In the recent National Congress of the Coordinating Council of Private Education Associations (COCOPEA), one of the things that we learned from CHED Chair Dr. Patricia Licuanan is that the consultation process on the controversial Proposed Outcomes- and Typology-Based Quality Assurance Program is not yet over. While there is reason to believe that the architects of this program have departed from their original position based on feedback CHED has received in its first round of consultations, it is in fact not yet clear how they have shifted. Very much in discussion therefore is what CHED’s minimum requirements for recognizing a university in in the Philippines might be.
During the CHED consultation on the Outcomes- and Typology-Based Quality Assurance Proposal held in Davao last January 22, 2012, Dr. Cynthia Bautista, chair of CHED’s Technical Panel on Quality Assurance, tried to explain the proposed requirements of CHED for university recognition as a discerned compromise between the “global university” and “the university on the ground.” No concrete, global universities were named. But the requirements for CHED’s proposed “University Type” were explained as being in some middle ground between this “really real global university” and the reality of our universities in the Philippines .
In my criticisms of this proposal, and specifically of the arbitrary character of the requirements of the “University Type,” I have often remarked that while Oxford or the Technical University of Munich or Georgetown or Sophia or Sogang might be considered global, world-class universities, none of these are actual universities teaching students in Mindanao and none of these are engaged in actual research and conducting actual outreach in Mindanao, and none of these function as universities on the limited resources available to these in this part of the world. As far as higher education in Mindanao is concerned, the only thing that is “global” or “world class” is what is actually going on in such as Xavier University, the Mindanao State University, the Ateneo de Zamboanga University, the University of Mindanao and, of course, the Ateneo de Davao University.
It is in this context that Congressman Sonny Angara, Chair of the House Committee on Higher Education, reported on the various legislative initiatives in Congress. In delivering this report, however, two remarks struck me as a breath of fresh air. First, he said that considering the limited resources with which HEIs operate in this country, they are on the whole doing a pretty good job. As Dr. Peter Laurel, President of the PACU remarked, it was good to hear that, since private education is too often characterized as the villain of education in the Philippines since it collects tuition. It was also good to hear that, since CHED regularly complains about the high number of HEIs in the country and about how they are generally not delivering quality educational products. Congressman Sonny Angara, however, gives us another picture. All things considered, higher education delivers acceptably. Much can be improved. But that should not denigrate the achievements of higher education in pulling many Filipinos and Filipinos away from driving poverty, ignorance, joblessness and social irrelevance and mediating for them lives that are productive and contribute to the well being of Philippine and global society.
The second thing that Congressman Angara said is that Philippine HEIs must really reflect on what it is that they are, or what it is that they want to be. While he acknowledges the importance of such as international university rankings, he also challenged Philippine HEIs, especially those in the private sector, to think about what it is they precisely want to be. This has relevance to the manner in which we teach and form students in the Philippines today. But it also has relevance to the manner in which we conduct research in our universities, and the manner in which we reach out to our partner communities. What he challenged us to do, I believe, resonates with our recent efforts to renew ourselves in revisiting the Vision and Mission of our University, and has every relevance to what we are now celebrating: the recent establishment or renewed recognition of Institutes of Research and Centers of Outreach at the ADDU, that contribute to concretization and mediation of the ADDU’s missioned mandate to research and service to the community “from the center of the University.” These include the:
• Ateneo Public Interest and Advocacy Center (APILA)
• Ateneo Migration Center (AMC)
• Al Qalam Institute (AQI)
• Center of Psychological Extension and Research Services (COPERS)
• Ateneo Institute of Anthropology (AIA)
• Institute for Socio-Economic Development Initiatives (ISFI)
• Tropical Institute for Climate Studies (TropICS)
• Center for Renewal Energy and Alternative Technology (CREATE)
We welcome them, calling God to bless them in their individually-explicitated missions and goals, all subordinate to the Mission and Vision of the University.
Perhaps, in time, impelled by our Mission and Vision, they may be complemented by an Institute on Religious Education, an Institute on Leadership, and an Institute on Educational Reform.
