Who’s Afraid of Sarah Raymundo
by Katrina Macapagal*
This article was published on January 15, 2009 in The Phillippine
They say that this university is a free zone, a liberated space that
promotes academic freedom, political tolerance, and liberal education,
among other grand claims. Here in UP, students and teachers have nothing
to fear--radical positions are welcome, democratic rights are respected,
political persecution is a thing of the past.
But when the case of sociology Professor Sarah Raymundo came to fore
amidst centennial festivities in the past months, the old myth surrounding
the institution quickly unraveled.
In November, Sarah was told by the sociology department chair herself that
the tenured professors from the same department have decided not to
recommend her tenure. She was then instructed not to meet her classes
until further notice. When Sarah asked for reasons behind such
instructions, she was told that these cannot be disclosed. The last that
was heard from the department chair, in a letter addressed to the dean of
the College, is that the department is waiting for recommendations from
the UP legal office, which means, perhaps, that a formal administrative
case against Sarah is now in the works. Now, almost three months later,
there is still no written explanation from those concerned, despite
Sarah\'s formal inquiries.
What, then, is her crime? Sarah has satisfied the requirements for tenure:
she holds a masters degree in sociology and boasts a number of academic
publications. Still, the powers-that-be have refused to grant what is due
to her, like members of a secret society who have sworn not to give her
the key that unlocks the mystery.
The shroud of mystery surrounding Sarah\'s case is lifted upon further
reading. Reason suggests that the only crime she is guilty of is that of
putting theory into practice--she is being singled-out because of her
progressive leanings and political affiliations, as she continues to serve
as secretary general of the Congress of Teachers and Educators for
Nationalism and Democracy and is an active member of the All UP Academic
Employees Union and the Alliance of Concerned Teachers.
That such undemocratic actions were carried out by a department hosted by
no less than the College of Social Sciences and Philosophy is all the more
alarming. Not long ago, the chair of the same department pointed an
accusing finger at Sarah for her alleged involvement in the disappearance
of a former student-activist, an accusation that had absolutely no basis
and was later disproved. Today, it appears that this issue is being
resurrected by those who are working overtime to kick Sarah out of the
academe—those who seem to be deathly afraid of the activist-professor
whose advocacies and interests are different from their own political
Because of her convictions, Sarah has become the easy target of the beast
that hides behind the university\'s liberal posturing; narrow-minded
conservatism has reared its ugly head in the midst of proclamations of one
hundred years of service and excellence. Contrary to popular perception,
what Sarah\'s case reveals is that UP is a site of fierce ideological
struggle, where those who advocate radical convictions are isolated and
marginalized, even terminated, for unjust reasons.
Yet, in such repressive conditions, Sarah remains unflinching and
steadfast. Despite the verbal order earlier imposed, Sarah continues to
attend her classes, and her students can attest that she is an excellent
teacher who raises issues that invoke critical thinking and political
inquiry. She remains active in her political organizations and continues
to engage in various activities, from fora to mass demonstrations.
So who is afraid of Sarah Raymundo? Certainly not her current and former
students, her colleagues in political organizations, or her fellow
intellectuals, among others, who immediately expressed indignation and
support upon learning about the issue.
At this point, the question posed above is easy enough to answer.
* The writer is an instructor at the Department of English and Comparative
Literature and is a member of the All UP Academic Employees Union
by Ina Stuart Santiago*
It’s a downright shame that on the year of the University of the
Philippines’ Centennial, one that has been celebrated with much publicity
and fanfare and cash, we hear many stories of how the university has
turned on its own. Students have to deal with a higher tuition fee and the
difficult process of qualifying for the STFAP (one full scholar?
unacceptable!). Janitors like Mang Meliton are given P.92 centavos as
retirement pay after 41 years of service. Where is the justice in that?
