October 20, 2023
MANILA – The University of the Philippines (UP) on Thursday said it was investigating reports of “inappropriate” activities of student organizations on the Diliman campus, especially those that could be alleged as sexual harassment.
The UP Office of the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs (OVCSA) said it would determine whether the organizations violated university policies and “compromised the safety and security” of students and other members of the UP Diliman (UPD) community.
“Acts that jeopardize our safe spaces are never condoned,” it said in a statement.
The OVCSA did not name the organizations but its statement came after a list of “dares” created by the UP Junior Marketing Association (JMA) and of the “scavenger hunt” by the UP Economics Society (Ecosoc) for their members went viral online.
Based on screenshots leaked on X (formerly Twitter), the JMA “dare games” consisted of tasks like “running around a public place with just your underwear” and giving a “back hug to your grandmother/mother then grabbing her boobs from behind.”
The organization did not deny the existence of the so-called dares, saying that these were part of its annual internal “committee wars.”
JMA, known for advocating women and gender rights in the university, said that it was not required for the members nor applicants to participate in the dares and that “steps were made to ensure that consent is given at every level.”
“We realize the grave hypocrisy in championing the needs, rights, and welfare of women and the LGBT+ sector, all while holding an activity that is in direct opposition to everything we stand for as an organization,” it said in a statement on Tuesday.
A list of Ecosoc’s internal activities was also leaked anonymously online. Some of the tasks listed were taking a video of the members’ pubic hair and sexual “moans” by women, among others.
Responding to the online flak, Ecosoc apologized for the “distress” that the activities had caused to its members.
“We have been actively working with the UP School of Economics Student Council, the University Student Council (USC), and other relevant parties to resolve the issues at hand,” Ecosoc said in a statement on Wednesday.
The two organizations decided to suspend their internal activities as they vowed to undertake measures and reforms that would improve the welfare of their groups.
The USC withdrew the accreditations of JMA and Ecosoc as two of the five “nighthandlers,” or organizers of the university’s annual advocacy-led music fair, known as “UP Fair” next year.
JMA was supposedly tasked with handling the “Women and Gender Night” during the fair.
“The UPD USC and the UP Fair Core Team condemn the culture of violence and impunity manifested in these initiatives. Such acts infringe on the right of the students and the community to exist in safe spaces, and have no place in the University,” the council said in a statement.
UP Babaylan, an LGBTQ+ group based in the university, earlier denounced JMA for the dare games that it said were “meant to humiliate and malign others” with some even bordering on sexual harassment. “Violence has no place in UP,” said Babaylan, adding that whether the members consented to do the tasks, such violent activities “should not exist in the first place—most especially for an organization that champions safe spaces.”
The UPD Office of Anti-Sexual Harassment on Thursday reiterated the school’s position that “all forms of sexual harassment are unacceptable.”
Based on the 2017 UP Anti-Sexual Harassment Code, any member of the UP community is liable for such an act if he or she directly participates, or induces or directs others to commit any sexual harassment.
The maximum penalty for the offense is the retraction of an organization’s accreditation or recognition and expulsion of individual students or teaching and nonteaching staff, depending on the gravity of the act or acts. Offenders may also be suspended and the suspension may be converted into community service, which would include counseling and “rehabilitative measures.”