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Thursday, April 18, 2024

UST vows to uphold student rights amid alleged violation, censorship

2 min readOng, currently the assistant principal for student formation at the UST Senior High School (SHS), was appointed OIC of the student affairs department after its director, Maria Cecilia Tio Cuison, sought a medical leave.
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Published about 1 month ago on March 15, 2024

by TomasinoWeb


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Photo from University of Santo Tomas website


The University of Santo Tomas (UST) pledged to uphold student rights and look into its policies, amidst allegations of student rights violations and censorship, in a statement on Thursday, March 14.

Newly appointed Office of the Student Affairs (OSA) Officer-In-Charge (OIC) Asst. Prof. Jaezamie V. Ong has been tasked to lead a technical working group that will dialogue with representatives of student organizations and review student and organization policies and guidelines, including the implementation of the Campus Journalism Act.

Ong, currently the assistant principal for student formation at the UST Senior High School (SHS), was appointed OIC of the student affairs department after its director, Maria Cecilia Tio Cuison, sought a medical leave.

“The University shall continue to uphold the rights of students balanced by a strong commitment to foster an environment conducive to learning and responsible development,” the statement, posted on the University's official Facebook page, read.

The OSA has been in hot water after it ordered TomasinoWeb last month to take down a photo featuring College of Information and Computing Sciences students wearing their type B uniforms in front of a 7/11 branch inside the campus.

The student organization was also forced to issue a public apology, which led to the resignation-in-protest of its then adviser, UST journalism instructor Leo Laparan II.

Thursday’s statement was the first time the University spoke about this issue, and comes after widespread condemnation from individuals and groups inside and outside the University.

The criticism has escalated into calls for Rector Fr. Richard Ang, O.P., to terminate Tio Cuison and her deputy, Maria Regina Arriero. In an open letter to the rector posted on the Rise for Education-España Facebook page on Wednesday evening, several organizations and student councils said the two should be sacked for alleged “campus repression and abuse of power through orders to show cause; media censorship; and intimidation.”

TomasinoWeb was one of the open letter’s signatories, which also included the Artlets Student Council, UST Senior High School Student Council, Kabataan Partylist-UST, and Anakabayan-UST, among others.

Annie Agon of the Kabataan Partylist-UST explained that the letter was made to “encourage” fellow Thomasians to speak up and share their experiences of repression caused by the OSA.

“Dapat hindi lang mismo ang heads ng OSA ang matanggal kung hindi ang buong kaugalian nito na mapanupil sa estudyante, dahil kung papalitan lang din naman yan ng ibang mga admin sa loob ng OSA at coordinators nito sa mga colleges ay walang magbabago,” Kabataan Partylist stated through Agon..

Allen Ballesteros, Chairperson of progressive group Anakbayan-UST, and who was summoned by the UST SHS Student Welfare and Development Committee last year for joining an organization not recognized by the University, said that the OSA failed to uphold its vision of a "paragon of excellence in holistic student development."

“The full political participation of the majority of the student body, alongside other sectors, is the most acute manifestation of practicing genuine democracy inside our campus. OSA cannot improve without pressure and mobilization from students that want change,” he said.

TomasinoWeb has reached out to the Student Affairs department regarding the open letter and has yet to receive a response from the office.

UST officials could also be called to testify at the House of Representatives after Kabataan Party-List Rep. Raoul Manuel filed a resolution on Monday, March 11, seeking a House probe on censorship and threats on TomasinoWeb and other alleged student rights violations within the University.

House Resolution 1633 is co-authored by Gabriela Women's Partylist Rep. Arlene D. Brosas and ACT-Teacher’s Partylist Rep. France L Castro.

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