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Academic freedom not an issue in ‘rebranding’

/ 11:15 PM June 28, 2013

University of the Philippines’ vice president for public affairs, Prospero de Vera, minced no words in saying that the renaming of the UP College of Business Administration (CBA) after former Prime Minister Cesar E.A. Virata did not violate any law or any moral or ethical norm. He may be right from the legal and technical standpoint considering that due diligence was exercised prior to the official approval of the change of name by the UP Board of Regents (BOR).

I will not delve into the controversy’s legal niceties. Let me just address De Vera’s main argument: that nothing had been tinkered with, except perhaps for the “educational component” of “rebranding” the college. To me, nothing is wrong with that even though the honoree is still very much alive, except that the CBA is a public institution.

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The CBA prides itself in being the crème de la crème in the field of finance and business. Since its inception in 1916, it has been the “leader in management education” in the country; doubtless, its curricular programs have shaped generations of financial movers and shakers in our society.

But then, the CBA as an institution is a public entity. Its public nature necessitates its compliance with existing laws as it derives its sustenance from the government. If UP were a private educational institution, naming its college after any of its benefactors might not have been an issue. But as a state university, it should observe public policies.

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I don’t think the renaming of CBA after a living person can be justified as an exercise of the university’s pet doctrine of “academic freedom.” If the issue had touched on instructional content, mode of teaching, sets of learners to teach, venue of educational activities, and method of assessing the academic performance of students, academic freedom may yet be invoked.

What made it worse is that the “rebranding” smacks of commercialization. It seems UP has joined a “branding frenzy” in order to further polish its established popularity in Asia and the world. The recently released “QS University Rankings: Asia” demonstrates that UP is on a par with the region’s best universities. This should prove there is nothing to reinvent or rebrand just for the purpose of attracting the best and brightest students while “weeding out” the underprivileged who can ill afford to pay the cost.

It’s fervently hoped that before the debate spirals out of proportion, the university will self-reflect on the raison d’être for its decision to rename the CBA—with the end in view of making itself relevant to the people it seeks to serve and to the  Iskolar  ng  Bayan  it is fundamentally mandated to educate.

—ALEXANDER LEAN D. DALOGA-OG,

lead convenor and founding president,

Youth4Change Philippines,

University of the Philippines,

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Diliman, Quezon City

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TAGS: ‘rebranding’, academic freedom, letters, UP College of Business Administration
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