[Joint ADDU Faculty Address at Start of School Year, 2013-14]
Once again, it is my pleasure at the outset of a new academic year, 2013-14, to greet the assembled faculties of our basic and tertiary education units. It is already wonderful that we can just come together in this fashion. To get here, Dr. Jess Delgado of the School of Business and Governance had to undergo an emergency Cebu Pacific landing last night with an engine on fire, and had exit the plane on a rubber slide. Fr. Manny Perez, S.J., M.D., the newest member of the ADDU Jesuit community, didn’t make it; he was supposed to have been on the next flight, but this was cancelled. Congrats and thanks to all of you who made it!
The “universitas” originally meant community – a community of scholars and teachers pursuing truth in academic freedom. That concept, hopefully, is reinforced by the fact that we are a largely Catholic Community living our faith in dialogue with other faith communities within the university and in Mindanao. It is further enhanced by the fact that in our pursuit of truth, our instructional service and our service to the community, we are able to interact with one another not only in the professionalism of colleagues, but also in the warmth of friendship. In fact, some of us, through the surprise and mystery that is personal love, have even moved beyond friendship into sojourns of amorous love, and then through marriage into families! We rejoice in the fact that through the educational effort of the whole community, our own children may study here. It is not every Ateneo that has the institutional strength to afford this; it is not every school that operates the same educational levels we do: the pre-school, the grade school, the high school, the colleges, the graduate school and the Law School, so that our children can be educated here from alpha to omega years. Especially in the K-12 discussion, it has come more clearly to consciousness that some schools are limited to basic education; others, confined to tertiary. But we have the privilege of being an integrated educational powerhouse, from play school for 3-year-old toddlers, possibly all the way to the doctorate. This complex educational institution is only possible through the complex multi-tiered, multi-competence, multi-tasking, multi-depth community that we are. It is our prayer that as we realize the vision-mission of the school in teaching, research, learning, service to the community, and taking on positions, sometimes congenial, consoling, and encouraging, at other times discomforting, unpopular, and prophetic, we grow in this community.
We come together as a community – universitas – to pursue truth in academic freedom. There has been much painful debate between ADDU and CEAP, on the one hand, and the CHED, on the other hand, concerning academic freedom. The Constitution guarantees academic freedom for higher education; the law which creates CHED, RA 7722, mandates that CHED “promote and insure academic freedom.” In public positions, we have taken a leadership role in insisting on what jurisprudence understands academic freedom to be: the freedom of the HEIs to determine who teaches, whom to teach, what to teach, how to teach. We have considered this particularly sensitive for the private HEIs, especially those which implement faith-based visions and missions. We have grated against the provision in CMO 46 on Outcomes- and Typology-Based Quality Assurance that states: “Philippine higher education is mandated to building a quality nation…” Where CHED gets the power to issue this omnibus “mandate” is unknown. As a foundational principle of a state-run quality evaluation system for higher education, CMO 46, it is rather dangerous, since quality evaluation will not capture anything that falls short of or transcends its undefined notion of “building [of] a quality nation.” The arbitrariness of this provision, no matter how benevolent the current administration may be, may lead to crippling control of HEIs in the future, especially where HEIs are critical of government in its determination of the “quality nation.” As a university community, we must all appreciate that our Vision-Mission includes the development of the nation, but is certainly not confined by it; in the assessment and building of the nation it is the ADDU that must determine in academic freedom what the quality nation is, and not just blindly accept an arbitrary reference to it from CHED, or be subjected to the definition that a political party or administration in power may impose on CHED. The faith, justice, and particularly social justice, sensitivity to cultures, interreligious dialogue and commitment to the preservation of our environment, are all aspects of our vision and mission which may celebrate the achievements of a nation, or severely criticize it; it may contribute to it, but it may also transcend it. Concepts such as the Kingdom of God, Catholic (=for all), humanity, the global community, transformational education that are present in many Vision-Mission statements of private faith-driven universities, transcend the confining notion of “the quality nation” of CMO 46.
