‘Academic freedom’

"The State can abridge academic freedom for the sake of its other responsibilities."


I was bemused by the way UP Diliman recently turned away a rally by parents concerned over NPA recruitment of their children. Evidently, those tax-paying parents aren’t covered by academic freedom, UP-style.

Equally bemusing was a statement by Diliman chancellor Fidel Nemenzo: “Those who blame UP for breeding communists forget that UP has bred more scientists, artists, doctors…” etc. etc. As a matter of fact, the State is quite aware of those other types bred by UP. Were it not for them, the university would rightly be shut down for turning out communists willing to kill to overthrow that same State.

Perhaps Nemenzo knows this well enough too, which may be why he commendably rejected the demand of his militant wards to cancel the entire semester. But he also went on to complain about “bigotry and intolerance”—a piece of advice better directed to whoever blocked those parents from entering the campus—as well as “red tagging”—a legitimate complaint if in fact there were no Reds within UP Diliman.

* * *

Unfortunately, there ARE Reds in Diliman—always have been (since 1968 at least), always will be. Let’s break down the case to be made against UP-style academic freedom into the following propositions:

The public commons in UP is dominated by communists and their sympathizers.

Anybody familiar with the institution who says otherwise is lying, plain and simple. The 50-plus years since the CPP was founded in 1968 have provided enough time for its Party branches and groups on campus to grow into overweening influence. Just listen to the way most students, even teachers, talk about current issues. You might as well be reading from a Sisonite tract. “By their words shall ye know them.” They do have the right to be heard—but not to be given priority over other points of view.

Academic freedom can be, and is being, abused.

No principle, no value, no human right is immune from being abused. This is just common sense. So, enjoyment of freedom doesn’t automatically legitimize whatever one does, or says, under the protection of that freedom. This is especially true for the Maoists, who like to compare themselves to “fish swimming in the water.” If you call out those fish for what they really are, you’re “red-tagging?”

The State has a right to restrict academic freedom.

The academic mavens of Diliman often boast that they’re an independent republic. They’re only half-joking. But when freedom is abused—such as through the promotion of an insurrectionist agenda being pushed by real-life guerrillas who continually recruit on campus—the State is entitled to abridge that freedom for the sake of other responsibilities it also has: to preserve its own integrity, protect public order, uphold filial authority.

* * *

I’ve even read online that Duterte cannot threaten to defund UP because the UP Charter of 2008 (RA 9500) says it is “the policy of the State to strengthen UP as the national university,” one that enjoys “institutional autonomy.” Of course, “strengthening” was defined to mean that “government cannot dictate how UP will teach its students.” Taxpayers might have something else to say about that.

If one may summarize the thinking of many UP students today, it goes something like this: Government should use its taxes for our free education—but don’t tell us how to be taught. No to commercialization, no to higher taxes—but improve our campus. Academic freedom!--unless you disagree with us. Keep our campus safe!—but policemen aren’t welcome. We’re proud of UP’s high standards—but it’s OK to cut classes at will for a good cause, and even cancel an entire semester in the interest of “equity.”

The minds of the young are by definition immature and unformed; otherwise, we wouldn’t need institutions like UP to bring them along. But when that kind of thinking becomes dominant—not to mention enthralled by the same violent agenda that burst out during the First Quarter Storm of 1970—then taxpayers have a right to demand better value for their money.

* * *

In today’s first reading (Rv 14: 14-19), John has a vision of two angels coming down from heaven with sickles in hand. One angel collects the harvest, while the other cuts down grapes to be fed into “the great winepress of God’s fury.”

In the Gospel (Lk 21: 5-11), Jesus tells us more about the end of times, when “many will come in my name, saying ‘I am he’ and ‘The time has come.’ Do not follow them!”

We should beware of those who march under the sign of a sickle conjoined with a hammer. They are not He, and we are not to be deceived by such as them.

Readers can write me at [email protected]

Topics: Gary Olivar , Academic freedom , UP Diliman , NPA recruitment , UP Diliman chancellor Fidel Nemenzo
COMMENT DISCLAIMER: Reader comments posted on this Web site are not in any way endorsed by Manila Standard. Comments are views by readers who exercise their right to free expression and they do not necessarily represent or reflect the position or viewpoint of While reserving this publication’s right to delete comments that are deemed offensive, indecent or inconsistent with Manila Standard editorial standards, Manila Standard may not be held liable for any false information posted by readers in this comments section.