Her Struggle: The Sarah Raymundo Story

Her struggle for tenure has been inked on the pages of the Collegian and the Oblation. Red pins and printed shirts bear her face while her name is blared from loudspeakers of rallying students. She even has her own website: tenureforsarahraymundo.blogspot.com.

Sarah Jane S. Raymundo finished her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology at the University of the Philippines, Diliman in April 1998. She taught as a lecturer at the Department of Sociology in June 1999 and became full-time instructor in November of the same year. In June 2006, she was promoted to Assistant Professor 1 and in April 2008, to Assistant Professor 2.

Raymundo is also the Secretary-General of the Congress of Teachers/Educators for Nationalism and Democracy (CONTEND), Treasurer of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) National Council, and a member of the All UP Academic Employees Union (AUPAEU). When she applied for tenure in February 2008, Raymundo had already served UP for at least eight years.

Based on the 2003 University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman Faculty Manual, Prof. Sarah Jane Raymundo needed the following to receive tenure: “At least a master’s degree or equivalent degree or a professional degree; satisfactory or better teaching performance; and sole or lead authorship of a refereed journal article (local or international) or academic publication by a recognized academic publisher.”

Raymundo finished her masters in Sociology at UP Diliman in April 2005 and was consistently ranked among the top three of an average of eight to 12 candidates for hiring and renewal. She authored several academic articles, two of which were published in Kasarinlan: Philippine Journal of Third World Studies.

Raymundo seems qualified for tenure. But due to what some of her colleagues called breaches of professional ethics, her plight continues.

In February 2008, Prof. Raymundo submitted her application for tenure to Sociology Department Chairperson Clemen Aquino. The tenured faculty voted 7-3 in her favor.

The majority consisted of Professors Cynthia Bautista, Randolf David, Ester Dela Cruz, Josephine Dionisio, Filomin Gutierrez, Gerardo Lanuza and Laura Samson. The minority consisted of Professors Marie Joy Arguillas, Marcia Gabriella Ruth Fernandez and Clarissa Rubio.

In April 2008, Prof. Raymundo’s Basic Papers were released, containing the majority’s signed justification, her SET results, updated curriculum vitae, and other supporting documents.

Attached to the files were the Minority Report (MR) and a letter from Dr. Aquino titled Pananaw bilang Tagapangulo ng Departamento ng Sosyolohiya, expressing dissenting views on Prof. Raymundo’s tenure.

The BP was signed by Dr. Aquino; Dr. Zosimo Lee, Dean of the College of Social Sciences and Philosophy (CSSP); the Department Personnel Committee; and the College Personnel Committee.

The papers were forwarded to Lorna Paredes, Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs (VCAA), who included the item in the agenda of the University's Academic Personnel and Fellowships Committee (APFC). The APFC endorsed Prof. Raymundo’s tenure in its 381st meeting on May 27, 2008.

UP Diliman Chancellor Sergio Cao was next to approve Raymundo’s tenure but Paredes referred back the MR and Aquino’s letter to Lee, the College Executive Board (CEB), and the Sociology Department, asking them to comment on the documents. Professors Arguillas, Rubio and Fernandez substantiated the MR, and Prof. Raymundo’s struggle began.

Breach in ethics

The MR and Dr. Aquino’s letter said Prof. Raymundo shouldn’t be recommended for tenure because she committed a breach in professional ethics when “she failed to uphold the truth and to act in a professional and transparent manner in discussions of a public issue.”

The “Shaping Our Institutional Future: A Statement on Faculty Tenure, Rank and Promotion” of the Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs stated that “academic grounds include professional ethics, intellectual honesty and other values central to academic life.”

In the letter substantiating the MR, Arguillas, Rubio and Fernandez argued that it was impossible for academic performance or promise to outweigh ethics, contrary to what supporters of Raymundo argue that academic performance, the basis for granting tenure, should be seen separately from ethics. The minority referred to, among other policies and documents, the 2003 UPD Faculty Manual which states:

Faculty members of the University are not only expected to be outstanding scholars in their respective fields. They ought to embody the values that the University upholds which, apart from academic freedom and rigorous scholarship, also include honesty, integrity, and openness to change.

