truth to tell i didn’t care much about this “expose” of Marites Danguilan Vitug because it was a non-Corona non-issue to me. non-Corona, because exposing the lack of a dissertation, the number of years he took to finish the phd, his ineligibility for the honors he was given, point to the fact that this was always a UST issue. the basic question being: why make corona an exemption to university rules?
and i didn’t care for that question because i knew without a doubt that Corona’s phd could easily fall under the purvey of academic freedom and autonomy (as the UST statement has said) — within which of course patronage politics and favoritism and everything horrid you can imagine actually exist. that this was UST’s prerogative is truth. this doesn’t make this an easier truth to swallow.
but maybe we should swallow our egos and admit that as with every other institution in this country, the academe is not one that we must comfortably equate with “academic rigor” or “quality and calibre.” if you are realistic about the academe here, and truthful even to yourself if you’re a member of it, then you’d know that patronage and politics are the invisible hands that put and keep people in power there, and in fact this can get you everything from the good raket outside of the academe to the positions of power within it, or just an easier time at an MA and/or a PhD. what we should be looking at in fact, is output: how many of our degree holders are actually relevant to nation? how many of those dissertations will hold up to scrutiny?
and what did the UST faculty and panel think of corona’s scholarly treatise in place of the dissertation? baka naman brilliant at hindi lang natin alam. for all we know he deserved that phd, because too, UST touches on something crucial to the discourse of the university in this country. UST says that they
can grant academic degrees to individuals “whose relevant work experiences, professional achievements and stature, as well as high-level, nonformal and informal training are deemed equivalent to the academic requirements for such degrees.”
i haven’t heard of this kind of freedom from and within the two universities i’ve been part of as student and teacher. ang galing that UST can award Naty Crame Rogers a doctorate degree because certainly she and many other literary and cultural stalwarts deserve it. not that they need a phd to be productive, but truth to tell Corona didn’t need this either: a phd is not even a requirement for becoming supreme court justice. go figure.
but Vitug insists questions are still unanswered:
well, yes. wouldn’t any independent private institution defend itself based on those grounds?
“There is no quarrel with academic freedom. UST should be clear with its rules and state in what instances do they give exemptions. In the case of cj [Chief Justice Renato Corona], a lecture was enough (instead of a dissertation) and the 5-year residency requirement, to qualify for honors, was disregarded,” Vitug also says.
well, yes. and i say, if you demand that UST be clear about the rules it bends, then i demand it of all universities in the country. accountability for all (count the number of faculty members who will be given tenure if we were to be transparent about these rules!). which is still to say this: even the bending of rules based on whether a person deserves something, is totally within the university’s prerogative. again, non-corona, non-issue.
if i were the one who had blogged about this, i would’ve already backtracked and told my readers i had barked up the wrong corona tree, and missed the university prerogative point. but that’s me. and i’m no journalist.
which is really what this has become about, yes? beyond corona, it has become about that UST statement which raises questions about credibility and online journalism, ones that on Twitter and Facebook it seems people would rather dismiss as the questions of the ignorant. ah, but Shakespeare always said ignorance is bliss.
and it is with bliss that UST in fact dismisses Vitug as journalist, because they ask:
“Does <sic> anyone claiming to be an online journalist given the same attention as one coming from the mainstream press?” the statement said. “We understand that while Miss Vitug used to be a print journalist, she’s part of an online magazine, Newsbreak, which has reportedly been subsumed into ‘www.rappler.com.’ What’s that?
i’m sorry, but this was funny to me both on the level of UST’s dismissal but also on the level of its utter refusal to acknowledge Vitug as a credible figure, period. because for UST where she writes is of utmost importance as they go on to ask:
“Is that a legitimate news organization? What individuals and entities fund Newsbreak and Rappler? Do these outfits have editors? Who challenged Miss Vitug’s article before it went online so as to establish its accuracy, objectivity and fairness? Why was there no prior disclosure made? What gate-keeping measures does online journalism practice?”
these are valid questions to ask, aren’t they? and certainly those behind Rappler cannot claim credibility — or demand we give them that — on the basis of who’s behind it and their years of experience. because if there’s anything we know about writing online, it’s that no matter your history of writing (Angela’s got a CV that will put into question countless credibilities online and beyond, excuse me), you’re only as good as that last piece, your mistakes are for the world to see, your ability at humility and apology crucial.
in this sense it is important that Rappler respond to these questions properly and accordingly, and not brush it off by invoking Vitug’s years as journalist or by saying that they are ” journalists <who> have worked for global news organizations and top Filipino news groups.” certainly if they take pride in being “online journalists” who “promise uncompromised journalism that inspires smart conversations and ignites a thirst for change” they must begin by answering questions on legitimacy and credibility, banking as they do on the names that are on their roster.
of course this will mean drawing lines between online journalism and non-journalism, news reporting and opinion, blogging and tumblelogging and tweeting, but this is a discussion worth having, now better than later, if only because that UST statement is a challenge to make those definitions clear.
if only because given such unquestioning love for the Vitugs and Ressas of this world, we now see revealed the bubble of friendship and camaraderie and mutual-admiration that uncritically exists online.
maybe we all only hate UST for daring to pop that bubble and reveal us for what we are: no better than the mainstream.