April 15, 2008

Prof. Ricky Lim's reply to the "Concerned Alumnus"

The whole saga our MBA batch is going through seems to be almost drawing to a close as Prof. Ricky Lim tackles point by point the issues raised by a "Concerned Alumus." He emailed me his reply, along with the points he is answering:

Concerned Alumnus: Prestigious accreditations carry a hefty price. Given the various accreditations that AIM has, it is obvious that a slight tuition increase would have been imposed. Since AIM has lost EQUIS (I hear their logo will not be on the new diplomas and transcripts), will the current students be given a refund? Will the incoming students be given a discount from their fees as well?

RAL: The EQUIS and AACSB logos were never in the transcripts or diplomas--just the AIM seal. This goes for all diplomas since 1968, degree or certificate. And as for tution increases since accreditation--and in some years there were none--these were for other cost increases and revaluations of the peso, and not due to paying for accreditations.
CA: You said that the removal of the logos from the school's website was due to "style considerations." What exactly are "style considerations"?
RAL: We had placed them in calling cards and stationery, initially proud when we got accredited. When we looked at the collaterals of other EQUIS and AACSB schools during conferences, we noticed that hardly any of them used this, or the least used them more discreetly. We were a little embarrassed, for example, that during our conferences we were the only ones with the obvious logos on the cards. We felt we might be showing off, so we removed them.
CA: Most of the questions from this Q&A session have come from your external "clients" (i.e. incoming students). When do you plan to speak to your internal "clients" (i.e. existing students)? I am under the impression that they have been clamoring for answers to a lot of concerns. I know that AIM has their money already but they are just as important as the ones coming in. Right?
RAL: The internal clients are just as important. Unfortunately the execution of our announcements was not good. The external stakeholders, e.g. alumni, got the news first. This was our fault and we apologize. Dean Licuanan spoke to MDM first last week, and we have since spoken to the MBA classes and to officers of the MM class.
CA: I have been comparing my AIM experiences with those of my friends from the current and previous batches. Casual comparisons say that the 16-month program was not well thought and planned out. They are experiencing problems - scheduling, professors, no books, cheating incidents, transparency in grading, lack of student mentoring, etc. In short: low quality input = low quality output, garbage in = garbage out. I am sad to admit to the current batch and the incoming ones, most of these concerns we had never experienced in our time.

So when you say that the current December 2008 batch agrees with you on the terms of maintained quality, did you put out a survey for them or even ask for a show of hands? Because that is not the feedback I am hearing from some of them.
RAL: There was hardly any year in the last 40 years at AIM where MBA students did not complain about uneven grades, tough schedules, unfair professors, plagiarism, etc. Perhaps you remember AIM with fondness, but please also remember that when you were with us, you must have complained about a number of things. This year is no different. We nevertheless do not discount comments like these, and we are concerned about all dips in quality. We will try to work out the kinks.

Like you my conclusions about quality are also casual, taken not from formal polls but from students' conversations. I look for overall learning, students' progress in their individual journeys, and many little cues about what they picked up, their changes in attitudes, etc. This was by no means a formal survey. In my talks I do hear complaints about the program, but I hear good things as well.

We do take feedback not from formal surveys but in other ways: through class and faculty ratings; through mentor feedback; through our Program Director, in this case, Mau Bolante.
CA: I heard that six students were taken out the current MBA program without prior notice of their "academic positions." And even more cuts are expected in the coming weeks. Since quality was not seemingly maintained and the concerns of the students have not been answered (see previous question), were you not being a bit harsh and unfair?
RAL: We were following a set of standards and a grading system that was announced to students at the start. The AIM system might seem harsh, but we try not to be unfair. We treat all students fairly, whether it is the standard that each has to attain, or the way we grade each one. As to quality, to answer your previous question, we reiterate we are concerned, and we will try to work out the kinks and err in favor of students. We will not compromise on students' learning.
CA: A newspaper article (http://www.manilastandardtoday.com/?page=business5_april4_2008) is questioning the qualifications of AIM Dean Victoria Licuanan. It says that she "lacks a doctoral degree for having failed to finish the required thesis," a requirement to become insitute dean. Is this true?
RAL: Two years ago a search committee carefully put several candidates through manifold tests of teaching and research accomplishments, management and administrative experience, and business networking capabilities. Vickie Licuanan passed these tests, more than other candidates. FYI Vickie completed her doctoral academics in Harvard, the equivalent of a Masters Degree. If you go back several AIM Deans, only one (Gasty Ortigas) had a doctorate before taking the Dean's office. (FYI, the current Dean of INSEAD, J. Frank Brown, is a CPA but does not have an MA or MBA. The former Dean of the Darden School and subsequent president of two large East Coast universities, Leo Higdon, has an MBA, but has no Ph.D.) In short, while a doctorate is a positive qualification to be Dean, it is not the only one.
CA: And lastly, will it ever be possible to separate politics from academics in AIM? Please refer to the following newsbits:


How I wish politics would go away! But honestly, I do not think that academics and politics can truly be separated. For that matter, politics are present in most human endeavors. To answer your upcoming comment, AIM faculty are passionate people, and we all truly love to be educators--I can speak for myself and even for people who oppose me. I think the politics tend to get worse when people are passionate about their causes.

It was a problem when I was there, I cannot believe that it is still a problem now. The infighting and the stubbornness will never end until both sides realize that AIM is an educational institution, first and foremost. Secondary to being a business and a source of income, being an educator is both a vocation and a calling.

Has AIM strayed from the path set by its founding fathers? Are we witnessing the slow death of an iconic Asian institution?
RAL: We continue to be guided by a long term vision of a practitioner, Asian management ethos. But we hit bumps in the road, and we experiment with new paths. It is imperative for an academic institution to overcome inertia. We have to try new things in order to renew. This is why we had to do an MBA 16, to answer the needs of new business. We will continue to experiment with new learning modes and new topics. We are not dying; we are changing.

A farmer had a favorite axe, one he swore never to replace. He said, "Why, this axe has been in my family six generations now! In fact, we've replaced its head seven times and its handle five times!" AIM is like that axe. The idea of AIM will not die; but we need to change in order to move to better places.
CA: Readers should understand that this was not meant to put people or the school down. I just put forth issues and concerns that I think the institution should recognize, so that they can make the necessary corrections. If the school goes under, I and the others in its history who have invested their time and money and have benefited from an AIM education will also go down with it.
RAL: You have every right. As an alumnus (or alumna), you own AIM. Not professors, not administrators. Not even La Salle or Ateneo, or the Lopezes or Ayalas, who continue to give us useful advice, but in the end--you are the rightful owners. So please keep talking, keep riasing red flags and make us hear your voice. We will do our best to protect your "property."
CA: So for the AIM "powers that be": before it is too late, please do something for the sake of your past, present and future students, and for those individuals who have their names and their portraits emblazoned on AIM's hallowed halls.
RAL: You have my promise.


Anonymous said...

As an external party, but one that is to be associated with AIM soon, I feel that Prof. Lim has been extremely humble and accomodating in answering some of the provocative (yet realistic)queries raised by the 'concerned alumus'. Not sure whether deans / professors from other institutions would have chosen to respond to these kind of queries.

Just goes about to show whose is the higher person and reaffirms my faith in the culture and reputation of the institution.

Time will tell whether the so called concerns have really been acknowledged by the management, and anything has seriously been done to correct the same.

Also, Regnard, thanks for setting up this amazing medium to address this issue.....you ROCK!!!!