BOR, you have failed UP!

Dear UP Board of Regents (BOR),

When it comes to the eUP Project, you have failed UP! Please let that settle in for a while and hear us out, before even allowing yourselves to be dismissive of us calling you out. Perhaps not individually as regents but as Board, you have overlooked many crucial points.

1. Collusion?

According to this investigative report (full text here, here), PAEP met with Oracle about a year BEFORE bidding out the eUP project, or before his "benchmarking" exercises and "consultations" on the project. Reportedly PAEP, with UP on board, assured Oracle a foothold in the Philippine educational market. Such kind of colluding behavior or coordination between Oracle and principals is familiar elsewhere. The report also states numerous violations of RA 9184 (Government Procurement Reform Act), including the tailor-fitting of procurement documents to favor Oracle.

2. No eUP business plan

Please ask yourselves this: did the BOR demand a business plan for the eUP Project that costs hundreds of millions of Filipino taxpayers' money? Have you really looked beyond PAEP's many assurances, beyond eUP's busy slides.

Besides so-called "benchmarking" exercises (aka travel junkets), did it ever cross your minds that such project tied to PAEP's empty sloganeering might have been ill-advised in the first place?

Did you honestly believe he knew what he was talking about, in the absence of a comprehensive eUP business plan?

3. eUP, the money pit, and vendor lock-in

UP needs Oracle no more than a fish needs bicycle. There's a number of alternatives out there (and within the University) that do not require vendor lock-in. eUP's argument of perpetual license for Oracle simply doesn't hold water, because perpetuity is not the issue. You can buy Windows XP and use it forever. But after sometime, the technological world around you zooms into the future, rendering your perpetual license useless. The version of Oracle's Campus Solutions was released sometime mid-2000s. Upgrading it now to new version can mean more hundreds of millions for new licenses, excluding millions more for re-customization and data migration. Many members of the UP community have always complained about budget cuts, but increased UP budget gives us no license to squander the Filipino taxpayers' money. How much spending would not have been done, had it not been for the poor choices made with eUP?

eUP's claim of "pagkakatipid" is ironic, at least.

4. eUP driving away IT talents

The same report cited above tells us how PAEP and his eUP ilk, with Oracle as a weapon of choice, drive away UP's very own IT talents by discouragement and defunding of IT projects done at the CU level. By picking commercial IT implementors, eUP throws away years of sacrifices by those who toiled for home-grown systems like CRS and SystemOne. eUP replaced community-oriented developers with mercenary coders and bureaucrats. SystemOne has already been a robust enrollment system before PAEP came. Yet, somehow, eUP needed to fix what's not broken.

5. Trusted but not verified

We understand that the BOR needs to stand behind the UP president. But how many times have PAEP hoodwinked you into believing the eUP Project is on course? We could understand political exigencies, when you as a body decided he was the "best" pick after his jockeying with sectoral reps of the Board in order to be elected UP president. Of course he deserved a chance. But his motherhood statements (with apologies to PAEP's mother!) and hackneyed slogans like "One UP," "making UP great," "quatum leap in UP infrastructure," should have been a giveaway that the guy is a bullshit artist. Did you even bother to verify what he has been reporting to you? Or is it still the case that he would rush you to make decisions on the basis of documents given to you on the day of the BOR meeting?

The UP community won't fault you for choosing an outsider to lead the University. But you'd be faulted for not insisting that PAEP understands UP problems before he'd start throwing money at them. What's going on with the eUP project is not reassuring at all. You won't be faulted for having the least credentialed president in UP history and, so far, possibly the most insecure UP administrator (what's with his insistence on being called "Dr Pascual" with no PhD and promoting himself in academic rank?). But you'll be faulted for falling for his rhetoric that hardly matches outcomes.

A dead eUP is good for UP. It is less wasteful than being locked in by Oracle and PLDT for a long time, brokered by some managers at ITDC. What has been spent is already sunk cost. For the wastefulness, PAEP will probably have his day in court. But killing eUP and giving the appropriate support back to autonomous CUs, as they help themselves and each other, is a step in the right direction.

