Danilo Concepcion vows UP students can express ideas 'without fear'
MANILA, Philippines – University of the Philippines (UP) president Danilo Concepcion assured students they have a voice in the university – whether it is to support or disagree with school and national policies.
This was the vow UP’s 21st president made to the student body during his investiture on Wednesday, September 20.
In his speech, Concepcion recalled that UP student Fe Palma had led a protest on the tuition fee increase from P30 to P50 on June 8, 1933. Palma’s father Rafael was UP president at the time.
“History does not record what President Palma said to his daughter afterwards, but I suppose he should have been proud, as she was a product of the liberal education that he himself espoused in his inaugural address,” said Concepcion.
He lamented that when UP students take to the streets, “sometimes it seems that their clamors and complaints will never end, that they want to run the University themselves, and that they wish to study as they please or solely what they desire.”
Still, Concepcion guaranteed that the Iskolars ng Bayan are free to express their ideas – and that UP will fight for their right to do so. (READ: New UP president urges concern, not just honor and excellence)
“Nevertheless, we shall guarantee their right and freedom to express their ideas, beliefs, and principles. We will never even attempt to suppress what they want to say, or oppress them for what they fight for. Instead, we shall listen to them, understand them, and guide them,” said.
Concepcion told the UP faculty to mold students “to think freely, to develop inquisitive, discerning, and creative minds, to be fearless and assertive, and to uphold what is right and just.”
“There should be no better place in this country than UP for the expression of ideas without fear, without fear of violent retribution from one’s colleagues or from the State itself,” he said.
'Strength in collegiality'
Concepcion then urged the UP faculty to “let reason guide us, but not reason alone; let it be reason tempered with respect, responsibility, and collegiality.”
According to him, it has become difficult to push any agenda – in both the university and national levels – without being subjected to “intense, sometimes malicious, but also often necessary scrutiny.”
“Truth, reason, and respect have been the prime casualties in these exchanges, which I am sure you have witnessed – if not participated in – online. The phrase ‘social media’ has almost become an oxymoron, as it has become the stalking ground of some of the most unsociable people you could come across,” said Concepcion.
Social media conversations have become more toxic under President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration, with government propagandists fighting tooth and nail to silence his critics. (WATCH: Rappler Talk: Danilo Concepcion on leading the University of the Philippines)
“Sad to say, some of that caustic and deeply divisive rhetoric has come to infect our university, not just our students but our faculty, staff, and administrators as well. This is perhaps to be expected, as a university remains, in many ways, merely a microcosm of society at large,” said Concepcion.
He called on the UP community to work to remain united at a polarizing time.
“Our strength lies in our collegiality. If we allow our reason and our rhetoric to be clouded by intolerance, then we will be no more and no better than a gang, indeed than any other collection of ill-tempered individuals,” he said.
“Rather than a battleground, I prefer to focus on finding, in this University, a common ground, a clearing – a safe, free, and congenial space within which its constituents can teach, study, and work productively to their full potential,” added Concepcion.
Read the full text of Concepcion’s speech during his investiture below: