The past few weeks have been crazy for several prominent universities in Metro Manila. Last March 28, the Ateneo de Manila University received yet another bomb threat from a still undetermined source. Students, faculty, and staff were then swiftly evacuated while the bomb squad conducted two sweeps of the campus. Only a few days passed before separate fire incidents broke out in two other universities, with an inferno gutting UP Diliman’s Bulwagang Rizal — and with it, a trove of much treasured pieces of art, rare books, and UP memorabilia, among others — on April 1 and a fire incident blazing three of the University of the East’s buildings on April 2.
On March 29, a Lasallian student was assaulted by a still unidentified assailant in the Yuchengco Hall. The story of her alleged attack has since then been passed on through whispers and news articles, with the DLSU administration finally breaking its silence on the issue last April 5. The incident follows several other reports of female students being harassed by unknown male individuals inside the University’s restrooms, and as of press time, the perpetrator remains at large.
It has been two years since The LaSallian released several articles revolving around the issue of safety and security, with the primary concern of students, at that time, being theft and modus operandi in and out of campus. No one could have anticipated the events that have struck the University these past few weeks (except, perhaps, the perpetrator/s), and the fact that such incidents occur despite the University’s high walls, barbed wire, strict ID policies, and the most stringent security measures money can buy sends a chill to the spine.
It is without question that maintaining security and safety in campus is and should be a priority of the University. However, as members of the administration do what they can through investigations, improvements in the CCTV cameras, and even tighter security in campus, those of us who are not actively participating in the finding and capture of the masked assailant(s) have to think about how our actions can affect the success of these initiatives.
A time of crisis is an opportunity for us as a community to manifest our ability to be proactive and to respond with dignity amidst the chaos. It is a time to respond with understanding and patience when long lines form along University gates due to the inspection of bags or whenever fire and earthquake drills are conducted to ensure disaster preparedness among members of the community. It is a time to treat each other with kindness, as many remain uneasy over their own safety in a campus many of us previously thought was safe and impenetrable, to avoid belittling their anxiety with jokes or accusing them of overreacting to the very real dangers we face.
As the University adapts to the challenges of today — the influx of senior high school students in June, the ASEAN integration, and the adjustments to security and safety protocols, among others — it is not enough to demand more efforts from those in authority or to criticize the actions that may or may not be undertaken by them. While it is important to hold the administration accountable both for their response to the issue and for their ongoing communication with the community in light of these investigations, it is just as imperative for all of us to take responsibility to be better than the chaos that plagues us.