EDITORIAL - Academic freedom

EDITORIAL - Academic freedom

(The Philippine Star) - January 20, 2021 - 12:00am

It’s a move ostensibly meant to enhance the campaign against the communist insurgency. In unilaterally terminating an agreement for state security forces to stay out of the University of the Philippines campuses unless cleared with the UP administration, however, the government must ensure that academic freedom is not jeopardized.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, in a letter dated Jan. 15 to UP president Danilo Concepcion, wrote: “The country’s premier state university has become a safe haven for enemies of the state.” Lorenzana said the agreement, signed in 1989 by then defense chief Fidel Ramos and then UP president Jose Abueva, had become “obsolete.”

Concepcion countered that the cancellation of the agreement is “unnecessary and unwarranted” since it never got in the way of lawful police operations within UP campuses. The UP community has denied what Lorenzana says, that the state university “has become the breeding ground of intransigent individuals and groups whose extremist beliefs have inveigled students to join their ranks to fight against the government.”

Universities in fact draw all sorts of people wanting to influence and attract youths to a wide range of beliefs and causes. It is part of growing up and the learning process for students to consider all these ideas as they prepare for their life’s calling. If some are drawn to communism, there must be a reason for it. And if they are persuaded to take up arms to advance their beliefs, the government must address the cause, rather than prevent the free discussion of ideas in the country’s centers of learning.

Academic freedom is indispensable for the critical thinking that molds youths into informed and responsible citizens who can make the country competitive in a tough globalized environment. Academic freedom includes freedom of expression, even if the views are critical of the government. Trying to stifle the free exchange of ideas among the youth can be counterproductive and may even boost recruitment by groups that espouse violence.

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