You can redirect infrastructure money back to the CUs who know better how to improve their own situations. Having it centralized renders it vulnerable to power capture by self-appointed IT "experts" who can't even correct elementary mistakes in the eUP project. Sure, eUP bought many IT gears. But do we really need an eUP for that? If we do, where's the business plan?

We trust that you will do the right thing: exercise oversight on the eUP Project. Examine it dispassionately. From there, it won't be hard to see why many people want it put out.

Sincerely,

Eupleaks


See Also

One UP, Many Mails

"Aside from world-class education, the ubiquitous Ikot and Toki jeeps, Mang Larry’s Isaw, and the iconic Oblation statue, what else could separate UP from other universities?,"

eUP asks. eUP's answer to its own rhetorical question: One UP Mail by Google.

There! Right there, I'm afraid, is what's iffy about the eUP Project, making claims on false or inflated assumptions. It's too eager to grab just about anything its administrators superficially think makes eUP a worthwhile initiative. eUP people are too eager to slap the eUP brand on any system (iLib, UPCAT Online, ST System (formerly STFAP), Document Tracking System, Faculty Reagent Electronic Voting System (formerly FROVS)), as though these are their own novel offerings. These systems have been in place even before PAEP took office and certainly before the eUP Project started.

Gmail for educational institutions doesn't make UP distinctive. Hopefully no other schools of repute heard the loud UP announcement. (See, for instance, this). Or they must be laughing by now. Not that Gmail is a bad app. It's probably the best popular free email in the business. Gmail has been around for ages and those who launched it in their institutions did so hardly with any funfare. Not eUP. eUP is making a huge deal about it.

Within UP, some departments, colleges, institutes use Google Apps for Education (GAFE), of which Gmail is part, way ahead of eUP. UP units that can request for certain changes in their CU's domain name system (DNS) can have their own Google Apps for Education account in hours. So does eUP really have to make a mountain out of a molehill?

It pains me to hear the UP President say fantastic things about eUP systems. He'd sound like someone who just discovered Netscape in 2015. Well, SAIS and other Oracle-based core eUP systems (codes minted circa 2006) run on Netscape!

eUP prides itself in "taking a leadership role in the development of a globally competitive Philippines." What a bubble eUP's minions have created for themselves! Judging from what they're doing, it's more like a leadership role in NOT developing Filipino technology.

Free lunch?

"Free email from Google! Yeh!" Such is eUP's uncritical embrace of Gmail. eUP wants ALL of UP to accept GAFE as some manna from heaven. Really?! "If you are not paying for it, you're not the customer; you're the product being sold."*

With sweat and donations, people "pay" for freely available open source technologies. But Gmail?! Please... Don't get me wrong. I use Gmail and Yahoo Mail for casual, informal emailing. Let's just not promote Gmail uncritically, the way eUP does. With students using eUP-endorsed GAFE, "student personal information in the form of data about their use of non-educational Google services is collected, maintained, and used by Google for its own benefit, unrelated to authorized educational or school purpose," according to Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) in its formal complaint filed at the FCC.$ Students and users of Gmail are effectively being spyed on.* As expected, Google denied such charge.+

Authentication

Reportedly, One UP Mail accounts will be used to access eUP systems. Essentially this tantamounts to having a 3rd-party (that is, Google) keep the keys to all of UP's online records. While it may be convenient from the standpoint of maintenance (or lack thereof) by eUP people, that is not necessarily sound from a technical or security viewpoint. One alternative is the way UP Diliman runs its authentication system for CRS, which is via LDAP/Dilnet Account.

At the very least, there should have been a thorough study on the relative merits of AT LEAST these two approaches, before UP threw itself into Google. There's also a side benefit to running UP's own email system or authentication system as a vehicle for learning for its technical people. If eUP cannot even build its own email system or authentication system, how can it be expected to run more complex systems like SAIS? The irony is that, according to one of our informants, an eUP team leader was once tasked by UP System to develop a ldap authentication system for the entire university. Apparently the University just wasted money on him. He decided that all of UP now should just be authenticating through Google.