One of the great ironies of the present dispensation in the Philippine educational system today is that where CHED is mandated to “ensure and protect academic freedom,” it is most prescriptive and controlling not only of public HEIs but even of private HEIs, whereas, while DepEd is empowered by law to be controlling even of private education, it is most liberal. In this context, ADDU through its K-12 Committee led by Dr. Gina Montalan, was able very early on to understand how it would implement the K-12, at least on the level of curriculum. It was able to rediscover how courses on different levels are related to one another, lead to, or are dependent on one another, and how understanding what colleagues are doing on different levels of the integrated educational operation can overcome overlap and redundancy and permit more efficient learning. Hopefully this year, we shall make further progress as a community in understanding how the Enhanced Basic Education Act of 2013 (RA 10533 or K-12 Law), signed into law by Pres. Aquino last May 15, 2013 shall be implemented at ADDU. K-12 can succeed in Davao, in a manner that is exemplary for other schools, if in academic freedom we hold together as a community. More on this later.
Sometimes, I think academic freedom is higher education’s “best kept secret” in the Philippines. In fighting for academic freedom, what is it in fact that we are trying to protect? CHED has been entrusted with the formulation and enforcement of minimum standards for higher education. Some have opined that that means that once CHED has recognized an institution’s right to operate as a HEI, it should no longer interfere in its operation beyond ensure that it follows the law This is because higher education is higher education, and educators on the higher levels should be respected and autonomous by virtue of their higher education, and controlled only by their own self-respect and the people who deal with them. This would lead to maximum creativity and innovativeness among HEIs. Others maintain that CHED truly has the right to establish minimum standards for programs such as engineering, nursing, English, agri-business, theology and Islamic studies, even though the number and detail of requirements demanded for some of these programs may be suffocating, and may be created by educators more dedicated to spoonfeeding rather than to educating students to be lifelong learners. Others maintain that CHEd can determine prescriptions for teachers, prescriptions for content of courses, prescriptions for the manner in which courses are taught, prescriptions for the outcomes of what is taught, prescriptions even for how higher educational institutions are administered, including how and when educational excursions may or may not be prescribed! As the activity of CHED becomes more prescriptive, the space for academic freedom becomes more confined. Where DepEd confines its prescriptiveness to public schools, CHED goes out of its way to state that its CMOs pertain to both public and private schools. So higher education in the Philippines is hammered and chiseled into the shape that a few bureaucrats determine it to be, presumably for the good of the quality nation.
It is my belief that we must cherish and protect academic freedom. The Constitution protects it. Because the State can overpower truth, as we learned under Marcos. The Church protects it. Because dogmatism can betray truth, as we learned through 700 years of benighted Inquisition. Academic freedom is our singular responsibility. In the education of our youth, we must be free to educate well, according to the best of our abilities, impelled by an inner compulsion to teach well. We must seek out the truth, according to the best of our abilities, impelled by an inner compulsion to find truth. We must serve our communities according to the best of our abilities, impelled by an inner compulsion to serve not just concepts but truth, not just theories of people, but people. In all this, we must bring our students to thought, right judgment, and appropriate action, even action morally compelled. We must do this, wrestling against the debilitating ideologies, paralyzing traditions, petty bureaucracies and stagnant mindsets that would manipulate us where we should be free. In the protection of this academic freedom, if the “autonomous status” of our university depends on acceptance of CMO 46, I would rather sacrifice CHED’s honorific autonomy, rather than suffer the ignominy of lost academic freedom at ADDU through compliance with CMO 46.
Impelled by the ADDU Vision and Mission, we serve the faith, promote justice, advance sensitivity to culture, engage ourselves in inter-religious dialogue, and preserve and protect the environment. It is here that we realize our community.
