Freshman student Bianca Fontejon (I, AB-PSM) was one of the casualties in the Close Up Forever Summer music festival held on May 22, Sunday, at the SM Mall of Asia Concert Grounds in Pasay.
Autopsy results pointed to a massive heart attack as the cause of death. Although unconfirmed, the Green Amore drug is speculated as the main reason for Fontejon’s death, after the National Bureau of Investigation’s medico legal officer suggested that whatever Fontejon ingested blew up her heart and other internal organs.
The University has always taken strong initiatives in order to thwart the proliferation of drugs among DLSU students. In light of Fontejon’s death, the University has taken a tougher stance against drugs.
Dean of Student Affairs Fritzie De Vera explains that the University has reached out to Fontejon’s family and friends following the incident, especially in terms of processing and counseling.
“What we’re doing in relation [to Bianca’s passing] is getting in touch with her family, and we actually wanted to gather all her friends and classmates for a debriefing with the counselors,” shares De Vera, who states that the University’s Office of Career and Counseling Services (OCCS) has been keeping in touch with the bereaved family and friends. “That’s actually protocol,” she explains.
The University also sponsored a mass for Fontejon last May 25 at Funeraria Paz in Sucat.
“In line with what happened, we want to inform or remind our students to be more careful,” De Vera comments. “In fact, that’s all part of our awareness campaign [against] drugs here at DLSU.”
Random drug testing
On May 25, the Student Discipline Formation Office (SDFO) released a photo which depicts green pills. Superimposed on the photo were the words, “Green Amore: It’s no party. This pill can kill.”
The SDFO is also the primary office in charge of upholding the student handbook and its provisions. A revised student handbook had been unveiled to the community earlier this academic year, which included a new provision in the Conduct of Lasallians’ Fight Against Drugs (LFAD) Drug Testing Program (DTP),” found in Appendix M.
On its first year of implementation, academic year (AY) 2015-2016, ID 115 students underwent random drug testing. Beginning next AY, however, all students will have to undergo drug testing as part of the Annual Physical Exam. For incoming freshmen (ID 116), drug test results will be required as part of the pre-enrollment medical examination.
As head of the Office of Student Affairs, De Vera acts as the chairperson of the selection board for the LFAD DTP. The SDFO and OCCS aid in the implementation of activities of the board, in terms of supervising the random drug test and handling counseling-related concerns, respectively.
Recently, 200 students were randomly selected to undergo drug testing. De Vera states that it generally received good feedback, especially from parents.
Moreover, De Vera discloses that drug testing is now also being conducted for administrators, faculty, staff, and contractual employees.
Monitoring activities of student organizations
Currently, student organizations are discouraged from holding activities outside of campus in view of recent events. “[This] is something temporary,” De Vera confirms.
“This is the last term of the academic year, and there are a lot of parties and activities that might be similar to what happened,” De Vera explains. “We’re reminding our student organizations that for parties or any similar event that they’re organizing, we want it to be held on campus.”
However, some organizations have already received clearance from the University to hold events outside campus. De Vera notes, “We’re making sure that those activities will be secured, that there will be adults there and not all students. We also prefer that [the events] be enclosed.”
“I appreciate some of the student orgs [that] are aware of this, so they’re the ones who approach us,” she says. “It’s a good thing there are orgs like that who are very conscientious.”
One event that was postponed to a later date is Jacko Wacko, a music festival spearheaded by student organization Englicom. The event was supposed to be held on June 11 at the same venue as that of Close Up Forever Summer, but organizers announced its postponement last June 3.
“Englicom is one with the DLSU community in mourning the loss of one of our own. We are extremely saddened by this tragedy, and would like to extend our deepest sympathies to the family of our fellow Lasallian. With this, Jacko Wacko 3: Storm Surge is postponed to a later date. Let us take this time to pay our respects to the victim and her loved ones,” the announcement said. It also stated that security and medical teams for the event would be upgraded in the meantime.
“We’re coordinating well with SLIFE (Office of Student Leadership Involvement, Formation and Empowerment) and DSA (Dean of Student Affairs) about Jacko Wacko [to] make sure everything goes well,” explains Englicom President Kimi Barra (V, CAM-ADV). “We’ve been coordinating with our security agency, the Pasay City police, PDEA, and various other organizations to ensure the safety of the participants in the event.” Barra adds that the organizers have changed the event venue.
“We’re making sure our students and our official activities are secure and safe,” emphasizes De Vera.
Moving the U Break
Moving the University Break (U Break) is also one suggestion to combat the prevalent “Happy Thursday” culture among DLSU students. On June 10, a town hall meeting was conducted to discuss a proposal to move the University break from Fridays to Mondays. The proposal aims to lessen students’ “excessive drinking” during Thursday evenings.
“The reason the [Academics Council] also made the [proposal] is that the Chancellor reminded us that we need to do something [about this problem],” shares De Vera. She asserts that the University must have measures to ensure the safety and security of students.
During the town hall meeting, Chancellor Dr. Gerardo Janairo revealed that he receives at least one call a month from the police informing him of students’ misconduct. He stated that he hopes for the proposal to address incidents of drunk students found lying on pavements.
De Vera notes that the Happy Thursday culture became popular due to the implementation of four-day school weeks for students, alluding to a time in 2011 when the school implemented a six-day class schedule. Under the Rationalized Classroom Utilization (RCU) scheme, U Break fell on Wednesdays, targeted at easing congestion on campus. However, this change did not last for long, as the University reverted to the old four-day schedule just a year after, in 2012.
“I know [these bars] were already serving liquor [before], pero hindi siya ka-problematic (but it wasn’t too much of a problem),” notes De Vera. When the University went back to having the four-day schedule, Thursdays became a day for “partying,” she says, “even if [the students] don’t have plans of drinking.”
The proposal to once again move the U Break was met with disapproval from the student body. Informal surveys conducted by the University Student Government showed that all batches across all colleges were against the proposal. The Council is set to deliberate on the proposal and come up with a final decision after mulling over insights gathered from the town hall meeting.
De Vera emphasizes the great need to find a way to discourage students from engaging in drugs. “We can only do so much, but there are certain things we can do to help eliminate [this type] of culture,” she ends.
with reports from Marinel Mamac