Low Adoption or Utilization, Trust Issues

Reports suggest that the official UP Gmail is getting low adoption and utilization, especially in UP Diliman. We reached out to those who might not be using One UP Mail to probe on the matter. We got mixed results. Some already have UP Mail access but are just not using it. Others appeared averse to the idea. One exchange I had with a senior faculty was particularly revealing. Below is part of the transcript of an interview with Dr Marco (not his real name):

Eupleaks: "Sir, gumagamit po ba kayo ng UP Webmail?"

Dr. Marco (not his real name): "Noon... noong hindi pa kinuha ng eUP. Ngayon UPD Webmail na sya."

Eupleaks: "Sir, I mean... yong UP Webmail talaga. Yong @up.edu.ph na address. Mababa daw kasi ang utilization at adoption sa mga CUs nito."

Dr. Marco: "What for? I also use our department email, which is also Gmail. Pareho lang yon."

Eupleaks: "UP Webmail daw po kasi talaga ang kailangan para po makatanggap kayo notices mula sa eUP."

Dr. Marco: "Ha?! Saan ka ba galing? Madali lang naman gumawa ng egroup."

Eupleaks: "Sir, para din yata kasi yon sa authentication ng mga eUP core systems..."

Dr Marco: "Ah... that's the problem. I don't trust those people."

Eupleaks: "What do you mean po?"

Dr Marco: "I'm sure this is not going to come out right. It will sound na parang personalan. But believe me. This is not something you want to remove from the equation."

Eupleaks: "Sir, sorry di pa rin kita gets..."

Dr Marco: "Wala akong tiwala sa kanila. Alam ko Google yong UP Mail. Pero yong nagpapatakbo... never mind..."

Eupleaks: "Sir, bitin ka naman masyado po..."

Dr Marco: "Isa doon sa kanila... biruin mo naman dumating sa faculty conference namin at bitbit nya yong kanyang "driver." Di uma-attend ng sessions at umalis ng madaling araw na di nagbayad ng room service nya na pagkain at beer. Paalis na kami sa bus sa umaga ng biglang di kami pinayagan dahil doon... That's how shady his character is. Alam yon ng buong college faculty namin. Marami pang ibang kabalbalan yan na maari ng tingnan ng NBI...You don't have to be nosy to know these things. It's just that this guy and his clique are doing things in plain view with impunity."

Eupleaks: "Sir, di kita pipilitin, pero pwede po bang malaman ang pangalan nya?"

Dr Marco: "Nice try! Kung di mo gets kung sino... galingan mo pa ang iyong connect."

Eupleaks: "Sir, isa lang po yan..."

Dr Marco: "Ha!... don't try me. I know them long enough. Come back later when that guy gets replaced by one of his people... kagaya ng pagpalit nila kunyari ng direktor ng ITDC. Don't take my word for it. Just ask students in the college who are getting their lessons via Google Hangout these days. He doesn't show up in his classes. Nagpapa-lobby pa yan sa kanyang promotion, wala naman syang publications. I mean... that's cheating the University... at gusto mo akong pagagamitin ng sistema ng mga scumbags ng university?"

"I'm no saint myself. But if you are in my place, knowing all these, mahihiwalay mo ba ang isang system sa mga nagpapatakbo nito? Do you want to use a service whose administrators like them can reset your password? eUP administrators decent, competent... is that too much to ask?"

Personally, I have a One UP Mail account. And I don't think it's that easy for eUP administrators to tamper access without the user noticing it. Still, it should give PAEP an idea what some people out there think about his eUP team. So if PAEP wants eUP to succeed, at least in the adoption and utilization of One UP Mail, more needs to be done. Or Eupleaks might just keep getting more leads, materials, and fan emails, probably not using One UP Mail. There are also substantive and technical issues (e.g., authentication) that UP needs to resolve. So, for now, One UP with many mails. What's wrong with that?