IMPLEMENTING THE VISION-MISSION
In the service of the faith, we continue to proclaim and teach Jesus Christ as the genuine expression of the Father’s compassion who sent to us the Spirit by which we live in love and love in life. We will continue to try to understand how his self revelation impacts on our world today. We will struggle against efforts to reduce the relationship with Jesus Christ to merely a monolithic set of propositions and moral prescriptions that may not be discussed and may not be challenged. This year, we expect to take giant strides forward in collaboration with other Catholic religious groups towards a major ADDU-based center of Catholic theology in Mindanao in collaboration especially with the Redemptorists’ St. Alysious Theological and Missiological Institue (SATMI) in Bahada. Through our new ADDU Natural Family Planning Institute, which we will launch on the 24th of this month with Abp. Antonio Ledesma as our guest speaker, we will teach NFP to all who wish to learn it, within the University and beyond, as the Church’s only-accepted method of family planning beyond abstinence. For this important work, we have assigned our newest Jesuit in Davao, Fr. Manuel Perez, S.J., M.D., who is also well versed in bioethics. May it then be clear to all that we do not reject nor spurn the Church’s position on natural family planning, but wish to advance it even on a practical level! On the other hand, especially in the context of the recently-passed Reproductive Health Law, now more controversial because challenged before the Supreme Court, we will continue to discuss reproductive health, promiscuity, unwanted pregnancies, abortion and the choices that Catholics must make in a permissive society to remain faithful and loving Catholics. We will continue to be guided by the Church’s teachings on family life, but we will not close ourselves to issues related to dysfunctional marriages, nor to the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender community. We will militate against a misguided notion that Catholic morality is confined to sexual or gender morality, and we will actively promote justice – commutative, distributive and social justice – and environmental protection and preservation as exigencies of Catholic morality as well. In the promotion of the Common Good we will discuss the reality, desirability of the so-called “Catholic vote.”
It is for this reason that, impelled by our Vision and Mission, we will continue to pursue justice, especially social justice. In this context, I would like to propose an ongoing multi-disciplinary ADDU conversation on social justice and the common good that might take place in and among all of our units. Our Leadership Center under Beth Arcena, has already broken ground on this, learning that among educated people it is not easy to talk about the common good, because the perception of one convinced person of the common good may be quite different from the perception of another. Ironically, talking about the common good and its demands often results in passionate arguments, flared tempers, and, occasionally, war. The perception of the common good for the Palestinians may be quite different from the perception of the common good for the Israelis. The perception of the exigencies of the common good for the leader of the Sultanate of Sulu, may be quite different from that of the government of Malaysia. Similarly, the perception of the common good among the politicians of Taiwan may be quite different from the common good in the eyes of the Philippine Coast Guard and of the Filipino people.
The difficulty of talking about the common good is precisely the reason why it should be discussed in the University – with academic rigor, dispassion, and openness to the truth. For the large-scale miners, open pit mining contributes to the common good, so the disturbances they cause the environment should be tolerated. For the farmers and irrigators of the Koronadal valley, food production is essential for the common good, and any serious threat to food production like the SMI/Xstrata mine must be resisted with vigor. How are such opposed convictions reconciled in a plural, democratic society? In our shared commitment to promote justice, and particularly social justice, how is the informed, legislative conscience shaped? In the manner in which we teach business with its clear profit motive, how are our students to be formed to work for the common good? That will certainly be a challenge for the new SBG course we hope soonest to commence instruction in Honors Entrepreneurship with a focus on agri-business.
This ongoing conversation on the common good, I believe, also conditions a responsible way of forming our ADDU Leaders sui generis, who must commit themselves to the common good in their formative years. They must develop a critical understanding of the society to which they undertake to lead people, and be able to subject this understanding to ongoing refinement or revision through participation in ongoing University discussion on the common good. Some of the issues addressed by the UCEAC – like the peace process (including the Framework Agreement Mindanao and Minda 2020), transparency (including the Freedom of Information Bill), educational reform (including the systemic relationship between public and private schools), environment (including the ‘Save Shrine Hills’ effort, and the need for a new Mining Law) must be included in this discussion. It is similar with issues raised by the URC like human rights, water biodiversity, renewable energy, health, climate change, educational reform. They must also be included in this conversation.
The advancement of sensitivity to cultures has led us to research
within the ADDU’s Department of Anthropology and its Institute of Anthropology on such as the root Muslim identity of the Iranun People in Liguasan Marsh, the violence brought against the B’laans of South Cotabato prior to and after the entry of SMI, the relation of the Tagakaulo of Malita, Davao del Sur, to their watershed, and the impacts of climate change on the life of the T’Boli. We are happy that our new graduate level instruction in anthropology is progressing nicely.