They said Raymundo committed breaches of professional ethics. They cited the following:

1) Raymundo’s lack of transparency about her participation in the press conference about the alleged abduction of sociology major Karen Empeño;
2) her poem Huling Ulat, which was published in the Oblation, allegedly misled readers into thinking that Empeño was doing her thesis in Bulacan at the time of her forced disappearance; and
3) Raymundo’s neglection of her duty to inform the University Student Council (USC) and the Tigil Paslang Coalition that Empeño was absent without leave (AWOL) during her disappearance, resulting to false information regarding Empeño’s academic standing in the USC's open letter and an article published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Throughout the MR, the minority claimed that Raymundo was inconsistent in informing the department whether she knew Empeño or not, whether she organized the presscon or “napadaan lang.” The minority said that even though Raymundo already knew that Empeño was AWOL after checking the department’s files on the day of the conference, she intentionally implied the opposite.

The minority claimed they observed due process by considering all documents, including responses from Raymundo.

On November 2008, Aquino told Raymundo that the faculty decided not to recommend her tenure and instructed the latter to desist from attending her classes even though her contract had not yet expired. The Chair refused to tell Raymundo the reasons for the decisions.

Raymundo responded to the minority’s allegations in a document titled Questions on My Professional Ethics, which she gave copies to UP President Emerlinda Roman and the Board of Regents (BOR).

The Press con

On the allegation that it was her responsibility to inform the department of the press con, Raymundo said it was not her obligation to fulfill. Furthermore, she was not the only member who could have informed the department of the press con.

According to the MR’s version of events, students from UP Praxis asked Raymundo to join a press conference to discuss Empeno's case. Raymundo said she was not one of the organizers of the press con because she was not a member of the organization that sponsored it. She only helped the students look for speakers and to negotiate permits for the event. Her assistance did not make her an organizer.

On her alleged lack of transparency and truthfulness about her participation in the press con, Raymundo wrote that she had already recounted her involvement in the event through a letter addressed and submitted to the Department Chairon the day of the press con.

The MR stated:

When Prof. Raymundo was asked about her involvement in the press conference, according to the Chair and Dr. Bautista, her explanation was 'napadaan lang po ako.' This claim is belied not just by her letter but by the written account provided by Prof. Manuel Victor Sapitula...

Raymundo explained that the phrase “napadaan lang po ako” was taken out of context. It was actually part of her answer to the question “what happened that day?” which Dr. Aquino and Dr. Bautista asked her in an inquiry on August 2007, more than a year after she passed her letter to Dr. Aquino in June 2006. Raymundo’s whole answer translated to “I was passing by the AS lobby to meet a colleague at CASAA when a student sought my assistance with regard to permit issues related to the press con…”

'Huling Ulat'

Regarding her poem Huling Ulat, which she dedicated to Empeño, the minority pointed out some lines in the poem and the footnote which they claimed misled readers into thinking that Empeño was doing her thesis in Bulacan. The footnote read:
Thesis na lamang ang kulang ni Karen para magtapos siya ng kursong Sosyolohiya sa Unibersidad ng Pilipinas—Diliman. Bago siya magfile ng residency, nakakuha si Karen ng markang INC sa thesis na sa mga panahong iyon ay minarapat niya sanang tumalakay sa mga awit ng pakikibaka.

The MR asserted that Aquino, who was Empeño’s thesis adviser at the time of her disappearance, stated in a tenured faculty meeting that Empeño’s thesis plan never included doing fieldwork in Bulacan, neitheir did Aquino advise nor allow Empeño to do her thesis in Bulacan, and Raymundo never asked Aquino about Empeño’s thesis work.

Raymundo clarified that the footnotes were facts. She wrote the footnote to highlight Empeño's connection to the University because she felt that it would arouse interest among students and the public about the abductions, which she believed was crucial for the students’ immediate release.

Raymundo wrote:

To draw such a conclusion from this particular set of statements would be logically fallacious. More importantly, I cannot be penalized for either a failure in reading comprehension or an insistent misreading on the part of the authors of the minority report.

Raymundo also stated that her knowledge of Empeño’s academic status was correct, even if it was not comprehensive, since her record was open to the members of the faculty of the Department. And so, Raymundo did not have to consult Aquino.

Finally, on the assertion that she had failed to inform the USC and Tigil Paslang of Karen Empeño’s AWOL status, Raymundo asserted that she informed the groups of Empeño’s academic standing. The USC crafted and released the statement on its own, without her knowledge or participation. She also wrote, “As anybody who knows the workings of a tactical issue-based alliance such as Tigil-Paslang can attest such an alliance cannot control all the moves of its members.”

The next step

Prof. Raymundo submitted her appeal to Cao, Roman, and finally to the BOR. The BOR’s meeting last Jan. 29, 2010 failed to reach quorum when four regents walked out before noon, leaving Prof. Raymundo’s appeal unresolved. If the BOR denies her tenure, her next step could be the Court of Appeals. ▪

Article by: April Sun