See Also

SystemOne

Well said by this tweet. Gone is SystemOne, UPLB's registration system. It's a casualty in eUP's insistence on the use of commercial, off-the-shelf Oracle Campus Solution (aka SAIS). SAIS couldn't even be launched on time in UPLB (or in any other UP campus for that matter). It remains buggy, sporting pre-Web-2.0 codes and horrible user interface.
The confusion it caused led the UPLB Registration Team to recommend going retro by manual enrollment. Ironic, since PAEP promised to "take UP to the 21st century!"

So what is UPLB missing exactly? A lot. Initially developed in 2004 by Prof. Rodolfo Duldulao Jr, SystemOne had been fashioned according to the needs of UPLB constituents and not some generic commercial solution for some generic university. It included a kick-ass enrollment planning algorithm earlier worked out by another computer scientist Dr. Ricolindo Carino. UPLB's computer science students added a number of modules through the years--an opportunity that SAIS takes away from aspiring UP local talents. What eUP does now instead is give hundreds and hundreds of millions of Filipino taxpayers' money to big corporations like Oracle and ePLDT.

In the Summer of 2012 the latest version (nickname: 'Decaf') was developed. A year after its launch, SystemOne received a donation of 2 servers from Ms Gina Olondriz. Students, faculty, staff, administrators, alumni, friends contributed to the making of a first-rate SystemOne. With eUP, PAEP would have none of this spirit of "ambag-ambag" and bayanihan (community contributions). In his mind, "small" deployments of IT systems like this belong to a "culture of poverty" that he so wishes to eradicate. What he envisions are bold, audacious, multi-million IT projects like what's being deployed in world-class universities like the National University of Singapore. Hence, it's got to be Oracle (as if a software makes a university world-class)!

I'm not going to enumerate the hundreds of features SystemOne had that would take years for SAIS to replicate. They're all wasted now, not to mention the hefty learning experiences the UPLB academic community got through the years. Thanks to PAEP's eUP! Those who are old enough to have been around using SystemOne would easily attest to SystemOne's outstanding features.

Suffice it to say that SystemOne was able to serve multiple access from about 7,000 concurrent student users, with only minimal resources. SystemOne had a great run! At its peak, it used up only about 12Mbps of access bandwidth, 9GB of memory, and 400% CPU. Looking for system efficiency? Now dig that multi-million-peso SAIS with your many operators in tow! And, lest we forget, SystemOne was rock-solid secure, unlike some system we know. Now, Mr UP President, isn't SystemOne world-class computing? That, or perhaps we've only got a second-rate president ill-equiped to appreciate first-rate systems?


Update Nov 10, 2015. Yielding to pressures from students, a few hours ago, the UPLB Administration decided to revive SystemOne for registration from January to May 2016. Rightly so, this brought joy to the UPLB community. PAEP wanted to have a meeting with UPLB Administrators and Student Council. Let's note, however, that SystemOne has been defunded by PAEP. eUP's introduction preempted many of UP constituent universities' plans to expand their own registration systems to include other academic modules. Unless UPLB commits to further development of SystemOne, the relief from the eUP mayhem could only be temporary. PAEP replaced SystemOne with a system that's unresponsive to the needs of UP. He drove away highly skilled, community-oriented developers and replaced them with mercenary coders and bureaucrats. CUs need to reassert their autonomy from the imperial NoQHa (Northside of Quezon Hall) where PAEP keeps launching his delusions.


See Also

UPLB University Student Council on eUP

"The students of the University of the Philippines Los Baños have had enough. This first semester alone, aside from the administration's ignorance of the 160+ organizations' call for Organization Registration, the students of UPLB yet again face their biggest obstacle since the LLCP implementation during 2010 - the mishandling/mismanagement of SAIS for the 'eUP' Project of UP President Pascual under his "One UP" vision.

