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.



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.+


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 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


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