in sustained scholarship,” Chancellor Sergio Cao, in denying tenure, overturned peer judgment and belittled the professor’s academic qualifications (e.g. publications in many journals, active participation in seminars, and community work) and cited other “academic” grounds obviously drawn from the minority report of peers who charged Raymundo of “breach of professional ethics” which have not been proven. This apparently stems from Prof. Raymundo’s having been thesis adviser of one of two UP coeds who were reported abducted two years ago by military agents, tortured and presumably “salvaged.”

Some of Raymundo’s colleagues believe that her membership in CONTEND (Congress of Teachers for Nationalism and Democracy) and the Alliance of Concerned Teachers may have figured in the denial of her tenure. If this were true, then the professor is a victim of political persecution, ironically, in an institution that had long nurtured diverse political and ideological persuasions. Here a professed socialist, Dr. Francisco Nemenzo Jr., became UP president; professors and students who were detained during martial law were reinstated in the university upon their release. Dissenters/non-conformists found haven on campus.

There was division among constituents in celebrated cases like that of Rizal professorial chair holder Austin Craig (with poor interpersonal relations) who was about to be sacked for non-academic reasons but was supported by senior professors who believed in his scholarship. This occurred during the UP presidency of Guy Benton in the 20s.

The case of Sarah Jane Raymundo prompted Prof. Walden Bello to say: “The conflation of the tenure process with a disciplinary process—especially one that has not reached any conclusion on the guilt or innocence of the defendant—is wrong and constitutes a dangerous precedent that would destroy the academic objectivity that is central to the tenure process.”

As Prof. Ramon Guillermo noted, she “has never been given the opportunity to answer allegations against her.”

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