“Today’s victory is the victory of us all. I know you are here not to fight for me but to fight for UP. You are here for academic freedom, democratic governance, and for the voice of the community to be heard in important decisions of the BOR.”
By EMILY VITAL
MANILA – That Math Professor Fidel Nemenzo will be the next chancellor of the University of the Philippines Diliman may be considered a “victory for the defense of academic freedom.”
The UP Board of Regents, the highest policy-making body, confirmed this morning the selection of Nemenzo over College of Engineering Dean Ferdinand Manegdeg.
Sources at UP Diliman said that out of the 11 BOR members, nine voted for Nemenzo while two opted to abstain. There were no votes for Manegdeg.
Multisectoral groups comprised of UP students, faculty, employees, vendors, jeepney drivers, and residents were jubilant over Nemenzo’s selection.
In a statement, Student Regent John Isaac Punzalan said, “The campaign for the next Chancellor of UP Diliman was grounded on our bigger campaign for the attainment of our democratic rights, inside and outside the university. After our loud and clear calls on the integrity and autonomy of the university, the Board of Regents has decided to side with us. This would not be possible without the militancy and united force of all of our sectors.”
All UP Academic Employees Union, meanwhile, said that Nemenzo’s win is a “victory for the militant, progressive and nationalist tradition of UP.”
Speaking before the crowd, Nemenzo said in Filipino, “Today’s victory is the victory of us all. I know you are here not to fight for me but to fight for UP. You are here for academic freedom, democratic governance, and for the voice of the community to be heard in important decisions of the BOR.”
Sectors supporting Nemenzo’s candidacy are also campaigning for UP faculty and employees’ promotion, regularization of contractual workers, and increased benefits; students’ and vendors’ welfare; and the advancement of civil rights, among other pressing concerns of the University and the nation.
In the months leading to the BOR meeting, Nemenzo was red-tagged by some alumni as a supporter of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), New People’s Army (NPA) and National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). Flyers were also distributed around the campus maligning Nemenzo.
In a public forum January 16, Nemenzo said, “If being an activist is siding with the oppressed, then I am an activist. If being an activist is working for change, then I am an activist. Red-tagging has no place in this university.”
The selection of Nemenzo also came at the heels of proposals for police and military presence in the university.
Nemenzo, vice chancellor for research and development, replaces Michael Tan on Feb 25. Nemenzo graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics from UP Diliman in 1985, and earned his Master and Doctor of Science in Mathematics degrees from Sophia University in Tokyo, Japan, in 1992 and 1998, respectively. He has been teaching in the UP Institute of Mathematics since 1992.