And then there’s the story of Prof. Sarah Raymundo - one that has done the
rounds of blogs, has warranted statements from scholars and activists here
and abroad, and has been the bane of the Department of Sociology’s
existence since everything blew over. And rightfully so. Because what
happened to Sarah can happen to anyone who plays by the rules, does more
than what’s required, but who is still deemed unworthy of permanent status
in the University. What has happened to her can and will happen again, in
a University of the Philippines that allows its departments to
unilaterally decide on the future of its faculty members, ignoring what it
is they have contributed to the University. What has happened to Sarah
will happen again, in a Department of Sociology that has yet to come clean
about her case.
In the meantime, one can’t help but ask: what is it that’s more important
than Sarah’s academic work (international conferences, published essays in
books and refereed journals, extension work, a graduate degree) in a
University that teaches us about the value of getting published and the
need for continuous study? What is it that weighs heavier than teacher
evaluations that prove how students learn from her, and would take her
classes again and again?
The answer seems simple enough: it’s Sarah’s politics. That’s as much as
she’s been told by her superiors in the department, and this is all that
this can be about given how Sarah has met all requirements for tenure.
This is about her involvement in issues within and beyond the academe,
it’s because she has decided not to sit on a fence and watch the world
collide. It’s because Sarah’s an activist, and not the kind that only
panders to what is politically correct when it is popular (for that is
really just an opportunist). Instead she involves herself in issues that
are important because relevant, and for this she is being made to pay
dearly. What is wrong with getting involved in the issue of the missing
U.P. students Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeno? What is unacceptable about
her volunteer work for the human rights organization Karapatan? Why must
she be made to apologize for the kind of teaching she does - which the
Department of Sociology has deemed wrong - because some of her students
have become activists themselves?
Any person who has been a student would know that some teachers can change
our lives. Any student who changes her ideological leanings may pinpoint
one teacher who has made her re-think her beliefs, re-assess her
practices, without realizing that in fact she is only reacting to her own
history, her own class contradictions. If and when a student becomes an
activist, no teacher can take credit for it. To do so would be
egotistical, and that’s to imagine that all students enter the classroom
And yet it seems that the Department of Sociology’s active imagination has
created a picture of Sarah as someone who consciously and conscientiously
works towards turning students into her clones. Something that is
impossible to prove, and is really more a matter of the pot calling the
kettle black: there are undoubtedly teachers who want to create little
mini-mes who will repeat what they say as if they are gods, who will put
them on a pedestal and pinpoint them as mentors, who will forever be
unable to look them in the eye and presume equality. Only teachers who see
this as the correct order of things, will imagine that Sarah is the same.
Only the powerful administrators can use this to take away the house and
home Sarah has known the University and the Department of Sociology to be,
political and ideological disagreements notwithstanding.
Sarah is a leftist, and the last time I looked there was no need to
apologize for being so. Not when the work one does, the essays one writes
and gets published, the conferences one is invited to attend, the M.A. one
gets, is a product as well of that activism. There is nothing extraneous
to one’s ideology, yes? So why is Sarah being made to suffer for what she
believes in? Given so many tenured faculty members who are at the other
end of the ideological spectrum, what can this be but a witch hunt? An
academic killing of the progressive faculty of the University?
This is so much bigger than Sarah of course, as in this country real
killings and disappearances of activists continue to happen everyday. But
what has happened to Sarah, in the context of the publicity that has
surrounded U.P.’s Centennial Celebrations, is proof of what the University
So I take it back. It is perfect that this happened to Sarah on the year
of U.P.’s Centennial. It reveals to us all, alumni and students, faculty
and employees, that the University's activist past is all lost glory, and
is only celebrated when it is convenient and romantic. In truth, it is now
anti-progressive and anti-activist, and it will endanger the life of its
own, take away house and home, for reasons that are nothing but petty,
everything and unacceptable. In many ways, this Centennial showed U.P. to
be ultimately and unabashedly shameless.
*Ina Stuart Santiago is finishing her master’s at the Department of
English, UP Diliman. She is a member of CONTEND