VIDEO: Underwood Counters Critics in Controversy Over of UOG’s Award of a Degree to Lt. Governor

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Guam – UOG President Dr. Robert Underwood says those calling on the University not to award Lt. Governor Ray Tenorio a degree are”wrong.” And he defended  UOG’s integrity against those who have questioned its academic standards in the wake of  the plagiarism allegations against the Lt. Governor.

Underwood made his remarks at the UOG’s 2011 Commencement Ceremony at the UOG Field House Sunday. [Read the FULL address below].

The controversy erupted this past Thursday with the posting on the internet of an audio recording suggesting that the Lt. Governor had asked employees of his office to help him complete his degree requirements.

In response the UOG President said:

These allegations have yet to be made in a formal way. But there are people out there who say that because of these voices, your degree is somehow diminished. There are people out there who say that because of these accusations, your effort is meaningless. There are people out there who say that if the University doesn’t step outside of its procedures, that today’s commencement ceremony has some kind of cloud over it. These people are misinformed; these people are wrong.

“They are wrong because the University will investigate any alleged irregularity but only in accordance with the law and policies of this institution as is the practice in any institution of higher education worthy of its name.”

 ” Then only after the facts are known, we will take action. The diploma you receive today is not subject to the court of public opinion. The diploma you receive today will not be influenced by political blogging or emotional outbursts. These diplomas up here will stand the test of time no matter what the political flavor of the day, the use of the latest technology, the news stories of the moment.”

The University of Guam awarded 278 degrees Sunday at its Spring 2011 Commencement. 202 received  Baccalaureate Degrees and 76 received Master’s Degrees, including Lt. Governor Ray Tenorio.

Among the degrees handed out were:

* 12 students who will receive their Bachelor of Social Work
* 37 students who will receive Bachelor of Arts in Education
* 21 students who will receive their Bachelor of Science in Nursing
* class valedictorian Dianne Marie Sapida received her Bachelor of Arts in Education.

The commencement speaker was the UOG President’s wife, is Dr. Nerissa Underwood, Superintendent of the Guam Department of Education. He speech was entitled, “Building Blocks and Learning Blocks”.

Read DOE Superintendent Dr. Nerissa Underwood’s Address HERE

Read UOG President Dr. Robert Underwood’s Remarks below:

REMARKS of UOG PRESIDENT ROBERT UNDERWOOD
UNIVERSITY OF GUAM COMMENCEMENT
May 29, 2011

Distinguished guests, honorable members of the faculty and University community, special guests here on the platform with me, including the Board of Regents, academic leadership, Dianne Sapida, the class valedictorian and our Commencement Speaker, the Superintendent of the Guam Department of Education, Dr. Nerissa Bretania Underwood. This is the season for commencement exercises and while all such exercises are to be celebrated, I want to state that no other ceremony fills this venue with as much excitement as the UOG Graduating class of Spring 2011.

Buenas tatdes, Hafa Adai , i manmagraduha pa’go na ha’ane, graduates; hafa adai manainan yan i familian i manmagraduha;  hafa adai todos hamyo-

It is a great day to be in Mangilao- it is a special time to be in Mangilao. I want to call it Tritonland, but I am reminded that Geckos live over at GW and Tradesmen over at GCC also live in Mangilao. BUT TODAY ALL OF US ARE TRITONS-

We have completed another academic year of success. Our enrollment is the highest it has been in 10 years- yes people are making the natural choice. The number of graduates today is the highest number for a spring semester commencement in this century. Yet, it is not enough especially as we plan for the future. Some studies indicate that today, two thirds of all jobs require some form of postsecondary education. As it stands today, only one-third of our high school graduates go on to UOG or GCC. This means that 2/3 of our high school graduates are competing for only 1/3 of the jobs. The need for more education only increases with time. By the year 2020, a Georgetown University study advises us that 50% of all new jobs will require a bachelor’s degree. Who will have to compete in that environment? It is today’s seventh graders who must graduate from high school in 2016 and anticipate a college degree in four years in order to have a chance at 50% of the available jobs in a different kind of global and island economy. This University must grow to help our young people meet the challenges of their future.

Your University continues to grow as we anticipate a new School of Engineering; growth in programs like environmental science, increased regional vitality through our outstanding research units like MARC, WERI and the Marine Lab and through our service units like CEDDERS and the cooperative extension services and the excitement of bringing research, service and instruction all together through major new units like the Cancer Center and the Center for Island Sustainability.