In pursuit of inter-religious dialogue our Al Qalam has been our spearhead. In a world where wars are fought, bombs explode, and people are killed because of perceived differences between variations of the Christian and Muslim faiths, through Al Qalam ADDU works for such a deeper understanding of the core identities of Christianity and Islam that dialogue is possible, even amidst tension. Outside of its general support of the Framework Agreement Bangsamoro, with its hope for peace, the Al Qalam has organized a four-day peace camp among Christians, Lumads and Muslims in Mintal, has promoted the World Interfaith Harmony Week, has used the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, Ramadhan to promote greater inter-understanding among Muslims and Christians of ADDU, has even intervened to mitigate tensions and promote peace in Pilar College of Zamboanga due to the wearing of the Hijab. Next June 20, it will host the Bandung Conference with its special theme on religious diversity. Perhaps the most significant, long term contribution of Al Qalam to inter-religious dialogue is its project to offer an undergraduate course in Applied Islamic Studies at ADDU.
The protection and preservation of the environment has led us to the graduation of our first batch of Tropical Risk Management Masters in South Cotabato; it has also pushed us this year to open our new undergraduate BS course in Environmental Science. But it has also led us to laudable activities through Ecoteneo in the Matina Campus to grow a green campus, where from the earliest ages children are taught to segregate waste and keep their environment clean. It has also led to an Ecoteneo webpage and Twitter account which provide information, instruction and documentation on environmental issues. The protection and preservation of the environment has led to wariness of many in the university towards coal-fired power plants, and to ADDU’s own research-oriented projects on renewable energy, the latest being the undertaking of Engr Randell Espina and the Center for Renewable Energy and Appropriate Technology (CREATE) atop the administration building of the Matina HS; it is expected to provide one fourth of the electrical requirement of the Matina Campus. The protection and preservation of the environment has led to the call for the preservation of Shrine Hills with its unique geology from the destruction of subdivision development. It has led to the position shared by many in ADDU that large-scale open-pit mining should be rejected for the entire Philippine archipelago. This holds especially true for Tampakan in South Cotabato, which is still threatened by plans of SMI/Xstrata there to operate a gold and copper mine there whose open pit would be 500 has large and 800 meter deep. Its tailings dam threaten would threaten the food supply of Mindanao.
In this context, the results of what promises to be an explosive study entitled, “Mining and Water Use in South Cotabato and Davao del Sur,” led jointly by Dr. Lourdes “Letlet” Simpol (TROPICS) and Dr. Leah Vidal (AIA), will be formally disclosed to stakeholders affected by the possible operation of the SMI/Xstrata mine in Tampakan, including the bishops of Kidapawan, Marbel and Digos, hundreds of representatives of the Church’s BECs, the IPs, local and national government, and of course, SMI/Xstrata themselves, in the Koronadal City Gymnasium on June 19. Letlet says that on that day she will need an Ironman suit of armor, and Leah may need one as well, because the effect of their study will dispute the scientific validity of the 3000+-page Environmental Impact Statement of SMI/Xtrata, allowing all to conclude that the DENR’s issuance of the Environmental Clearance Certificate was bereft of any scientific justification.
INSTRUCTION, RESEARCH, FORMATION, SERVICE
We have been looking at our operation from the viewpoint of our community, academic freedom, and major expressions of academic freedom from the viewpoint of prominent aspects of our Vision and Mission, the service of the faith, the promotion of justice, advancing sensitivity to justice, interreligious dialogue, and the protection and preservation of the environment. However, please allow me to share with you some important concerns from the viewpoint of instruction, formation, and service to the community:
First, instruction. Warmest congratulations to the entire Accountancy Division of the SBG led by Pol Medina which produced its first-ever National First Placer, Mr. Richard Baguio Saavedra, in the last CPA Board exam! That was on top of the Sixth Place that he previously achieved in the Nursing Board!
My special gratitude also to the URC for the joint research that was done on bullying headed by Ms. Rowena Fernandez of the Sociology Department – an unfortunate phenomenon which we would like to minimize, if not eradicate, in our Matina Campus. This has led to policy re-formulation on bullying. It has also led most recently to the expulsion of an incorrigible bully from our high school.