In calling these centers or institutes forth and affirming them in their missions and goals, we do so, as Congressman Angara challenged, reflecting on what it is that we truly wish to be as a University in the Philippines or as a University in Mindanao, knowing that it is through the activity, the service, the success or the failure of these concrete institutes that we are co-defined as a University in the Philippines. At this point, therefore, a brief explicitation of what the characteristics of such centers or institutes at the ADDU must be might be in order.
Beyond their individual mission and goals, which they have already presented to us this afternoon, the ADDU Center or Institute must be characterized by:
• Institutional reliability. All institutes or centers are founded and sustained by individuals, many of them charismatic. But the Ateneo institute or center must enjoy a level of reliability and continuity that transcends individuals. The charism of individuals must be reshaped into the charism of the institutes or centers. Their mission and goals must be such that they call forth the service of individuals to implement these mission and pursue these goals in the long term. Institutional reliability also applies to then high level of responsibility with which institutes and centers fulfill reportorial requirements, exercise fiscal responsibility, fulfill contracts on time, since they are conscious that in their conduct they carry the name and prestige of ADDU.
• Methodological respectability. The disciplines involved in carrying out the missions of various institutes or centers will vary. But they must all be characterized by methodological respectability, namely a self-legislated set of procedures to assure that their research or service is serious, dedicated to truth, reflexive- and self-improving, uncompromising in integrity, and committed to fruitful service of the community. The methods of research must be rigorous and discipline based. Service must be systematic, continuous, open to collaboration with others, and normally worthy of financial support from others. Methodological respectability is the university conscience expressing itself in the centers and institutes.
• An uncompromising commitment to truth-for-all. Research conducted in ADDU institutes or centers is for the disciplined application of already-conducted research to local community or for the discovery of new truth. In both cases, truth applied or truth discovered must accrue to the benefit ultimately of the human community, especially in Mindanao, to which the ADDU is dedicated, and not just to a small, private group, with private or vested interests, even if these groups might finance the research. All research sponsors must be apprised of this university commitment to truth-for-all. In this sense, truth that is pursued and propagated at the ADDU is for the common good, and not just for the good of some. This is true, even when truth must be stated contrary to the interests of the established. This is true, when truth must articulate what is right or wrong, or articulate what is a morally imperative, or what is unjust and morally despicable, and commands action accordingly.
• Commitment to promote research and service to the community “from the center of the University.” The center or institute must mediate research and service to outside communities from the center of the university community, from its faculty, its staff, its students and even its administrators. They should not be operations on the university periphery accomplishing their mission and goals in abstraction from the main university community. They should proceed from the heart of the university.
We say in the Vision statement, the university proceeds “ex corde ecclesiae” – from the heart of the Church, whose heart of course is Jesus Christ. That Church as catholic is a Church “kat holos” – open to all, it is a Church sensitive to diversity in cultures, it is a church cognizant today of its own faults and failures in dealing with diverse religions and faiths, it is a Church open to inter-religious dialogue, it is a Church nevertheless that needs to spread its Gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ.
Paul spoke about this need, saying he would be damned should he not spread the Gospel. It is a passion for the spread of the Gospel that is unsurpassed.
Allow me to end with the oft-quoted words of the 1981 Synod of Bishops in Rome, that reflected on the imperative to spread the Gospel. It said, “Action on behalf of justice and participation in the transformation of the world fully appear to us as a constitutive dimension of preaching the Gospel, or, in other words, of the Church’s mission for the redemption of the human race and its liberation from every oppressive situation.” (Justitia in mundo. 1971 Synod of Bishops). The recent General Congregations of the Society of Jesus have made similar pronouncements. We must dedicate ourselves to the propagation of the faith and the promotion of the justice that that faith demands. This cannot be done without sensitivity to culture and cultural transformation. It cannot be done without inter-religious dialogue.
We proceed from the heart of the Church and the heart of this, our university, and so I say to our new centers and institutes: in the proclamation of the Gospel, fight for the rights of the poor, care for the migrants, care for our Muslim sisters and brothers, extend psychological services to the needy, respect the cultural diversity of Mindanao, promote the social and economic progress of our peoples, prepare our neighboring provinces for the effects of climate change, promote renewable energy and conserve the environment! Do so in proclamation of the Gospel of the Father’s Love in Jesus Christ. May the Holy Spirit who has impelled you to your service, give you courage in its execution, and lead you to success!