ILOILO CITY—The University of the Philippines (UP) Visayas administration has ordered the scrapping of a controversial annual fundraising activity at the freshman dormitories in its campus in Miag-ao town following an outcry from several alumni and teachers.
In a statement issued on March 15, the UP Visayas said it had ordered a permanent stop to the “Auction Night” at the freshman dormitories Balay Kanlaon and Balay Lampirong after the activity drew protests for putting minors to potential abuse and harassment.
The traditional fundraising-cum-dating event, which started in 2005, involves the “auctioning” of several students with the highest bidders awarded the right to spend 24 hours with the “auctionees.” Rules of the event forbid sexually related activities.
Proceeds, which range from several hundreds to thousands of pesos per auctionee, are used by the dormitory councils for their activities.
This year’s Auction Night held on February 20 at the Balay Kanlaon dormitory drew criticisms after its Facebook event page displayed a sexually suggestive photo collage of scantily clad young men and women with their faces cropped out. The photo has since been removed from the page after it was criticized.
An article criticizing the event posted at the Philippine Online Chronicle by Karlo Mongaya, former editor in chief of Pagbutlak, the official student publication of the UP Visayas College of Arts and Sciences, drew various reactions from those supporting and opposing the activity.
UP Visayas professor Mary Barby Badayos-Jover, an alumnus of the university, raised concern over the effects of the activity on the young students especially on their perception of gender issues and on viewing human beings as commodities.
The event was “highly skewed on various levels,” Jover said in a Feb. 21 letter to UP Visayas chancellor Rommel Espinosa.
She pointed out that auctioning students aged 16 to 17 years old was contradictory to the university’s efforts to foster gender-sensitivity and “even borders on child sexual abuse, sexual harassment and outright sexual trafficking.”
“Dormitories are assumed to be safe havens for our students and not a source of distress and promoter of condemnable notions and acts,” she said in her letter.
In ordering a stop to the annual activity, the UP Visayas administration said that the Office of Students Affairs (OSA) has already issued a memorandum permanently stopping the Auction Night.
It said the students “will have to find other innovative and creative ways to do fundraising events.”
The OSA is also reviewing policies and guidelines on dormitories and their activities. It is also planning to institute new policies including stricter requirements on holding dorm activities and requiring students organizations to undergo gender-sensitivity training.
Jover said those opposing the activity were “quite saddened” that a number of UP Visayas constituents see criticisms of the activity as “simply an overreaction or sensationalism.”