The UP Charter of 2008 (RA 9500) mandates that UP as the national university shall 1) “lead as a public service university by providing various forms of community, public and volunteer service, as well as scholarly and technical assistance to the government, the private sector, and civil society, while maintaining its standards of excellence”; 2) “harness the expertise of the members of its community and other individuals to regularly study the state of the nation in relation to its quest for national development in the primary area of politics and economics, among others identify key concerns and give advice and recommendations to Congress and the President of the Philippines,” and 3) “serve the Filipino nation and humanity” and “ relate its activities to the needs of the Filipino people and their aspirations for social progress and transformation.”
The “public service” role of the public HEIs cannot be over emphasized. All over the world, particularly publicly-funded HEIs are being called upon to promote and exercise social responsibility and civil engagement. At the international level networks such as Talloires Network (http:///www.tufts.edu/talloiresnetwork/) with its over 200 member-universities in 59 countries work for the strengthening of the civic roles and social responsibilities of higher education.
In Asia, the Asia-Talloires Network of Engaged University (ATNEU) and the ASEAN University Network on Universal Social Responsibility and Sustainability do community engagement to enhance the core business of a university – research, education and service. The University of the Philippines is an active member of these networks.
The “public service” role of the University of the Philippines is being undertaken by the constituent universities (CUs), individual to colleges in each CU, and specialized institutes and offices at the UP CU and UP system level through extension programs, volunteer programs such as Pahinungod, specialized studies and technical assistance undertaken as part of research activities or contracted services, or individual consultancy services by faculty members to the executive branch, judiciary, or Congress.
As a system however, UP’s “public service” role is not coordinated or strategically focused to achieve maximum impact. Neither is it efficiently projected or disseminated to the different “publics.” Former UP President Alfredo E. Pascual expressly noted this in his investiture speech – “much of our accomplishments, champions and experts are not recognized even among ourselves, the general public, and the world.”
Moreover, many of these accomplishments are not well documented, shared with other local universities and those in the Asian region or used as building blocks to develop new theories on community engagement, volunteerism, and community development.
One major reason for the failure of UP to exercise its public service role is the fact that there is no office in the current administrative structure of the UP system tasked to perform this function. While the over-all responsibility falls within the functions of the Vice-President for Public Affairs, the two offices under his jurisdiction deal with information management (System Information Office) and alumni relations (Office of Alumni Relations).
There is clearly a need to create a Public Service Office at the UP System level to address this problem.