UP Diliman vows to defend academic freedom, critical thinking amid defunding threat

Published November 20, 2020, 1:03 PM

by Alexandria Dennise San Juan

The University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman on Friday said that it will continue to defend the institution’s “time-honored traditions” of academic freedom and critical thinking as it denounced threats to defund the institution amid red-tagging and claims of recruiting communist insurgents.

University of the Philippines

“What the UP critics brand as subversive comes from discontent at the way things are, and a desire for change. UP education exposes our students to a wide range of perspectives. During their time in UP, students learn to think on their own, to think critically, to reason out, and distinguish truth from lies, right from wrong,” UP Diliman Chancellor Fidel Nemenzo said in a statement.

This was Nemenzo’s response to threats made by President Duterte of pulling out funds of the UP system as it only recruits communists after state scholars criticized the government’s disaster response.

Nemenzo argued that those accusing UP of recruiting communists also seemed to forget that the University has “bred more scientists, artists, doctors, lawyers, diplomats, and civil servants.”

He also called UP a “safe haven for civilized and intelligent discourse” which has no place for intolerance, bigotry, as well as red-tagging which he said is dangerous as it focuses on labels over substance and encourages intimidation and violence.

“Academic freedom is essential for the life of the mind and for UP’s dual role as knowledge producer and social critic. We play the role of social critic from a position of evidence-based scholarship and moral courage. This role is a distinct service to the nation,” Nemenzo said.

“We will strongly defend the University’s time-honored traditions of academic freedom and critical thinking. UP’s proud history of service and activism has shown that we can do both,” he added.

In the same statement, Nemenzo also recognized the calls made by both students and professors to immediately end the semester due to struggles in the “new normal” learning brought by disasters and the continuing impact of the pandemic.

“We recognize and understand the hardship, frustration, and fears of our students and faculty. This is why the University has issued a policy on teaching and grading that is guided by compassion and flexibility, while still doing our best to meet the learning needs of our students,” he said.

Nemenzo added that the University administration will also continue to explore ways to address recurring and emerging concerns and respond to the different needs and circumstances of the faculty and students.

“We recognize and will defend our faculty’s and students’ right to protest, but UP, as an institution of higher learning, cannot renege on its responsibility to educate,” Nemenzo said.

“At a time of great economic need and political ferment, the University is all the more needed—as a place where we can challenge ideas, sharpen our positions, and gain clarity about the social and political issues confronting our society. This is UP’s mission and we have to continue this task,” he added.