Student regents, councils and governments of various colleges and universities on Wednesday, Nov. 3, strongly condemned the continued “book purging” in state universities.
In an open letter, the National Union of Students of the Philippines urged the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) to stop the “systematic attack to trample on our academic freedom.”
“University administrators are mandated to be protectors of academic freedom and freedom of thought,” said NUSP.
“It is their task to foster critical-mindedness, therefore its student and faculty body should outright condemn any acts of book purging inside their institutions — coerced or not, as these are direct threats to the academic freedom of students at a time where national issues like peace talks and the ongoing civil war are not given the proper exposure it needs on the current education system,” it added.
The NUSP, which calls itself as the broadest and longest-existing alliance of student councils and governments in the Philippines, called out CHED and NTF-ELCAC on the series of book purging in various state universities nationwide.
“Purging libraries of critical materials is a direct act of crippling and suppressing academic freedom; and state-mandated policies similar to this push school administrators to shirk their duties and responsibilities to their constituents,” NUSP said.
Furthermore, NUSP noted that book purging also “limits students from accessing information pertinent to ongoing conflicts in the country.”
For NUSP, pulling out these books translates to also pulling out the opportunities of students to make informed decisions on their own.
“It effectively exacerbates our already anti-democratic education where students with critical political values are at risk of being vilified, red-tagged and, worst, physically harmed by state agents,” it added.
Given this, NUSP called on all students and school leaders to campaign against these “attacks on academic freedom and, on a larger scale, this anti-democratic education.”
NUSP also vehemently condemned CHED’s “capitulation” and demanded the Commission to be “proactive” and to stand with the students — its stakeholders.
In particular, NUSP demanded CHED to “outright prohibit NTF-ELCAC interventions inside academic spaces” and sign a memorandum that prohibits NTF-ELCAC in engaging students in the act of red tagging.
NUSP also urged CHED to “protect academic freedom through terminating any forms of book purging executed by school administrators and organizations as prior mandated by state forces like NTF-ELCAC.”
Moreover, NUSP asked CHED to “focus on bringing students back to their schools” through applying the demands of the #LigtasnaBalik-Eskwela campaign.
NUSP also reiterated its call to abolish NTF-ELCAC noting that as it is a “primary threat” to fostering critical thinking and democracy, especially of the Filipino students
By defunding and abolishing NTF-ELCAC, the NUSP said that its funds can be re-channelled and used by students and academic institutions.