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Creative application of academic freedom

/ 11:06 PM January 10, 2012

The University of Santo Tomas may be the oldest Catholic university in Asia and may be acknowledged as one of the best universities in the country, but it has shown that age does not automatically translate into wisdom, and high academic standards do not necessarily mean sound administrative decisions. This is what it has done by conferring a doctorate in civil law on Chief Justice Renato Corona. According to respected journalist Marites Vitug, UST bent its own rules to give Corona an undeserved academic honor.

First of all, Vitug discovered, Corona did not submit the required doctoral dissertation. He submitted a “scholarly treatise” which he discussed in a symposium. UST claims that waiving the dissertation requirement is part and parcel of its “academic freedom.” Now, invoking this same “academic freedom,” what will stop UST from handing out PhDs to every Tom, Dick and Harry after completing, say, only a 10-item “true-or-false” quiz?

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Secondly, Corona took his own sweet time finishing his PhD course, and got his degree only after 10 years. But as Vitug also found out, every university has set a time limit for finishing a doctoral course, and in the case of UST, it is seven years. UST was conspicuously silent on the number of years it took Corona to actually finish his PhD course, even when its own rules stipulate seven years. So was this another creative application of “academic freedom” that UST claims?

One other thing that UST threw out of the window in Corona’s case was logic. With its back pressed against the wall by Vitug’s exposé, UST resorted to the usual squid tactic and cast aspersions on Vitug’s credibility as a journalist. The university even suggested she may have an axe to grind against Corona because she had written previously about the high tribunal in less-than-flattering terms.

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Corona stands accused of favoring Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 19 cases brought to the Supreme Court. Now it appears he has also cooperated in circumventing the rules of UST to give himself another feather in his cap. Could this be a character flaw in the Chief Justice, which makes him unfit to continue occupying such a high office?

—Jenica Trinidad

[email protected]

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TAGS: academic freedom, education, letters, Renato corona, UST
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