Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Getting Real on the UP Tuition Hike - A Rejoinder from USC

We would like to make a public clarification and rebuttal on Mrs. Solita Monsod's "Get Real" column published in the Inquirer on Nov. 25, entitled 'Trapo'-like spins on UP tuition hikes. This is not the first time she has written a column to defend the tuition and other fees increase (TOFI) proposal in the University of the Philippines, and her continued publicity of the UP administration' s twisted truths and false argumentations only reveals the real "trapo" there could be.

First, she purposefully underestimated the crowd that joined the boycott of classes last Nov. 23 in UP to number only "from 200 to 400 people." Anyone who passed by the demonstration program last Thursday noon could easily disprove her. We also wonder where she got her "information from all colleges on campus" that "none were cancelled for lack of attendance." Majority of the colleges in UP Diliman were present at the rally and even carried banners of their college's unity against the proposed TOFI, not to mention that boycott and protest programs were also successful at the other UP units nationwide.

Monsod also attempted to give malice to the participants of the rally by questioning if "they were all from the UP community" or "were all UP students." Indeed they were not, for the protest against TOFI has been actively participated by many other sectors from the UP community including her colleagues in the faculty who know better, and has been supported by other groups outside UP who oppose the commercialization of education.

Clearly, Monsod and her cohorts can only delude themselves by trying to undermine the collective efforts of the growing opposition to TOFI in UP.

Monsod furthermore defends the UP admin by proclaiming that "in the spirit of academic freedom and freedom of speech, they (rallies) are allowed, defended, and even encouraged by UP authorities. " We can hardly recall the last time that the UP admin allowed us to rally, and she must not forget the admin's harsh dispersal of the UP community's picket in protest of the massive lay-off of janitors in the campus only a few months ago. Even our premier student publication, the Philippine Collegian, has not withstood such granting of "freedom" and has been shut down for three months now.

Monsod then proceeds to echo the UP admin's basic pro-TOFI reasonings. She says that one reason that students may have been "indifferent" is because the TOFI will only be imposed on incoming students. This is precisely the pacifying logic the admin uses to promote indifference among students in order to proceed more easily with their schemes. The admin also uses this argument to avoid consultation with the present students and members of UP community. Such argument only fools us for it is as if we have already escaped the present crisis of education we are in by not directly enduring the TOFI, and that the present and future generation of students do not have the same objective interests for more accessible and quality education.

Monsod then champions the concept of the STFAP or the Socialized Tuition and Financial Assistance Program to supposedly group students to how much one should pay depending on his income. But Monsod (on purpose) failed to mention that under the current STFAP, three out of the nine income groupings are given full subsidy for tuition, and with the current proposal, only the first of the five new income groupings will be fully freed from the tuition, which the UP admin targets to be no more than 10 percent of the students. We know very well that the STFAP was actually created to implement tuition increases and make it seemingly palatable. As what happened in 1989 when the STFAP was first implemented, UP tuition skyrocketed from P45 to P300 per unit, and now, 90 percent of students fall under the highest STFAP grouping which pay that full cost of tuition.

If we really look at the social strata that is unfamiliar to the STFAP and to the economics specialist who is Monsod, 60 percent of our youth could not enter college anymore mainly because of unaffordability, and 90 percent could not finish their college degrees. UP being a state university, in case Monsod and company have totally forgotten, should not even entertain bracketing of tuition payments because there should be no tuition fee at all in a supposed state-funded educational institution. Given the crisis in the youth's education that we face, it is still hard to imagine the concept of free education nowadays (which is actually implemented in some countries, from primary to tertiary education), thanks to the likes of Monsod who makes things appear to be not so bad at all.

If bannering and clamoring to uphold that education, as a right, should be more accessible to our youth and should serve the interests of the people displeases the likes of Monsod, our students will not hesitate to partake for more.

Juan Paolo Alfonso
Chairperson
UP Diliman University Student Council
Room 204, 2nd floor
Vinzons Hall
UP Diliman, Quezon City

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