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This Letter Makes Me Wish He’s CPU President

We got this letter that Centralian Delicia Gaje St Denis posted on the Kun Ako President sang CPU FB page and other Centralian FB pages.

It says:

From Delicia Gaje St Denis:

Hello everyone,

After reading posts from fellow Centralians,I had to wonder why there is so much animosity , curiosity,or simply just plain old jealousy to a fellow Centralian , by some . He is one we call our own, a brother, a friend, a colleague ,so I dared to ask him a question directly, when no one has ever done so. I do not know him personally, in fact I became acquainted with him through this FB page, he did give me a reply, and for that I am grateful. now we do not have to speculate, because , ladies and gentlemen, Dr. Lester Ruiz, has indeed given us his direct and honest reply as to who, what, where and why……

Thank you Dr. Lester Ruiz….God Bless…

LESTER RUIZ RESPONSE ON THE CPU PRESIDENCY

Delicia,

Thank you for your question regarding the presidency of CPU. This is a very old question that goes back to the time when the university was searching for the successor of President Pulido.

At that time, I was approached by the search committee of the Board if I was interested, and subsequently was interviewed by the Board’s search committee. Similarly, during the time of President Acanto, there was a similar interest on the Board (and others), in having me consider the presidency of the university.

For those who knew me well then, as now, my answer was something like this: It’s an honor to be asked. My interest is in being part of a process of discernment by the entire university about what kind of president CPU needs; and for that reason, I am willing to be interviewed, willing to present my views, and be fully engaged”–which I did.

But, I want to be very clear: the presidency of CPU is first and foremost a call. I have not sought it; I have not dreamed about it. Any one who really knows me, will vouch for that.

It is those who don’t know me that think I want to be president of CPU–and believe me, there are many who think they know me, or know about me–and who have spoken both in front of me and behind my back, about how I am seeking this position.

Let’s be perfectly candid. Any clear thinking person who has followed my career, from my being a student at Princeton Theological Seminary in the 1970s-80s, to my being Director of the Transnational Academic Program at the World Order Models Project in New York, to being professor of political science and peace studies at International Christian University in Tokyo, Japan, to being Vice President for Academic Affairs and Academic Dean at New York Theological Seminary, and now, as director of Accreditation and Institutional Evaluation of the Association of Theological Schools in the US and Canada, should wonder why I would want to go back the the Philippines and seek out the presidency of CPU?

Why would I be interested? My career trajectory would suggest that I am doing something that has some meaning and value already.

Perhaps, more important, why would I, having worked hard all my life, enter into the twilight of my life, and take on leadership of an institution of such complexity–extremely contested, deeply divided–a thankless job? There is a wonderful life during retirement.

I still have so many things I want to do: travel the world, see the Galapagos, climb Mt. Everest, go back to Prague, ride the Trans Siberian railway from Helsinki to Vladivostok; also write and publish, do some lecturing, and spending more time with Jean and other family members? Why would I exchange this for the presidency of CPU?

I recognize there are many people who love CPU and who are disappointed in the directions it is taking–who are looking for people who might lead it well into the future. There are well meaning people out there who care deeply and who believe that I can and should lead CPU as its president. Truth be told, I don’t interpret their desire as wanting me, as such, to be the president.

Rather, I see this as a reflection of their hope for a better future–for a particular kind of leadership qualitatively different than the previous or existing leadership.

And, truth be told, I also know there are not so well meaning people out there, some who claim they know me, or who say they are my friends, who, in fact, have continued to gossip about me, my lifestyle, my character, my morals, my leadership capacity–who are discrediting me.

I would like to interpret this gossip, not just as a personal attack on me, but, rather, as a statement that I am not an ideal candidate for the presidency.

I don’t begrudge these people. Their comments, their gossip, only illustrates who they are–it is a commentary on who they are, rather than who I am. It is both sad and laughable. If it were true that I was seeking or desire the CPU presidency, then, their gossip should be taken seriously. But, in fact, they just are wrong.

I am not interested in the CPU presidency. I love CPU–or the idea of CPU, and what it represents. But there are more ways to serve CPU than being its president.

In this, my record, is clear. I have served CPU by offering/giving my teaching expertise over the past ten or fifteen years. That is what I have chosen to give CPU.

But I will be dammed if I will give CPU and those who think they have a franchise on character and expertise regarding what CPU needs, the remainder of my life. There are just so many avenues of service, some even more fulfilling, than being president of CPU.

I write this to you while at the biennial of our association of more than 270 schools in the US and Canada, including schools like Princeton, Harvard, Yale, Duke, the University of Chicago–all those schools that are markers of excellence in this world.

My current work, which I imagine will be mine to do for at least another ten years, is of such quality and joy, that I can’t see how CPU, at least currently, can provide an attractive alternative to.

I’m not suggesting CPU is without value, or that it is not accomplishing or meeting a need in our world. It is. That is why I love the school and what it represents. But such love does not mean I want to give myself to it.

So, Delicia, I know this is probably more than what you asked for. Thank you for giving me a chance to reflect and to state very clearly what I think of this gossip regarding my pursuit of the CPU presidency.

It is without basis. Totally wrong, and probably carries with it other agendas other than an assessment of my suitability for the presidency. I don’t envy anyone who wants that job. But, that is not what I want for my life.

All the best.

Lester

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Open Letter to CPU President Robles from Concerned Alumnus

We picked up from The Good Old Days at CPU Facebook Page the letter that Dr. Lester Edwin J. Ruiz wrote to CPU President Teodoro Robles.