"Clearly we see the spoiled 'fruits' of President Pascual's commercialization of UP education, as transpired by the #eUPPaMore fiasco this first week of November, compromising student services for profit from the controversial deal between UP and Smart, which is commonly called as the eUP Project. This dubious deal has led to the termination of UP Los Banos' own SystemOne, with the UPLB administration geared toward's eUP, disregarding the many technical difficulties, security concerns and lack of features of SAIS. This eUP Project has already been under scrutiny, as millions of funds have been allocated to the project, with 750-800 million alone for its 1st year implementation, compared to UP Diliman's CRS which they invested 45 million in a span of 5 years (as per OSR Report). There is also a lack of transparency on the operations of the eUP project.

"SAIS implementation in smaller campuses such as UP Manila and UP Cebu has led to UPM's rescheduling of their 1st day of classes last 1st semester 2014-2015. If SAIS has already been found as faulty in small campuses such as UP Manila, what more would be the consequences if it were to implemented in large campuses such as our own? Do we need SAIS? Do we need eUP?

"The University Student Council, together with all local College Student Councils, through a consensus at the Student Legislative Chamber last 24 October, calls for a university-wide WALKOUT against the administration's neglect on student welfare and on the continuing commercialization of UP education under President Pascual.

For more details, see UPLB SC's FB page.

Condescending, Patronizing

Intense was the forum "BALITAKTAKAN AND ENGINEERING CONVERSATIONS: eUP" sponsored by USC and Engineering Student Council last October 6 at the UP Eng Theatre. Everybody appeared to be all worked up by the topic. Discussions could have been more productive, though, if there was a reference document like a cost-benefit analysis of ERP deployment in the University or if the choice of Oracle came after testing various alternatives. None was done.

Some students left disappointed.
The disappointment wasn't just about the answers PAEP gave. It's the way he answered (or avoided answering) the questions from students. If your idea of a conversation with a UP president is being cut in the middle of a sentence, you shouldn't be disappointed. Well, who do you think owns the micropohones at the Engineering Theatre?

If you weren't at the forum to form your own opinion about PAEP's message, don't take our word for it. There are accounts of the forum by our campus journalists. The UP Parser even uploaded on Facebook video clips of the event.

PAEP knows best

Isn't UP education about thinking through important issues and not just leaving them alone to condescending, patronizing administrators? At stake are hundreds and hundreds of millions of pesos that could have been put to better use. Of equal importance is the governance implications of PAEP's biggest and potentially most disastrous project.
We're at the tail-end of the PAEP presidency already. "Just leave it to me; I know what's best for UP" won't cut it anymore. The financial, technical, administrative burdens of eUP are going to be passed on to generations of UP students and to those faculty, staff, administrators who'll be left scrambling for resources year in, year out, just to keep the Oracle ERP running. PAEP mansplaining eUP to students with slimy certainty belies all the troubles threatening the completion of the project.

PAEP appears to inhabit an alternate universe where resources are always within his reach. He doesn't believe there'll be budget cut for UP.
There's some serious disconnect between how PAEP expected the students would react and how they actually received his justification of eUP.

For PAEP, it's just net positive. For members of the UP community, the benefits of eUP have yet to be seen and may well be trumped by cost and sustainability issues. Still it's marketing at this point, hardly a departure from where eUP all started: project kick-off after kickoff in different UP campuses, hyping Oracle whose functionalities have yet to be customized to suit UP's needs for so steep a price. PAEP's desire to look good with all those kick-offs and press releases has, ironically, been a great setup for failure. Overpromising and raised expectations do not sit well with rushed (if not incompetent) implementation of Oracle ERP. It doesn't help that what end-users are seeing is an old, buggy software that makes UP dependent on Oracle and creates vendor lock-in.

