When Imelda Romualdez Marcos, wife of Philippine president Ferdinand E. Marcos and a member of his martial law cabinet, visited Tufts University in 1977, over 1000 protesters disrupted her visit and mobbed her as she left the university's grounds.
Almost three years after that riot, the Philippine government yesterday withdrew $1 million they had pledged toward the endowment of an academic chair-named in honor of and sponsored by Marcos--at Tufts' Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.
While a spokesman at the Philippine Embassy said that the Marcos government had not released "an official explanation of the event," sources at the Fletcher School, as well as Benigno Aquino, a contender for the Philippine presidency should Marcos fall and currently a fellow at Harvard's Center for International Affairs, yesterday speculated that Marcos withdrew the funds because he was dissatisfied with his treatment by both Tufts and the U.S. government.
"I have heard from university orofessors that Marcos was miffed because the chair did not sit well with the faculty at Fletcher," Aquino said, adding another factor was that Imelda Marcos did not "get a rousing welcome when she was there."
Several Asian specialists refused to fill the chair, named the Ferdinand E. Marcos Chair for East Asian and Pacific Studies, as a protest against Marcos's imposition of martial law in 1972, sources said yesterday.
As of yesterday, Marcos had already donated $500,000 toward the creation of the chair and will not withdraw those funds, Theodore L. Eliot, dean of Fletcher School, said yesterday. The university will use $350,000 to establish Marcos Fellowships and the remaining $150,000 will be used as Philippines' donation to a new building at the school designed for the study of five East Asian nations, he added.
Refusing to comment on the reason for Marcos's withdrawn pledge, Eliot said, "that kind of speculation is unnecessary and part of the past because it's strictly the Philippines' business only."
Critical editorials in the Tufts student newspaper, along with mild faculty objections to the chair, upset the Marcos's, a professor at the Fletcher school who asked not to be identified said yesterday, but he added that negative reaction in larger American newspapers and a tight economy in the Philippines exacerbated the situation.
Mrs. Marcos never really wanted to give the chair, especially after the visit," but once she agreed to it, a New York Times editorial condemning Tufts for taking funds from the country made the arrangement even more strained, the source said.
"There was a lot of nastiness around the whole affair," he added.
Securing funds for the chair was a low priority for Eliot, and in general "Tufts didn't put on a good show by telling Marcos how wonderful he was," one source said.
"We weren't keeping up our part of the bargain. You know, Marcos didn't give this chair out of love of scholarship," he added.
Aquino said that the withdrawal was "no surprise" considering limited money supply in the Philippines.
Others agreed, saying that "both Marcos's critics and supporters wondered why he was giving money to U.S. universities at this time."
Ricardo Marasigan, a spokesman at the Philippine embassy, refused to speculate on the reasons for the withdrawn endowment.
"Fletcher was chosen for its prestige," Marasigan said. "The money was specially for that school. Marcos will not donate the funds to any other university.