A post made rounds on Facebook last October when an anonymous Marketing Management student claimed on the DLSU Freedom Wall page that one of their professors, who hailed from the Marketing and Advertising Department (MAD), sexually harassed and humiliated her and her classmates.
The post, which has since been taken down along with the original page, bared that the professor allegedly “takes pictures of girls in class, touches their lower back, legs, shoulders, and holds their hands” and “makes lewd comments to girls in front of the whole class about their bodies.” Despite previous attempts to raise the matter, the student claimed that no actions were taken by the administration, thus her attempt to warn other students by posting anonymously online.
The University, through its official page, had responded to the post, citing that an investigation was ongoing and encouraging others to report any harassment or misconduct through proper channels. Meanwhile, professors from the MAD disseminated a statement from the department chair to their students, which stressed that the office “does not condone any form of harassment” and that they prioritize the welfare of the students.
Both the accused professor and the department chair have been approached by The LaSallian for a statement; however, as of press time, neither have agreed to the publication’s interview request. Students who claimed to have been victimized by the professor have also refused to provide further comments.
Not the first time
The University is no stranger to sexual harassment cases on campus. In the past, cases and allegations of harassment within DLSU between students and their professors have been reported. However, one of the most notable of these was in 2005, when a faculty member from the Accountancy Department was found guilty of sexual harassment.
At the time, students narrated to The LaSallian encounters with a professor cornering students in restrooms, often with the intention of wanting a “friendly hug.” A month after the initial story was published, 10 students came forward and filed a case against the professor. After an extensive investigation was conducted by the University, as well as an admission of guilt on the part of the instructor, the professor was expelled from DLSU, barring him from further teaching in the University.
According to Atty. Mike David, the Associate Legal Counsel of the University, the school regards acts of sexual harassment as “very punishable.” Providing legal advice to individuals who had experienced gross acts of indecency, he presses students to look toward the DLSU Student Handbook as a guide in understanding the proper due process. He also mentions that behavior such as intimidation and moral ascendancy over a person in exchange for sexual favors is also included in the acts considered to be punishable.
The Student Handbook covers an extensive range of cases regarding sexual harassment, from student to co-academic personnel, faculty member, and even the departmental chair. Similar guidelines for sexual harassment cases are also found in the Faculty Manual, while the Code of Ethics for DLSU faculty explicitly calls for them to respect students as persons, citing that “under no circumstances will they exploit, harass, and discriminate against students.”
Along with stressing that evidences and witness statements being essential in filing a case, David also mentions that in addition to the Student Disciplinary Formation Office handling student infractions, the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Academics, the Office of Personnel Management, and the respective faculty departments are possible offices students can approach to air out their grievances against academic personnel.
Covered by law
In terms of jurisdiction, David clarifies that the University can only act on offenses that occur within the 200-meter peripheral as defined in the Student Handbook. He also notes that while they could not act on criminal cases, they could process these issues to determine if there is probable cause.
Depending on how the act was done and the intent of the perpetrator, this could be subject to legal repercussions as outlined in Republic Act 7877 or the Anti-Sexual Harassment Act of 1995. Section 3 of the law covers harassment in a work and education environment, specifying that it can be committed if it is “against one whose education, training, apprenticeship or tutorship is entrusted to the offender” and “when the sexual advances result in an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment for the student, trainee or apprentice.”
The law also stresses, in Sections 4 and 5, that it is the educational institution’s duty to prevent or deter these kinds of cases and is held liable if they are “informed of such acts by the offended party and no immediate action is taken.” Because of this, the Student Handbook contains guidelines specific to sexual harassment cases, as can be found in Appendix L.
“Put it into action”
Expressing his opinion on the use of online anonymous avenues in raising concerns such as sexual harassment and even other grievances such as bullying, the associate legal counsel admits that while such demeanor raises attention to the issue, it does not necessarily raise action.
He notes that although it is understandable for students to be hesitant in filing a complaint due to the fear of professors tarnishing their grades in revenge, students should proceed anyway as their morals far outweigh the bad grades they might receive. “If it’s already an attack on your person, on your morals, [or] on your dignity, do not stand down. Do something about it,” he argues.
To start the process, a statement of the incident from both parties would be required, which will then be submitted to their office for proper case classification, certifying if the case will need a formal hearing, a summary procedure, or a change of charge.
With regard to concerns that victims may not have proper physical evidence on hand, David states that although cases such as those would be far more difficult to process and prove, students still have the right to do so if they know they were attacked. “What our aim is [for the student to] file the case, and it will put [the accused] on alert. We’re going to regulate conduct at the least,” he assures.
Continuing on his statement about utilizing proper channels in raising concerns against sexual harassment and its offenders, David summarizes, “If you put it into action, it’s there. And [when] you put it on paper, it will be on record. That’s the best way [to do it] because these guys operate in the dark, [so] shed light by filing a complaint.”
ERRATUM: In the previously published version of this article on the January 2019 issue of The LaSallian, the Associate Legal Counsel was incorrectly named as Atty. Mark David instead of Atty. Mike David. The publication sincerely apologizes for this oversight.