True Cost of eUP

A good deal of time in the forum was spend on money matters. Eupleaks and many others have been pressing for greater transparency on the true cost of eUP. We'll pick this up later, when hopefully PAEP will make good of his promise to provide further details. But he couldn't even share the slides he used in the forum. I-edit pa daw. (Speaking of presentation slides, we got those from Dr. Guillermo here. To be fair, we'll also share PAEP's presentation once we have it.)

Eupleaks will just note for now that by eUP cost we don't only mean those expenses disbursed from the original eUP budget but ALL eUP-related expenses, including those contingent, unplanned, not-so-planned expenses made through ITDC and UP CUs.

A point of concern also is PAEP's personalistic attitude towards the funds he helped raise (for eUP or the University). While we appreciate his efforts to raise funds for UP, such efforts are a mandated function of the presidency. He raised them because he's the UP President, not because he's Alfredo Pascual. The same standards of accountability and transparency should apply. As one Eupleaks resource person pointed out, PAEP's demeanors provide a sharp contrast to past UP presidents, in particular President Abueva who saw the role of a UP president as that of a "servant leader" who listens to his constituency. Sharp contrast, indeed, with PAEP appearing to be the only UP president with a penchant for first-class hotel accommodations and airline tickets.

Misinformation

PAEP complains of "misinformation" going around about eUP. For someone who has all the resources to clarify matters before the UP community, this complaint sounds rather odd.

If anyone is grossly misinformed, it's probably PAEP himself. He's been misinformed about the true state of the deployment of the Oracle ERP in the university and the risks (financial, technical, administrative, reputational) involved. He relies on the same eUP people who just keep on telling him things they thought he'd like to hear. In the first place, why did he not insist on a peer-reviewed cost-benefit analysis of the project? Isn't that so basic for a project of that scope?

His views about open source alternatives to Oracle have also been misinformed.
Nobody is saying that open source is free beer. Open source alternatives to Oracle are about FREEDOM from vendor lock-in, FREEDOM to modify the codes as we see fit without fear of legal sanction. It's freedom of thought and expression. Yet, the fake "open source" people of eUP deemed it proper to buy Oracle without even evaluating open source alternatives. That's the bottomline of PAEP's misinformed view of open source.

PAEP singled out the University of California Berkeley as having bolted out of Kuali (an academe-oriented open source alternative). How convenient it is for PAEP to ignore the fact that other UC campuses continue to use Kuali! Who's misinforming now?

Frustration

Towards the end, PAEP expressed frustration over how the forum turned out.
But he had it coming. He never really addressed the many concerns of the students. So whose job is it to explain the project again?
How can he expect UP students and other UP constituents to support an ill-conceived project? Did he listen to faculty and staff when they cautioned him about use of Oracle right from the beginning? Who's not open minded now? Despite having reservations about eUP, many UP faculty and staff are actually helping eUP. So who is PAEP referring to? Perhaps PAEP himself, because instead of helping develop CRS and extend it to other academic functionalities, he defunded it and bullied people into accepting Oracle without question.

Cavalier attitude towards presidency-defining bugs

Now eUP people are pressuring UP Diliman to implement SAIS in January 2016, even without the green light from the University Council.

Many bugs remain. But it took years to fix the SSL issue. It's taking years to fix the grading by the hundreds (still, your "1.0" is "100"), some more years to change the much-hated "shopping cart."

How long does it take to accommodate CU-required changes in SAIS? At least 6 months for only a handful of minor issues. Try reaching out to the eUP Helpdesk and see what a "black hole" it is for your issues. eUP people are taking their sweet time to fix the bugs of SAIS. Why?! Because somehow UP owes it to PAEP that we're having eUP? That we owe it to eUP people to wait, even years after eUP systems' scheduled completion? Why aren't heads rolling for all the delays and troubles eUP is causing now?

So watch out for the eUP sh*tstorm coming your way! And when people protest, certainly PAEP is asking for it. Whatever good he has done for UP will be overshadowed by the dysfunctional systems that eUP tries to roll out in the University. That "PAEP knows best" will then be self-explanatory.