I was accused of cheating first term this year. My professor, who holds an administrative position, filed it with the Discipline’s Office (D.O.). Since he was the head of DLSU’s legal team, and since practically the whole D.O. is under him in terms of major offense cases, it was obvious that I had no chance of getting through unscathed.
There was even a note written by Atty. Caraan, former D.O. director, in the upper right part of my professor’s complaint sheet that the D.O. officer in charge of my case must be expedient with her investigation process, as my case should be rushed.
According to the student handbook, a student is given five days to respond to a complaint. I was pressured to give a reply on the same day the complaint was filed. I will not include in this column the other times, multiple times, the D.O. failed to respect the due process of law – my professor would know the progress of my case weeks before I would receive a written copy of an important case document.
My professor had the upper hand in this case; he could easily advance and make his next move, while I anxiously had to wait for the D.O. There were at least three times that I had to go to the D.O. and ask for my case documents. It was rather I do that, or let my rights sleep.
I got a lawyer and grouped my witnesses. I was prepared for the Student Disciplinary Board (SDB) hearing. The panel had four members who decided on my case. The SDB Chair, an Integrated Bar of the Philippines member, yes, a lawyer, the Faculty Association President, a representative from the Student Affairs group, and a student representative.
My professor had his own set of witnesses, but I am not sure if the members of the SDB panel realized that the two witnesses my professor presented committed perjury. They wrote on their affidavits that they saw me “look at my book” during my quiz, but when my lawyer cross-examined them, they immediately retracted their statements. They said they did not see me look at the book anytime, during the quiz proper.
To add fuel to the fire, one of the witnesses, told me that my professor talked to him and my professor allegedly asked him not to talk to me, when I was asking for support from my seatmates, but during the hearing, he told the court that he was pertaining to another professor, not the one who filed the case against me. I asked the professor whom the witness allegedly talked with, and the professor told me that she has never talked to the witness before, in fact, she does not know the student-witness.
The SDB, in a split decision, found me innocent. The SDB Chair and student, sided with me, while the other two, found me guilty. It was ironic, the Student Affairs representative did not even ask a single question during the hearing, but he was “able” to decide “fairly”. I just told myself that the one who really knows the law and its procedure sided with me. They based their decision on the notion of control, that I had no control over my notes or book during the exam that was why I could not have cheated.
If you think it already stopped there, my professor approached the Student Media Office (SMO) Director, and asked if we had an ombudsman in the office, this was proof that he was out to get me, and it was not about the cheating case anymore—it was about my being a student journalist. During the time I was taking his class, he would always ignore me every time I would ask questions and he would not call me if I wanted to recite in class.
Eventually, he appealed the case to the President-Chancellor, the court of last resort in the University. My professor should have known that there already exists a fiduciary relationship between him and the president, and it might influence the decision of the latter. They shared an office for more than a term, I think, but he chose to use his powers/ “right.” The result was obvious—I lost.
There are more cases of cheating at DLSU that we choose to ignore. Cheating, according to the dictionary, is behaving dishonestly or unfairly to gain an advantage over another. In this sense, cheating happens every minute in DLSU. It could be as simple as cutting in line when buying lunch in one of our canteens, or milk tea stores, it could also be construed when you allow your barkada to sneak in the elevator line of the Br. Andrew Gonzalez Hall. Freeloading in group works is also a form of cheating; you make your group mate do all the work, but you receive the same grade as he or she does.
Cheating can also happen when certain D.O. personnel or security guards would offensively apprehend students who they think are not following the dress code, even if they do. Sometimes, some take a long time looking at female students’ chests and legs, bordering on harassment; they even point directly to a female student’s chest.
Professors cheat off their students when they miss class excessively, without a valid excuse and a scheduled make-up class. Students are paying their tuition to learn from their professors. Even if the professor’s wages are cut in proportion to his or her absences, students still end up with the shorter end of the stick.
The DLSU administration might be cheaters as well when they prioritize extravagant parties, celebrations and fireworks display instead of scholarship grants for both students and professors when allocating the University’s annual budget. On a side note, during the start of this academic year, I received a poison letter without a return address accusing two top-ranked and veteran administrators of stealing from DLSU’s funds. Our publication ignored what was written on the letter, but maybe, there just might be a grain of truth to what was written. The letter sender would not have the courage to send it to us if his or her accusation is entirely false.
Incidents of cheating get worse if we allow it to happen to us; if we do not do anything to question it; if we let or rights sleep; and if we allow things to happen just because it would not affect us that gravely. Do not be the student who would allow a group of students to cut in the elevator line just because you think you have no authority to complain because you are just one person, and they belong to a group.
Complain when you feel that implementing officers have exceeded their powers and duties. There are many University outlets where students can bring their concerns regarding abusive employees. Try the Human Resource and Development Office.
Also, be cautious of where your tuition fees go. If you know you are not maximizing the services and resources you deserve because your professor is always absent, approach the department chairperson to discuss your situation. Cheating gets worse when you sleep on your rights. More and more people will take advantage of you and treat you unjustly when in the first place; you allow them to do it to you.