In another ten years, we may not recognize the campus as we unveil a new physical master plan later on this year and finish off a new student services center, a triton engagement center and deal with a sustainable campus that may feature more bicycles and trams and less vehicles and parking.

But we will be able to recognize the heart and the spirit of the University of Guam- that Triton spirit that says I am proud of my island; I am grateful for my family; I am enthusiastic about my future because I went to the University of Guam. This same spirit will be there in 2020 because it has already been around for 59 years. Starting as the Territorial College of Guam in 1952 primarily as a teacher training two year institution, we have grown to be the premier University in the region, the only US accredited institution on this side of the international deadline and a proud tradition of service, engagement and growth.

Next year, the University will be sixty years old. Some of us are older than the University, but not that much older. We will be having a year-long celebration which will highlight the trajectory of this institution from its origins in an elephant quonset hut in Mongmong to the vibrant institution of higher education in Mangilao. We will invite all of you to participate and by this time next year, the Field House will be full of reminders of our birthday, our history and our pride.

And our pride is in the students who have gone through this institution and are now providing service to communities across the Pacific, leading financial institutions, running governments, teaching, providing medical care. I don’t think even the most visionary educator in Guam in 1952 would have imagined that we would be the major force for economic, political and social progress in the region.

There have been 12,000 graduates over the course of the University’s existence and you graduates join the ranks of a proud tradition. Look into the faces of graduates who came before you; some are on stage today- hundreds are in the audience today- raise your hands wave them graduates of UOG- show your Triton pride. But from where I stand, the most important faces are sitting in front of me; anxiously awaiting their turn to come on stage, nervously contemplating their future, filled with pride at their accomplishment.

As I look out the faces of the graduates, I am reminded about the characteristics of our students and your designation as Tritons.

Some of you are rich, but most of you aren’t. Some of you already have titles, but most of you don’t.

Some of you took four years to get a bachelor’s degree, but most of you took six years and more. Some of you rode to this ceremony in a limousine, but most of you rode in a car probably made in the last century. One of you is the valedictorian and she is up here on stage, some of you are cum laude, and some of you are even magna or summa cum laude, but most of you are graduating without any laude at all- you are just happy to be here. And we are happy along with you.

To those of us up on stage who are responsible for your education, we take our responsibility seriously to ensure that you have a quality experience at the University. To those of us on stage, you are not Senators, Cruz’s, Santos’s, or even a Lt. Governor. You are students who have given your all to be here. You are Tritons who will represent the University wherever you go. You soon will receive a diploma and you will be an alumni of UOG who will be expected to help give back and grow your alma mater in the future and make the University of Guam proud. But at this moment in time, you are all in the same shoes, in the same situation and you certainly are in the same gown.

I take the time to say this because there are voices out there who have made allegations about academic irregularities at the University. These allegations have yet to be made in a formal way. But there are people out there who say that because of these voices, your degree is somehow diminished. There are people out there who say that because of these accusations, your effort is meaningless. There are people out there who say that if the University doesn’t step outside of its procedures, that today’s commencement ceremony has some kind of cloud over it. These people are misinformed; these people are wrong.

They are wrong because the University will investigate any alleged irregularity but only in accordance with the law and policies of this institution as is the practice in any institution of higher education worthy of its name. Then only after the facts are known, we will take action. The diploma you receive today is not subject to the court of public opinion. The diploma you receive today will not be influenced by political blogging or emotional outbursts. These diplomas up here will stand the test of time no matter what the political flavor of the day, the use of the latest technology, the news stories of the moment.

These diplomas represent your effort and our commitment. The diploma represents a bond forged on the basis of your hard work and our responsibility to provide you the best education we can within the confines of our resources and our own capabilities. It is based on late nights and early mornings for both faculty and student. It tells the story of lectures, research, computer labs, field work, interviews at Gefpa’go, work at GMH, internships at military facilities, student loans, proud parents and supportive significant others. The diploma represents a sustained effort and a will to achieve, a level of perseverance not everyone has. Your own tears, your own emotions and if brains could perspire, the sweat of your brain as well as your brow went into these diplomas. We don’t give you the diploma, you earned it.

So when you get the opportunity to cradle these documents in your arms, when you get the chance to smell these diplomas- yes, they have that new diploma smell. Don’t let anyone deny you your day- don’t let anyone deny you your moment, celebrate, enjoy- be proud, be a triton, stand up, stand up, stand up

Biba UOG Biba UOG Biba UOG