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.
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?
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.
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.