USJ-R to allow student in scandal to graduate; calls for protection of other students being ‘harassed’By Ador Vincent Mayol, Christine Emily L. Pantaleon
Cebu Daily News
No penalty will be imposed on the female student whose private sex video went viral on the Web in a scandal that had officials of a Catholic university showing compassion instead of anger.
Officials of the University of San Jose-Recoletos (USJ-R) announced their support for the 24-year-old woman, saying she would be allowed to graduate next month once she completes all academic requirements.
“The greater danger now is the one faced by all Josenians,” said Fr. Enrico Peter A. Silab, OAR, university president in a press conference yesterday.
He urged authorities to act on reports that USJR students were being harassed and ridiculed in public, a fall out of the scandal.
In a “solidarity Mass” attended on campus by hundreds of USJR students, faculty and alumni, Sila urged them to “hold your head up high — we are Josenians”. He said the scandal “does not define what and who we are.”
In the press conference, the USJR president explained that the school had quietly been taking steps to help the college senior even before the controversy broke out in January.
The student, whose name is being withheld, earlier told reporters she had “learned her lesson” in the scandal, which stemmed from intimate video images taken of her and her boyfriend two years ago with her consent.
She said the young man’s cellphone was stolen and that the video was uploaded by unidentified persons after they broke up two years ago.
“We take this as a special case. This should not be construed as a precedent to be emulated by the students. As the Scriptures says, ‘condemn the sin; not the sinner,” Fr. Silab said (Full text of school’s statement on Page 2).
Students at the campus lobby cheered as Fr. Silab read the school’s statement in a press conference that was aired live from the school’s conference room.
Silab said the female student can report to her professors outside of class for lessons, and that arrangements were already made to let her continue her internship and set a date for her thesis defense.
“The extent to which the school strategized to ensure that she could complete her studies shows there is no truth to reports that the school has excluded or expelled the student,” said Silab.
He confirmed thart an administrative investigation was started to determine if school policies were violated.
“An ongoing administrative investigation is focused on something different. It is not intended to implement sanctions but rather aimed at helping her to move on through counseling and psychological intervention,” Silab said.
Once the young woman completes her academic requirements and complies with the necessary procedures USJR will allow her to graduate, he added.
Fr. Amado Emmanuel Bolilia, OAR, vice president for academics of USJ-R, said the young woman can even join the commencement exercises next month.
“With all the stigma and trauma she’s going through right now, it’s more than enough. She has a “very good academic performance,” Bolilia said.
The woman’s lawyer Inocencio dela Cerna said his client was elated with the decison.
“My client is very pleased. She was indeed happy. What is important is that she will get her credentials and a certificate of good moral character,” dela Cerna told Cebu Daily News.
Starting Monday, Feb. 11, students of USJ-R shall resume wearing their uniforms after the requirement was suspended on Feb. 5 to prevent harassment of Josenians.
“We are proud Josenians and we will wear our uniforms. We will use our resources to pin down those who will bully our students,” Bolilia said, which drew more cheers from the students.
He said they don’t intend to change USJR’s school uniform in the wake of the sex video scandal.
Silab said USJ-R will provide legal assistance and counseling to its students who complain of harassment.
The university advised its students and faculty members to take “photographic recording or video evidence” for easier prosecution of those who bully them.
Silab called on authorities to help safeguard the well-being of their students.
He also condemned those who “uploaded, continue to upload, shared, continue to share, and maliciously commented” about the sex video.
“This incident does not define what and who we are. But it does present us with the opportunity to show to the rest of the world that we are courageous in dealing with issues such as this,” Silab said.
Acting Cebu Gov. Agnes Magpale said she will ask the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to help track down those who uploaded the sex video on the Internet. (see story on page 2)
Silab said the university learned about the sex video early last month and conducted an administrative investigation.
“But when the video became viral and reached the media, the investigation was overshadowed by the controvrsy and the student’s physical and psychological well-being became our main priority,” he said.
“Measures to ensure that she would finish her course with the minimum amount of exposure, so as to protect her privacy, were immediately put in place,” Silab said.
For the better
The young woman is taking up Hotel and Restaurant Management and was allowed to continue her internship.
Her thesis defense was scheduled and will proceed on the date set by her professor, Silab said.
“The material that has sparked this present controversy was made two years ago. A lot can change in a person in two years. And a lot did change for the better in the person in this present case,” he said.
Fr. Bolilia said they always revisit their student manuals to make it “pro-active” and updated.
“Rest assured, we are steps ahead to ensure the welfare of everybody. We are still proud Josenians. They won’t be wrong in choosing USJ-R,” he said.
He said they are not bothered by the possible effect the sex video may have on school enrollment.
“Whether or not our enrollment will increase is the least of our concern. What we take into consideration is the well-being of our students,” said lawyer Jonathan Capanas, dean of the USJ-R College of Law.
’About the students’
Jesus Velez, head of the Student Affairs Office (SAO) of USJ-R, said they are protecting the privacy and well-being of the student in the sex video.
Elaine Bathan, assistant dean of the USJ-R College of Law, said the incident was an isolated one.
“What happened should not define every Josenian. Our students are equipped with necessary morals and discipline,” she said.
The university will continue its administrative investigation to find out how to address the problem.
“We won’t stop. This has affected not just the student but the institution as well. Something should be done to stop this from happening again,” Bathan said.
Students like Glena Tapa, a sophomore taking up Mass Communication, said they will take photos or videos of those who bully or heckle them.
“For me, it’s stupid for people to stereotype us,” she said.
“Looy sad sya…Morag gi-prove lang sad sa school bah (She’s pitiful…what the school proved is that) they are not about the reputation, but they are about the students,” Tapa said.