POP GOES THE WORLD By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 11 October 2012, Thursday
The September 30 editorial “Of lemons and cowards” published on the University of Santo Tomas’s “The Varsitarian” student publication website, assaulted the pro-reproductive health bill stance of some professors from two other Roman Catholic universities and in so doing did more harm to its cause than good.
The cliché-studded, grammatically-challenged, and logically flawed Varsitarian piece called the pro-RH Ateneo de Manila University and De La Salle University faculty members “intellectual mercenaries” and “intellectual pretenders and interlopers,” while contradicting itself by claiming that by joining “the bandwagon,” they are “dishonest and don’t have the courage of their intellectual conviction.” Does not the fact that these professors came out in support of the controversial RH Bill show courage and conviction?
I got a laugh out of this declaration: “It’s quite shocking that Ateneo and La Salle professors should harbor naïve and misguided thinking about health and social problems.” I can imagine an elderly maiden aunt with hand on breast saying this, but a student? Que horror!
Please go online and read the entire piece (if you haven’t yet) to savor the full flavor of its arrogance, fanaticism, and claim of moral ascendancy and superiority.
But then again, as the editorial pointed out, Catholic and all sectarian universities have their own house rules that, if broken, would merit sanction by the school administration, and UST professors do not have the liberty allowed the faculty of AdMU and DLSU to publicly declare their personal beliefs if these are against UST’s.
According to the Varsitarian editorial, “It is quite gratifying that UST has cracked the whip and reminded its faculty members that they’re members of a Catholic institution and should toe the line.
“UST Secretary General Fr. Winston Cabading, O.P. [said in a letter that] “In the light of recent events where some faculty members of Catholic universities have publicly expressed dissenting positions from the Catholic bishops on matters of faith and morals, we in the University would like to reaffirm our fidelity to the magisterium of the Church as the Catholic University of the Philippines.”
Cabading’s letter was also quoted as stating “all faculty members of the University are to refrain from teaching or expressing their personal opinions within the bounds of the University anything contrary to Catholic faith and morals.”
There you go. House rules. But those are UST’s, and thankfully, not AdMU’s nor DLSU’s, otherwise there’d be two fewer universities that allow scope for intellectual freedom and critical thinking. It is good to know that the Jesuits of AdMU and Christian Brothers of DLSU treat their faculty members as the professionals that they are, and not slaves that have to be made to toe the line with cracks of the whip.
Soon after the Varsitarian’s editorial was posted online, it drew many negative reactions ranging from furious comments to satirical blog posts.
With public outrage on the boil, UST administration then felt a need for some damage control by coming out with a statement on October 9 that while it supports the Varsitarian “in its stand against the RH bill…the University does not impose its will nor exercise prior restraint on the opinions of the school paper’s writers nor the manner by which they are expressed.
“Thus, the opinion expressed…insofar as it supposedly called the pro-RH Bill professors of the Ateneo de Manila University and the De La Salle University as “intellectual pretenders and interlopers” does not bear the University’s imprimatur.”
Save for that crack againt the pro-RH professors, then, the rest of the piece has UST’s support. This is not surprising, given that the letter of Father Cabading’s was no less than a directive.
The student publications of AdMU and DLSU reacted with their own editorials on October 9.
AdMU’s “The Guidon”, in its “Our duties as student journalists,” said, “Throughout its 84-year history, The Varsitarian has certainly had many moments of brilliance, but this most recent piece is an unfortunate stain on that record…
“With our conviction that a student newspaper must promote rational dialogue and the fruitful exchange of ideas for the benefit of the larger community, we find The Varsitarian’s willingness to employ a kind of dismissive language that verges on the fanatical as completely unacceptable.”
DLSU’s “La Sallian” came out with “With all due respect”: “In our opinion, however, the method of expression used [in the Varsitarian] to express the matter veered away from the real issue, while creating new and unnecessary ones…
“The RH Bill is an important issue that deserves constructive discourse. None of this constructive discourse, however, can come from ad hominem lambasting from any of the parties involved, whether Pro-RH or Anti-RH. We believe in sticking to the issues, and backing conclusions with substantial, objective arguments.”
DLSU’s “Ang Pahayagang Plaridel”, in its “Responsableng pagpiglas sa malayang pamamahayag”, chided The Varsitarian for forgetting the true spirit (diwa) of an editorial, and for putting down the AdMU and DLSU professors while crowing about UST’s superiority (pagbubuhat ng sariling bangko).
You do not need to emphasize the faults of others, Plaridel said, to raise and prove the truth of what you are fighting for, adding “Mas magiging lubos ang kahulugan ng mga pahayag kung may sarili itong pundasyong magpapatibay sa kredibilidad ng mensaheng nais nitong iparating.” (Any declaration would be more meaningful if it were built on a foundation strengthened by the credibility of the message it wishes to convey.)
Their editorial cartoon is the best I have ever seen in my entire life.
But UST has its own house rules. It can do whatever it wants, like waiving its own academic requirements by bestowing a PhD degree upon former Supreme Court chief justice Renato Corona by accepting a public lecture in lieu of a dissertation. (Shocking!)
The Varsitarian said the pro-RH AdMU and DLSU professors should resign from those universities for their anti-Catholic stance.
In the same manner, students and faculty can take what UST’s dishing out, or leave it. They can choose to stay where whips are cracked or they can choose to belong to a school that values and encourages intellectual liberty, critical thinking, and freedom of speech – the hallmarks of a rational institution that promotes genuine education and edification. ***