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USG, DLSU students call for University reforms amid ‘problematic culture’ of sexual harassment

“It’s kind of scary,” expresses Galilee Tan (I, AB-SOC) as she recounts stories of sexual harassment in DLSU.

Empowered by the personal anecdotes that have been posted online, Tan herself shared online her experience of abuse and harassment from her former boyfriend—a De La Salle-Santiago Zobel School (DLSZ) alumnus and a current DLSU student. She has since begun a movement called The Naked Truth, calling for proactive measures within the University to ensure a safer space for all.

Her advocacy had its start last July 12 after screenshots from 2018 resurfaced online, showing several male students from DLSZ making lewd remarks toward female schoolmates—mostly minors—on a private Facebook Group, with an incumbent Business College Government (BCG) officer being among the groups’s participants.

Out in the open

Tan first filed a case against her former boyfriend to the Student Discipline Formation Office (SDFO) early this year. Having witnessed firsthand how her sexual harassment case was handled, she asserts that the University’s response system is “lacking in something”.

She recounts how the team assigned to her case was “very insensitive” during their first and last meeting last May. “They didn’t even read my incident report [before the meeting],” she notes. 

While she believes that it was probably not the office’s intention to appear apathetic, “It made me feel like I’m just a problem for them to solve [and] they just [wanted] to get this out of the way.”

As of press time, Tan has not received any updates or follow-up questions from SDFO after the aforementioned meeting. 

The LaSallian had also approached Ramon V. del Rosario College of Business (RVRCOB) President Nathan Driz for an update on the ongoing case with the BCG officer. He declined to provide further comment as details on the matter remain highly confidential.

Efforts made

Strides toward building a safer campus environment have been long-standing issues for student leaders. Early last year, the Legislative Assembly (LA) drafted a manifesto on sexual harassment following a claim made by an anonymous student via Facebook of a Marketing and Advertising Department (MAD) professor that sexually harassed her and her classmates. The post caught the attention of University administrators, who replied to the post assuring that an investigation was underway. 

The manifesto was unanimously passed by the LA, but it was never published.

Maegan Ragudo, FAST2018 LA Representative, promised to “[lobby] for a strengthened Anti-Sexual Harassment and Discrimination policy” during the 2019 General Elections. Ragudo is now a proponent of the DLSU Safe Spaces Initiative, which is backed by University Student Government (USG) President Lance Dela Cruz. 

As of press time, the draft of the said initiative is “in its final stages”, according to Dela Cruz.

The USG President also acknowledges the quick action taken by the USG on recent cases such as the one involving the aforementioned BCG officer and an incident involving a part-time faculty member from MAD.

Last June 14, the aforementioned faculty crafted a Facebook post insinuating that Sen. Risa Hontiveros should be sexually harassed by New Bilibid Prison inmates, following the senator’s statement against rape culture to “teach men not to rape”. The USG denounced the faculty’s Facebook post and immediately coordinated with DLSU administrators. A day after the incident went viral, MAD Chair Mary Julie Balarbar confirmed that the faculty member’s contract has not been renewed for Term 3.

A systematic change

Yet, despite these efforts, Dela Cruz stresses that changes still need to be made in the University. The USG President criticizes the male-dominated composition of the University’s Committee on Decorum and Investigation—the body that deals with sexual harassment cases sent to the SDFO—asserting that the imbalance could prevent the committee from properly empathizing with victims. 

Ayokong puro lalaki ‘yung nakaupo dealing with cases that predominantly affect women,” Dela Cruz expresses. 

(I dislike that mostly men are dealing with cases that predominantly affect women.)

Along with ensuring that justice is served, Dela Cruz emphasizes that the victims’ well-being should also be a top priority. “[We need] to make sure that from accommodating their cases down to investigating and giving the right ruling for the cases, naproprotektahan ‘yung biktima,” he furthers.

(The victims must be protected.)

Dela Cruz says that his office has coordinated with the Office of Counseling and Career Services to “[ensure] na may proper counseling sila (victims) so that they would be able to deal with the situation.” 

Tan also continues to advocate for a systematic change in the University. Under the unifying call of #DLSZDoBetter, she had embarked on documenting malicious public tweets and created a “masterlist”, which she initially planned to publicize to “bring [the incidents] to the attention of the [University] administration.”

“Our plans have changed since then,” she shares, having instead been in contact with both the USG and DLSZ Alumni Association to take “a passive role [and] educate [through] online platforms about [stopping] sexual harassment and the discirmination against women” and to tackle “toxic masculinty”.

“To put an end to this kind of culture—to this kind of problematic culture—we really need a systemic change in our policies,” reiterates Dela Cruz. He hopes that during his term, the University’s policy on sexual harassment will change “down to the very people” who decide the internal policies of the University so that students will be “reassured that the system [is] working for them.”

By Kim Balasabas

By Enrico Sebastian Salazar

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