Bystander effect: the curious case of Chancellor Cruz


Despite all the clamour against issues that have blatantly smacked the welfare of the students recently and all the efforts to reach out for immediate substantial actions, it appears none had been enough to incite Chancellor Cruz to take any sizeable step.

Chancellor Rex Victor Cruz, who succeeded former chancellor Luis Rey Velasco in 2011, is now approaching the end of his sophomore year as the University’s primary executive officer. As with previous chancellors, his first two years in post is not an exemption from various difficulties that have struck the studentry. However, the lack of necessary actions to these issues further aggregates the problems which, in turn, burden the students.

Unattended vows
Prior to his election by the Board of Regents, Cruz presented his vision of “One University, One Goal, One Destiny for UPLB”. This vision is steered by his five point thematic agenda namely Governance for Growth and Unity; Innovation and Transdisciplinary [sic] Programs for Excellence, Collaboration and Integration; Resource Generation for Productivity; Enhancing Support Systems for Empowerment and Inspiration; and Extending the Reach of UPLB for Visibility, Partnership and Nation-Building. Yet, after almost two years, these agendas proved to be just details of florid vows that are yet to be felt by the student body.

Under these agendas, Cruz also cited the essence of “individual commitment to be of service to the country and the willingness to work together as one university pursuing one goal towards a common destiny as a genuine public service university.”

Nonetheless, these appear to be ironic slogans as evidenced by the chancellor’s hands-off manner of resolving student issues.

On Bible distribution to freshmen
The annual campus tour for freshman students last June 9 saw the distribution of around 2,500 bibles spearheaded by Office of Student Affairs (OSA) Director Dr. Leticia Afuang. This incident stirred immediate attention and was denounced by various students. Several students expressed contempt and considered the incident a violation of the principle that UP shall uphold a secular university.

Article 3 of the UP code details the purpose of the university to uphold “a national university, a public and secular institution of higher learning, and a community of scholars dedicated to the search for truth and knowledge”. The act of distributing bibles is to the students in an attempt to inculcate a certain religion is obviously a flagrant violation of this provision of the UP code.

However, despite various calls of the students for the Chancellor to take necessary actions regarding the issue, Chancellor Cruz played a safe position. His sole action was issuing a statement claiming “additional mechanisms are being discussed to ensure that the University continues to respect plurality and diversity of faiths and beliefs of its constituents and the community”. However, more than two months have passed, the Chancellor has not yet presented nor clarified these “additional mechanisms” that will supposedly ensure the plurality and diversity of beliefs.

Moreover, no sanctions or any substantial step has been done by Chancellor Cruz regarding Dr. Afuang. Calls for at least a public apology from the OSA director have been left as mere petitions. This is not the first instance that such incident has happened. Last year’s leadership training seminar also witnessed a similar episode. Furthermore, several students have also confirmed that it has been common for Dr. Afuang to preach her religion in her classes, no matter how the curriculum deems unnecessary. It is intolerable that with all of these violations, the Chancellor remains hands-off from the issue.

On Student Housing Rights
Cruz’s entry to office welcomed him with a staggering 100-percent increase in dorm fee, excluding additional appliance fees. In view of this, he included in the vision paper he presented in 2011 certain agendas aimed to promote the welfare of student dormers. Under the fourth point of his five-point thematic plan, he detailed his mandate to “Develop a system for assisting students find decent and affordable accommodation”. This system includes regulatory measure to ensure quality and safe accommodation in and off campus, infrastructureimprovement, and steady water supply to dormitories.

Nearly two years have passed, his promises to uphold the welfare of student dormers still remains but a lyrical prose to ears of the student body, which is however, not as sweet as it was before.
Various violations against student dormers have been recorded since Cruz assumed office. Such violations which are repressive in nature include citing a dormer for insubordination for voicing out her concern on dorm issues; telling old dormers to appeal for a renewal of their residency even though in fact, no more slots are available; and imposing other such provisions on dormitories and housing units without proper student consultation.

Several students also slammed the lack of security and privacy in the vicinity of the dormitories. Instead of the promised deployment of guards for every dormitory, personnel of the Community Security Brigade (CSB) who are unarmed and sans proper training are the ones tasked to guard the dormitories. Some students also reported dorm personnel inspecting rooms without the consent of the dormers.

These are all at odds with the visions of the Chancellor, whose actions up to now regarding these matters are still limited to petty dialogues. The studentry of the university is still calling for Cruz to take considerable and genuine measures to repeal these repressive and anti-student housing policies and promote, as he envisioned, decent and affordable accommodations.

On Org Recognition
The Student Organizations and Activities Division of the Office of Student Affairs (SOAD-OSA) recently added to their long list of repressive policies their proposed rules for org recognition. Under this rules are strict requirements that are rather needless and impractical which a student organization needs to fulfil first before gaining recognition from the University. These requirements varies from the required 80% of the members to have good academic standing, required submission of financial and activity reports, by laws, constitutions, and to even the submission of a detailed profile of each individual member. Moreover, SOAD-OSA issued a provision to cut the recruitment process of student organizations to a maximum of three days.

These rulings against student orgs infringes the basic rights of the people as declared in the Article 3 Section 4 of the 1987 Constitution which states that “No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.”

A persistent call
With a little over than two years remaining for the Chancellor before he steps down from his first term, it is imperative that he reconsider these issues and push forward a significant solution for each. Once again, the students call for the chancellor to promote a genuine pro-student, pro-people UP. Rest assured that this call will not be in vain. For if ever these thundering clamours fail to reach the Chancellor, it will still surely be heard and echo throughout the student ranks delivering a certain message.[P]

UPLB Perspective is the official student publication of the University of the Philippines Los Baños, established in 1973. It is the first campus publication established under Martial Law in the Philippines.

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