Regarding implementation of the Enhanced Basic Education Law or the K-12 reform, I have said this earlier, I repeat it here: we must work together as a community to plan our concrete implementation of this complex reform. If there was ever a point where anyone thought that adding two years to the first ten-grades of basic education was simple, we have learned in the Philippines that this is truly complex. It will be complex here at ADDU, and I am praying for our generous cooperation as a community it its implementation. Luckily, we are an integrated educational system, so have the advantage over stand alone basic educational or stand alone tertiary institutions in implementing this reform. We already have a good conceptual map of how K-12 must unfold at the ADDU through the work of the ADDU K-12 Committee. Actually, even though the law was just passed, we began the implementation of K-12 already last year, SY 2012-13. This is the second year of implementation. This year, SY 2013-14, we accepted some 2,300 students into our freshman year, even as new students were accepted into Kindergarten and the High School already based on the K-12 curriculum. The acceptance into college of such a large batch may now happen for another two years. Come SY 2016-17, we will no longer accept freshmen into our colleges. Acceptance into college will be frozen nationwide for two years. The students of 2015-16 graduate not into college but into a two-year senior high school.
The content of the ADDU senior high school will allow some students to graduate into the work force after SHS graduation in 2019 in areas such as early child care, small business management, and ecotourism. But even before the commencement of senior high school we will aggressively position ADDU’s SHS as an excellent and reliable pre-college SHS. Because the curricula will all be different in the colleges, many of the present first and second year courses will now be taught in the SHS. This means that many of our college faculty would need to transfer into the senior high school operation, hopefully with no loss in remuneration, or find themselves redundant in the colleges. This is where I hope that we can work this out as a community, understanding that a smooth transition would serve our students and our children best, and allow us to light the way for many schools in the region for whom this transition is traumatic. The key, of course, would be the cooperation, flexibility, understanding and sacrifice of the teachers who will serve in the senior high school.
The key to our transition is to work together to make our senior high school an educational experience that will be unique and special for the students. It ought not just be a continuation of high school; it ought recognize the students as emerging autonomous adults; it ought to equip them to contribute to society, but it also ought to competently equip the students to participate fruitfully in a college experience. As mediated by the K-12 reform, that would mean a menu of general education in college that is liberal and appropriate for our Jesuit, Catholic and Filipino identity, as well as a regime of professional training that would be competent and world class.
Important for us to understand now is that as K-12 creates a vacuum in our Jacinto campus, with your help, we want to fill the vacuum with approx. the same number of SHS students who will rely on the ADDU to prepare them for college excellently. SHS shall remain in the Jacinto campus for four years, to fill the vacuums caused either by no new freshmen coming in in 2016 or by earlier college students graduating. In SY 2220-21 the Jacinto campus will once again be all college, and only then will the new ADDU SHS operate in the new annex of Matina campus. (Cf. Graphic).
That is a big challenge in academic freedom.
Meanwhile, there are other challenges. We have challenged the QA system of CHED in CMO 46 not because we simply want to be contradictory, nor because we want to escape the challenges of quality assurance, but because we reject the QA method of CHED, with its gratis truncation of our Mission Vision, as inappropriate to our operation. We do not reject outcomes, especially learning outcomes, as relevant for the determination of quality, but reject outcomes as the sole or major determinant of quality assurance, and with the PAASCU insist on the importance of inputs such as teacher qualification, appropriate degrees, the alignment of the professional training of the teacher with the subject being taught, appropriate pedagogical skills and professionalism, proper classrooms, libraries, laboratories, sports facilities, and the like. We also believe that the outcomes of such courses as engineering that involve technical accomplishment are very different from the outcomes of theoretical courses like philosophy, political science, economics. The evaluation of the latter is intimately dependent on the values that constitute a school’s vision mission. With great freedom, comes great responsibility. I am therefore most grateful that in the wake of the recent revision of the Administrative Manual, the AVP has begun promoting a common understanding of academic administrative structures and procedures to facilitate the delivery of educational quality. Some 60 academic administrators worked hard on this in workshop in Malagos last May 16-18. The work is not finished, and much more of this must be undertaken in operations of the university other than the academic. But the work has begun.
