By ANNA KRISTINA P. VIRTUSIO and CHARMAINE P. LIRIO
QUEZON CITY — As the premier educational institution in the country, the University of the Philippines has been regarded for decades as the epitome of academic freedom and excellence. But with the near approval of the new code of conduct for students in the university, these principles may remain elusive ideals.
On March 2, 2009, the Office for Vice-Chancellor for Student Affairs (OVCSA) released a draft of the revised Code of Student Conduct through the UP Diliman website. It is a product of the review ccommittee chaired by Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Elizabeth L. Enriquez, which was formed in July 2006.
According to the primer released by the administration, the new code seeks to create a new document that will cover all existing rules and regulations on student conduct and affairs.
“At present the rules have not adequately addressed issues in student discipline,” the UP administration said in its primer.
The new code, the administration said, also aims to hasten the pace of resolving student disciplinary cases in the university.
“The rules are outdated and are becoming increasingly inefficient. Moreover, new types of offenses have come into existence due to changing times and circumstances, which are not adequately addressed by the current rules,” the primer reads.
On May 14, students of UP Diliman gathered in the university to discuss the new code, which they deemed as unconstitutional.
Jacquelyn Eroles, University Student Council vice chairperson, said, “Nilalabag nito ang mismong batayang karapatan natin bilang tao at tinitibag ang mismong pundasyon ng unibersidad na dapat ay tumatalima sa academic freedom.” (“It violates our basic human rights and destroys the very foundation of the university: academic freedom.”)
“Sa proseso pa lang na dinaanan ng Student Code of Conduct, malinaw na hindi nakamtan ng mga estudyante ang kanilang karapatan,” said Eroles. (“From the [drafting] process of the Student Code of Conduct, it is clear that the students were deprived of their right.”)
Despite the insistence of the University Student Council to participate in the drafting of the new code, Eroles said, no student representative was included in the drafting committee. She added that organizations were also not consulted in the process.
A burden to organizations
The Ugnayan ng Mag-aaral Laban sa Komersyalisasyon (Umaksyon– Coalition of Students Against Commercialization) maintained that the new code violates the students’ right to association because of stringent requirements for the recognition of university-based organizations. The group said the new code may result in the dissolution of student organizations.
The code presents new rules to organizations. The already painstaking recognition process that organizations must go through every year has become even more complicated.
The new code requires that for university-wide student organizations to be recognized, their membership must constitute at least 0.05 percent of the total eligible population of students in UP Diliman. This translates to at least 80 to 100 members.
According to Umaksyon, by this requirement alone, 168 out of the 237 organizations in UP would not qualify for recognition. To make matters worse, university-wide organizations with 49 percent or more of its members coming from a single college would be disqualified from university recognition.
The new code prohibits recruitment of freshmen and newly transferred students. It also requires organizations to have faculty advisers.
The group believes that the new set of rules for organizations would just add to the problems that organizations are already facing like the lack of lounge areas, higher fees for the use of facilities and strict regulations on publicity materials.
Aside from these, organizations will also have to allow university authorities to inspect their lounge areas and go over their documents. They will also be required to submit a detailed accounting of finances and to disclose information about their members and officers.