What is wrong with Miriam College?
Unlike in the previous years, the opening of classes in August in Miriam College in 2015 is something I don't anticipate gladly. Where before my colleagues would look in the mirror praising each other's new dress or haircut, today some of us may not be looking at each other at all – not with a degree of respect, certainly not with warmth and camaraderie.
Or I can speak for myself. An old friend asked me recently how things are going with the school, and I replied, "Tagaloob kami na pinararamdaman na tagalabas (We are members of the community who are made to feel like outsiders)."
It's been more than a year since June 11, 2014, when those of us identified on the list of General Education faculty have been told the administration's decision to suffer the mandatory Early Separation Program, as a consequence of government's K to 12 program. This, in spite of government's warning that K to 12 may not be used by schools as an excuse to violate our constitutional right to security of tenure and benefits.
The president of the institution insisted that the package had "the best interest of the people" in mind, and the offer was higher than what is stipulated in the law. "Mandatory" also supposedly considered avoiding the discriminatory treatment of faculty – everybody goes – until we had to ask, why only the GE faculty? Who exactly are the GE faculty (some GE faculty are teaching major courses)? Why are Theology teachers included when Theology subjects are essential to the curriculum of a Catholic institution?
Why is the mandatory separation the first and last and only option by administrators? Faculty members have presented certain proposals to mitigate the impact of K to 12. We can go to research, to graduate and post-doc studies, to exchange programs, to teacher training and upgrading/retooling, to textbook writing, to volunteer work, to teaching in senior high school.
Why are administrators opting for the teachers' early separation? They also want us to "reapply to be rehired" at a contractual arrangement with less load and lower pay.
Why did administration take the Balesin outing/team building a few weeks before the announcement of the early separation of teachers? Balesin would have remained an imaginary spot, but the leaders of the school had their pictures posted on Facebook because, as the vice president said, "It is a dream come true!"
Why did administration push the faculty to actively attend the summer workshops on the new GE curriculum? Then they tell the same faculty before classes opened that they had to go, inevitably.
Why is the school undergoing expansion and construction, but can afford getting rid of the faculty? Why has the school announced "no first year enrolment in 2016" all too suddenly?
Why is the college president eager to accept government's offer of transition fund, but will not change her mind on throwing out some of the best faculty, who are recognized experts in their fields in the national and international scenes?
Why is the school increasing its tuition – 70% of tuition increase goes to faculty – but will cut down on faculty?
Why are administrative posts being filled up and added? Why are same persons in authority enjoying travels abroad and similar perks?
Why are values eroded because things are changing for the education sector and for the nation as a whole? Why are viability and long-term survival replacing truth, justice, peace, and integrity?
Why can't administrators admit accountability for their actions?
And the most painful to ask: Why are people quiet and contented with the appearance of normalcy? Why is it business as usual?
"Miriam" means rebellious in Hebrew. It is the name associated with Mary – she who gave her fiat, her yes, to the invitation to bear in her womb the child Jesus whom she would lose one day because he, too, would rebel against the order of oppressive power, arrogance, and abuse.
These are big words for such a passing period as ours. But we are oppressed and, already, we feel regarded as "outsiders" when we have as much stakes in defending the name of the institution, if not the middling reputation to which it has been reduced lately.
Pope Francis has warned against a culture that easily discards people, and the evils of capitalism and materialism. The present crisis of education has shown the cracks in our very human character as individuals, as institutions, and as a nation.
As a Catholic, I go back to Jesus and Mary as my models. The Magnificat has always been reassuring: "He has cast down the mighty from their throne, and has lifted up the lowly." I struggle to sing every word from the heart, because no other promise has been more fulfilled, even if in dark times it is so difficult to believe. – Rappler.com
Rebecca T. Añonuevo is a poet, critic, essayist, and translator. She is the president of the College Faculty Association of Miriam College and board member of the Council of Teachers and Staff in Colleges and Universities (CoTeSCUP), and is at the forefront of the movement to suspend K to 12.