The Search for the next University of the Philippines (UP) President heated up last November 11, 2022, as the nominees for the position gathered at UP Diliman’s Cine Adarna, UPFI Film Center, to present their respective visions for UP.
All six (6) presidential hopefuls attended the event, ‘The Search: Public Forum for the Selection of the Next UP President”. The successful nominee will succeed current President Danilo L. Concepcion as the 22nd President of the University and will assume office when Concepcion steps down in February 2023.
During the event, which was also broadcast live over TVUP, each candidate had 10 minutes to present their plans and programs. After this, the event host, UP Vice President for Public Affairs (VPPA) Elena Pernia, moderated a question-and-answer session, where each candidate responded to questions from different sectors of the UP community, including real-time online queries.
Members of the UP community crowd into Cine Adarna to participate in ‘The Search: Public Forum for the Selection of the Next UP President”. The search was open to all UP community members across the System as the event was live-streamed to all UP constituent units.
To listen to the presidential hopefuls were members of the search committee, composed of the University’s Board of Regents (BOR) led by Concepcion and Commission on Higher Education (CHED) Chairman J. Prospero de Vera. The UP President, de Vera, noted in his message that he is different from most other leaders of SUCs in that they serve six years with no reappointment. De Vera described them as products of a choice that “cannot be rectified by a second term.” Moreover, the next UP President would be considered a true leader in higher education because of UP’s geographic reach and the comprehensive nature of the programs it offers.
First to the podium was Atty. Angelo A. Jimenez. Atty. Jimenez summarized his vision in six words: research power, digital transformation, and democratic access. Amidst the massive global changes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, he stressed the need to leverage the advantages of a digital transformation within UP instead of being “nostalgic about the pre-COVID age.” Jimenez noted how the transformative powers of digital technology not only provide educational opportunities “at any time and place” but also help provide democratic access by closing the quality gap between each UP unit, as well as between UP and the SUCs of each region. Such accessibility, he said, is “true democratization.”
Next to speak was Atty. Salvador B. Belaro, Jr. At the heart of his vision was to secure a higher budget for the University to achieve its goal of becoming a truly global university. To compare, Belaro narrated his experiences at Cornell University, which he said enjoyed a budget more than 14 times that of UP. He noted that Cornell’s higher budget contributed greatly to its global status and other advantages, such as a good working environment for faculty and staff and a healthy student-to-teacher ratio. Belaro stated that in addition to integrating the good points presented by his peers, it would take fighting for a much larger share of the annual budgetary pie for UP to become truly global, “not just in talk, but in action.”
The third man up was UP Diliman Chancellor Fidel R. Nemenzo, who presented his vision statement for the chancellorship in the same venue just three years ago. Nemenzo’s vision, informed by his leadership experience in the Diliman community, was centered on three points: making an agile UP, a smart UP, and a high-impact UP. For him, being elegant meant utilizing UP’s academic research programs, such as new ones in bioinformatics, data science, and artificial intelligence, among others, to cope with disruptions. He agreed with Jimenez on the need for digital transformation, which is a key component of his idea of a smart UP. Nemenzo said that digitalization would lead to better collaboration and mobilization of resources and more efficient administrative processes. Lastly, being a high-impact university meant leveraging the diversity of critical knowledge produced across the UP system for UP to take a leadership role in issues of national importance, such as food security, health, culture, and the arts.
The fourth nominee to present his vision for the University was Prof. Benito M. Pacheco. He served as UPD Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs from 2014 to 2017. His presentation focused on 15 possibilities that he envisions for UP, all aiming to improve: democratic access and diversity at admission; enrichment courses; regional public service programs; full-time equivalent student; full-time equivalent teacher; the limited practice of a profession; grading system; student ethics code; mobility across CUs; administration; and others. “If elected as President, I would serve as a Futures Thinker-Leader for the strategic reimagining of and advocacy for our University mandate for the long term: public service and outreach; teaching; research and creative work; faculty and staff development; and democratic governance,” concluded Pacheco.
Dr. Patrick Alain T. Azanza, President of the Catanduanes State University, envisions the University as “Unibersidad ng Panghinaharap.” He explained that he aims to transform the present university system into a “multiversity” or “meta-versity” similar to what is being implemented by the University of California. He further said that the transformation would put UP at par with “universities of the future” while promoting diversity, a clearer sense of purpose, happiness, and human greatness. He said he would draw upon his experiences and the policies he had already implemented during his term as university president and having held various senior executive posts at the AMA Group of Companies (1997-2008), UPD, and other institutions. According to Azanza, the crisis faced by UP and society can only be resolved if the processes, policies, programs, and decisions are based on data science.
Lastly, Dr. Fernando C. Sanchez, Jr. presented his vision for UP. He served as a two-term Chancellor of UP Los Baños (UPLB) from 2014 to 2020. According to Sanchez, if elected, he will prioritize benefits, facilities, opportunities, and inclusion to nurture and protect UP constituents. His presentation highlighted “synergy in diversity” in making UP a catalyst for inclusive national development. He aims to: strengthen UP’s alumni network; promote inter-UP collaboration for more inclusive programs that will create System-wide studies centers; secure UP’s academic leadership through System-wide mentorship; provide an enabling and inspiring environment; ensure the health and safety of UP students; improve internet access and connectivity; develop more creative and community-oriented spaces; enhance System-wide capacity building and lifelong learning programs; establish relevant and responsive graduate programs; and, a promote the internationalization of UP, among others.
Q and A
During the Q&A session, the nominees were asked about their responses to the most important concerns faced by UP constituents. The nominees were given two minutes to explain their opinions on UP’s commercial transactions or joint ventures with the private sector; each candidate’s plans to support or encourage growth in the Humanities and Social Sciences; their plans for the institutionalization of psychosocial services; their plans to resolve the lack of plantilla items in administrative offices and faculty positions; their plans to provide additional benefits for optional retirees; their plans to ensure the protection of constituents from red-tagging; their plans to offer health insurance coverage for faculty and staff and their immediate family members, in addition to Philhealth and eHOPE; their plans for utilizing UP’s land assets; and, other issues.
The full CVs and vision papers of the six nominees are available and can be accessed at the Office of the Secretary of the University and of the Board of Regents (OSU) website.
The forum was live-streamed by TVUP and can be viewed via TVUP’s YouTube channel.
Article written by Andre Encarnacion and Fred Dabu.