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Saturday, February 02, 2008

 

THE OTHER VIEW
By Elmer A. Ordoñez
A UP tale: The case of Austin Craig


IN Sampaloc where we stayed during and after the war, there is a street called Craig (Kra-eg as the locals say), one of several streets in the district named after characters, personages, and places pertaining to the life and works of Jose Rizal.

This particular street was named after Austin Craig, the holder of the Rizal professorial chair at the University of the Philippines in Padre Faura from 1912 to 1922. This chair was awarded him in recognition of his books on Rizal, the first being The Story of Jose Rizal, 1909, followed by Lineage, Life, and Labors of Jose Rizal, Philippine Patriot, 1911.

The books tended to affirm the official selection of Rizal as the national hero whose perceived reformism (rather than the revolutionary violence of Andres Bonifacio) was for the edification of a people yearning for independence.

Craig arrived in Manila in 1904 as a teacher of the Bureau of Education, and was assigned to Lubang, Mindoro, and later to Manila where he taught in the Philippine Normal School (now a university), Philippine School of Arts and Trades (now Technological University of the Philippines), Manila High School (now Araullo), UP, and University of Manila. Early on Craig was critical of the colonial officials, American and Filipino, and was unpopular among his compatriots.

At the UP in Manila, Craig figured in what may well be the first controversy involving academic freedom. Professor of English Cristino Jamias tells this story in his The University of the Philippines: the First Half Century in the Diliman Review Golden Jubilee Supplement in 1958.

Jamias wrote that the UP board of regents dismissed Prof. Craig from the service for having been found guilty of “conduct prejudicial to the interests of the university.” Only regent Conrado Benitez representing the alumni dissented.

Prof. Craig had made statements published in and outside the campus against the regents and President Guy Benton regarding his being sent abroad as exchange professor (actually to let him get his doctorate), for selecting Dr. Guy Benton as president, and attacking Dr. Alejandro Albert as acting UP president, and for accusing a fellow American professor of anti-Filipino bias.

Among the regents Craig criticized was Dr. Rafael Palma, the liberal nationalist who would succeed Guy Benton to the presidency after the latter’s resignation in 1923. Benton was described as having been frustrated in his efforts to put the university on a sound fiscal and academic footing. He was not popular among faculty and students. His health declined and he was forced to resign after three years as president. He died in 1927.

Four deans (Jorge Bocobo, Maximo Kalaw, Francisco Beni­tez, and Herman Reynolds) and some forty professors protested the dismissal in a petition “not so much in behalf of Craig as in defense of academic freedom.” Law Dean Bocobo cited “five anomalies” in the dismissal of Craig: the board of regents acting as complainant and judge at the same time, ignoring the favorable remarks of Dean of Liberal Arts Kalaw about Craig, denying counsel to Craig, giving Craig only three days to prepare his defense, and denying a request by the student Rizal Center for postponement of the trial to enable people’s representatives to sit in the trial.

The dismissal of Craig called attention to Benton himself who was authorized by the board to exercise control of all printing and publications in his office. This may well be the reason of the deans, faculty, and students for raising the issue of academic freedom. The Varsity News, precursor to the present Philippine Collegian, was then the vehicle of expression of both faculty and students. It was Benton who proposed that the student publication be run by an editor-in-chief and a board of assistants elected by the student body.

Craig seemed philosophical about his case. Referring to the forfeit of his accrued leave, he said: “Yet, I considered my dismissal more honorable than an ignominous resignation and am content to pay the higher cost of thus leaving.”

Dr. Leslie Bauzon noted in his piece on Benton’s presidency (cf. The UP: The First 75 Years, 1983), that Craig’s dismissal generated a lot of protest both in the campus and the colonial press. “Within the university in particular, mass actions were staged by the students, specially on September 14, 1922, demanding that the Board reconsider its decision, and demanding that Craig be given back his rights and status as professor of the university.” But the board was unmoved and expressed confidence in Benton.

From UP Prof. Craig moved to the University of Manila where he was a professor from 1922 to 1927. He died in 1949 in his home state of New York, with his Rizal scholarship as legacy and the distinction of having a street named after him while he was still alive.

   
 

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