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On the “bikini pics” issue and campus democratic rights

 

bikini_at_beachIt is not surprising that the public is outraged upon news of moves of certain schools to impose grave sanctions upon their students, among them, barring these students from graduation, because of belief by some administrators that they have committed acts “offensive to the schools’ values,” mainly because of photos of them seen on social networking sites.

A few days ago, it was reported that 2 students from a Catholic school in Cebu have been prohibited from joining graduation ceremonies due to what the administration believed were “obscene” photos posted on their Facebook accounts. Aside from administrative sanctions, the students also said they were insulted verbally, and that the school administration told them that they have “loose morals, drunks, and drug addicts.”

A day after, a similar incident involving six students enrolled in a private school in Marikina was reported. The students were barred from graduation and were not given diplomas after posting online photos of them simulating a kiss in public.

These punitive acts based on medieval notions of “propriety” and “morality” are oppressive, unjust and reactionary. The moves clearly violate the students’ democratic and constitutional rights, not to mention the emotional and psychological trauma these acts will inflict.

We laud the decision of Cebu Regional Trial Court to implement a Temprary Restraining Order and which upholds the right of the student against discrimination and to due process. We hope that it sets a precedent for other cases of the same nature.

These incidents show only the tip of the iceberg. Repressive and fascist-like acts of the same nature are being implemented in most schools in the country. There are numbers of reports of students being punished and even expelled from schools due to exercise of freedom to expression, organization and association, and are being punished for their political advocacies or religious beliefs.

There should be a thorough review of the state of campus and student rights in the country. Basic rights and civil liberties are not waived nor nullified once a student enrolls or enters a school. In the same light, “academic freedom” or “autonomy” could never mean that a school is exempted from respecting human rights.

Government should act and make sure student rights are respected in campuses. There are also moves to pass legislation to make sure students’ rights are respected in campuses.

Among these, Kabataan Partylist’s HB 4842 or the Students Rights Bill.

An integral part of this holistic development is their right to organize and join youth organizations, to exercise their freedom of speech and of expression, and to exercise their academic freedoms within our nation’s campuses. These rights are mandated by no less than the Constitution itself, Section 13 of Article II of which states that the State should protect and promote the youth’s physical, moral, spiritual, intellectual and social well-being.

 

It is worth noting that when a student becomes a member of an academic community, he or she should not be stripped off of his or her rights. Often cited is a quotation from an American case,“Students do not shed their rights at the schoolhouse gates.” Unfortunately, the reverse is fast becoming the common experience of many of our students. It is this repressive condition, therefore,that necessities the creation of a measure to re-affirm the rights of our students. The creation of this measure , in effect, aims also instigate the cultivation of a free studentry whose welfare and interests are protected and advanced.

Moreover, these incidents also warrant, at the very least, a discussion and review of the general repressive and reactionary character of our educational system. These prevailing policies are indicative of the type of education we have: one that wishes that young people remain an army of uncritical, passive and obedient servants of the feudal status quo.

 

Written for BlogWatch

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