Please read the full text of the letter below:

June 9, 2014

Dear President Robles,

I trust this email to you, only my third in the past five or six years, finds you well and in good health.

Allow me to comment directly on the brief exchange between Ms. St. Denis and yourself regarding the CPU “chicken project” in Leon. I thought myself that Ms. St. Denis’ question on Facebook was pretty clear, she seemed to be asking about the transparency that a university—any university that is genuinely concerned about all its constituencies—should exercise towards its constituencies, including its alumni/ae. Many of us are familiar with the university’s obligation to be accountable to the Philippine government. Some of us work with national and international donor agencies, as well as government-recognized accrediting agencies. So we know that a certain kind of accountability is required in order to receive project funding.

But, the question, Mr. President, is less about accountability to government, and much more about the transparency and accountability towards alumni/ae—and to the internal constituencies of the university (i.e., faculty, administration, students). I believe we deserve the courtesy of a substantive response.

I myself welcome your invitation to seek the truth. Your offer to make the university’s internal records available to anyone who is seeking the truth is encouraging. Your invitation to alumni/ae to visit and to see for themselves what is going on is re-assuring. Where documentary evidence is concerned, we all know that alumni/ae for the longest time have already asked for these records, not only with regard to the “chicken” project, but also in other areas of university life, for example, student scholarships, infrastructure projects, and others. Sadly, none to my knowledge have been forthcoming. This is an old refrain that sometimes sounds like a broken record. But, you know as well as I that this constant request for information is part of the structure and process of transparency, accountability, and good governance. What I have seen thus far have been largely public relations reports: what I call “narrative evidence” (or “stories” from administration). The question, however, is about “documentary evidence,” maybe even “statutory evidence,” that describes the structure, process, and criteria by which the university undertakes, implements, and demonstrates its conformity not only to the legal requirements of government, but also the desirable expectations of good governance, including what mechanisms of independent accounting, audit, budget, and control are used and their results.

If the only reports we as alumni/ae deserve are the ones the university has released thus far, then so be it. But please, do not invite us to seek the truth, and not provide us with what is needed to arrive at that truth, including the free exchange of information and ideas, the right and obligation to ask difficult questions—without censure or insult, and the unqualified welcome of alumni/ae who request such information (some even visit CPU and you).

Facebook, for me, is not, in the first instance, a source of data or information. It is a “weather station” that indicates how the (social, political, institutional) winds are blowing, reflecting the sentiments of part of the university’s constituencies. I may or may not believe what I read on Facebook. But I take seriously what it reflects, namely, a deep concern by some alumni/ae regarding the way the university is being run. I work with 270 seminaries, divinity schools, and graduate schools of theology in the US and Canada; and probably tens of hundreds more in other parts of the world. So, I have a little bit of understanding of the challenges universities face with regard to its constituencies. In fact, whether you believe it or not, I can appreciate the challenges you face, including the frustration that comes with what feels is endless, unwarranted, even uninformed, criticism. At the same time, Mr. President, these alumni/ae are only exercising their care and concern for their Alma Mater. I believe they deserve a much deeper and broader response than what I have seen thus far.

I myself wrote you several emails in the past few years but never got a response from you. Maybe, these emails did not reach you; or maybe, you chose to ignore them. I really don’t know. And frankly speaking, there is a sense in which it does not matter if you respond or not. Truth be told, I don’t hold it against you; nor did I expect a response. But the other alumni/ae, such as those on FB are expecting their questions to be addressed directly and explicitly by you or by your duly appointed representatives. And while you may think that you have done that, the fact that they have kept asking—in all kinds of fora, including Facebook—means, their questions have yet to be fully answered. This probably means, your alumni/ae office needs to review how effective it is engaging its constituencies.

So why do I write now, and why publicly? There are several reasons. First, because I hope that should you wish to respond, as you did in the case of Ms. St. Denis, you would do so publicly. Second, because I am one of those who has been asking the university for transparency and accountability—not just from the office of the president, but from the entire university; and not just in the case of the “chicken” project, or the Nelson Diesto suspension, or student scholarships, but in all areas of the university’s life and work. More important, this insistence on transparency and accountability is not just for their own sake, but for the sake of institutional vitality and educational effectiveness. The mission of CPU demands a commitment to quality assurance and improvement, or in my language, to transformation: the “creation of the fundamentally new that is also fundamentally better.” And in this, all constituencies have a part to play, and therefore, need to be in the conversation.

Mine is not a new concern; it has been a longstanding one. And it feels that there has been uneven movement in the area of transparency, accountability and transformation in relation to alumni/ae. Let me be very clear, Mr. President. I am not blaming or accusing you for not doing your job. A university president’s performance review is the proper venue and obligation of the Board of Trustees—not of alumni/ae on Facebook. What I am saying, however, is that these important exchanges, even criticism, is part of our “life together” as Centralians, as members of civil society, and as sisters and brothers in the commonwealth of God—and in these public spaces, the winds are blowing, and they will continue to blow, perhaps even harder, until they are met with candor and compassion, understanding and grace—which is part of the exercise of true leadership and Christian discipleship.

Thank you for your service to CPU. I hope for better days.

Yours sincerely,

Lester Edwin J. Ruiz, PhD
HS Class 1971
2012-2013 Visiting Associate Professor
College of Theology
Central Philippine University

CLICK to read the CPU President’s response