Meanwhile, it was in 1969, some 44 years ago, that our college was first accredited by the Philippine Accrediting Association of Schools, Colleges and Universities (PAASCU). The other units followed soon after. Since then, we have been working fruitfully with PAASCU as our external quality evaluator. I am happy that in the past year the high school and the colleges, despite certain wrinkles with faculty qualifications, successfully hurdled the challenges of re-accreditation, and congratulate all concerned for the hard work. This year, the Grade School is up for re-accreditation. We will stay with PAASCU. The prestige of PAASCU’s accreditation work is recognized internationally (something the CHED though its CMO 46 shall still have to earn). Again, the spirit of accreditation is not just to win a trophy, which is always nice, but to learn from peers how our service might be improved.
In the context of instruction, allow me to share with you that I have asked the Academic Vice President to clarify in dialogue with you the minimum study hours outside of the classroom that we expect of our students, especially on the tertiary level. On the tertiary level, through the training that comes in earlier levels, the student should be helped to read, study, research, write and join educative projects on his/her own, even as he or she is challenged to ADDU leadership sui generis. Meaningful assignments outside of class should encourage this, form lifelong learning habits, and introduce students to the independent gaudium de veritate – joy in truth – that is part of our university mission. For purposes of our students’ time management, therefore, we must clarify: for each period of class, how many hours of study is a student expected to devote to digest what has been taught and to prepare for the next class. I recently told the Samahan leaders that when I was a college student it was hammered into us that we had to do two hours of study per hour of class time, not just two hours of study before the final exam. The student leaders laughed, apparently because such cramming is the wont of some students. If that is widespread, it speaks ill of our standards and pedagogy, and fosters in our students lazy intellectual habits. Meanwhile, to accommodate the minimum study time requirement, we have undertaken to revise the workloads of our working students so that they do from only three to four hours a day.
We are progressing with our promotion of Ignatian spirituality, this year thematically in depth. Mr. Elvi Tamayo and his enhanced Ignatian Spirituality and Formation Office (ISFO) team, which now includes not only Fr. Kim, but also Mr. Tony Lumactod and Mr. Neil Pabalan, continue to offer Ignatian retreats in collaboration with the Center for Ignatian Spirituality on all levels of our University. I am pleased that the feedback on these retreat has been generally positive. Thanks to the ISFO, the Induction Workshop is again in place, and this year a second module called Induction Exposure (Index) will be offered to veteran inductees for more challenging introduction to ADDU culture. Training of formators will continue this year, as ISFO will introduce a new series of “conversations” or talks involving invited experts as speakers; these talks on themes in Ignatian spirituality will be particularly helpful for those who have made the retreats; some will be held in Jacinto, others in the HS, others in the GS. Prayer sessions will also be introduced as another follow up for those making our retreats.
NOT JUST ANY UNIVERSITY
Let me end with a note on our community consciousness based on our Mission and Vision. When I interview personnel for permanency, I check on their understanding of the Vision and Mission, whether they think it’s important, what in the statement speaks to them most. One of the admin associates said it is very important, because all around the ADDU, you see it is not just words, words, words but truly happening. They see it in the instruction, the research, but especially in the outreach, and feel affirmed and happy in having played an actual part in the outreach. That was the case recently with the ADDU Blue Vote. Students, teachers, administrators and staff were happy to be part of this ADDU contribution to Philippine democracy. But it was especially the case with the response of ADDU to the devastation of Typhoon Pablo. Through our institutional response, led by Atty. Meong Cabarde and the entire UCEAC, as of the field report dated January 28, we had packed and distributed 18,869 relief bags, 950 bags of school supplies, and helped some 98,655 typhoon victims. Among the earliest responders to the calamity – no mater how dangerous then – was our COPERS, led by Dr. Gail Ilagan, addressing the trauma and psychological paralysis suffered by so many. Among the most appreciated interventions was the deployment of our solar panels through the School of Engineering and Architecture led by Dr. Randell Espina, enabling people to charge their celfons and communicate with their loved ones where electricity was otherwise unavailable or too expensive. Among the most creative, was the deployment of our athletes in collaboration COPERS under the leadership of Athletics Director Butch Ramirez, exposing the therapeutic power of sports played by Ateneans of compassion. It was a University community intervention which was carried out almost every day for nearly two months after the Typhoon hit. For me, considering we are but one, private university, that is nothing less than awesome.
But of course, we are not just any university. We are the Ateneo de Davao. Thank you for being the community – from the GS, HS, Colleges, the Graduate School, and the Law School – that makes Ateneo de Davao real!