UST in its 400th year

By JOSE DAVID LAPUZ, UST Professor of Political Science and the Life of Rizal for 37 Years (1970-2007) and KNIGHT GRAND CROSS OF RIZAL (KGCR) of the Knights of Rizal

MANILA, Philippines – The University of Santo Tomas formally commences its Quadricentennial Anniversary in this month of January up to December, 2011. UST is, of course the oldest existing university in the Philippines. UST was founded on April 28, 1611, by the third archbishop of Manila, Msgr. Miguel de Benavides, OP, together with Frs. Domingo de Nieva and Bernardo de Santa Catalina. Originally, it was first called Colegio de Nuestra Señora de Santisimo Rosario and later renamed Colegio de Santo Tomas in memory of Saint Thomas Aquinas.

After 400 years in the life of UST, what significant changes have occurred as far as the place of universities in the international commerce of knowledge is concerned? Today we note that although the role of universities is still very great, there is now in existence a large number of communication systems within multi-national agencies quite apart from universities, as well as extensive exchange of mass media using the satellite broadcast technology.

Today, after 400 years, UST confronts and engages the many intellectual developments that have occurred in world order studies over the years. Firstly, a whole new orientation to international relations and world order studies has emerged. This new approach attempts to combine a theory of popular struggle with a vision of a just world order. It is less preoccupied with constructing blueprints of world order and more concerned with an ongoing political process particularly as reflected in the struggles of the oppressed.

It is less legalistic in the approach and more appreciative of the cultural, economic, historical, and psychological underpinnings of political and legal structure. Finally, this new approach is less interested in agreement at the intergovernmental level and more oriented to popular participation and to alternative conceptions of governance and development that go beyond classical, liberal and Marxist ideas.

A second development is that world politics studies or estudios sobre politica mundialmente today are more transdisciplinary than some 400 years back. There are now more courses in the departments like history, sociology, anthropology, and economics, and a greater variety of approaches to world order problems. For example, there are ecological approaches to economic development, economic approaches to peace, and peace and conflict approaches to world economics.

Thirdly, the study of world order has become more attentive to the interlinkages that exist among world problem areas. Now courses deal systematically with the relationship between military spending, economic development and human rights.

Fourthly, there is increasing interest in the role that culture plays in shaping world order. Cultural factors are being studied for their effects on political legitimacy, economic development, resource utilization, and conflict formation.

Finally, international relations thinking today, as compared with the thinking 400 years ago, while being sensitive to the local struggles, is also more holistic. The recent appreciation of the earth as a delicately balanced ecological system has reinforced earlier ideas of the wholeness of the human family. As Prof. Richard Falk of Princeton University writes, feeling, thinking, and acting as a planetary citizen is what international relations studies is increasingly about.

These are just a few of the developments that I believe are making international affairs studies a richer, more meticulous, and more rigorous field of study. These developments now confront and challenge UST after 400 years. Unquestionably, further developments can be expected in the years ahead as more and more educators, professors, researchers, scientists, and academicians in universities become concerned about making their teaching more pertinent and germane to the search for peace and human well-being and prosperity in today’s rapidly changing world.

I, for one, as a professor of Santo Tomas University for more than three decades, have always loved UST as a place of light, of learning, and as a great factory of ideas. Today, as we happily celebrate its Quadricentennial, we must outline a framework for viewing the supra-national or macropolitical role of universities which identifies various levels of involvement in the international political and knowledge systems. Our perspective of UST must now focus upon features of the interdependence, domination, and autonomy which have a special policy relevance for the Royal, Pontifical, and Catholic University of Santo Tomas as it reconsiders its stance, after 400 years, toward its religious, moral, cultural, social, and political roles in both national and international settings. Then UST will have richly deserved its description as “Christianae Sapientiae Emicantissimum” or “Most Replendent Light of Christian Wisdom.”

As a simple teacher who has delivered, in more than three decades, numerous and numberless lectures, speeches, addresses, symposiums, seminars, colloquia, conferences, forums and other academic discussing in UST, this place of purest light, this shelter of thought and ideas, I feel truly humbled and exalted, genuinely delighted and honored, as UST continues, through long centuries, to welcome to its groves of academe every ray of genius and every brilliance of intellect. May God sustain UST with His peace and love and grant her His constant and unceasing guidance. In Jesus’ name I pray.

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