San Beda College founding principle ‘bans’ fraternities
When San Beda College (SBC) announced, following the recent death of freshman law student Mark Andre Marcos, that it did not allow fraternities—and sororities, for that matter—people thought it was an overreaction, a panicked, impractical, unrealistic response to a serious problem.
Marcos was the second SBC law student to die this year as a result of hazing, a violent frat ritual where aspiring members are subjected to extreme physical abuse by so-called masters.
Earlier this year, Marvin Reglos, also an SBC law freshman, succumbed to injuries sustained from hazing.
But SBC’s ban on Greek letter organizations is not a reaction to the tragic incidents or even the existing antihazing law.
Dr. Joffre Alajar, chair of the accountancy department and assistant vice dean for accountancy, business cluster and legal management, explains that the ban has been in effect since SBC’s founding.
It is rooted on Chapter 65 of “The Rule of St. Benedict.” The patron saint of Europe and students is, of course, the founder of the Benedictine Order of monks that operates the SBC.
Technically, the chapter provides a guideline for the organization of the Benedictine Order. But it also guides the running of Benedictine schools.
The rule, Alajar says, discourages anything that may lead to “envy, discord, slander, quarrels, jealousy and disorders.” Frats and sororities are likely sources of those things.
Besides, Alajar points out, SBC started as an exclusive boys school and as such was already some kind of fraternity. It was only in 2002 that the whole college became coeducational, although the College of Law became coed much earlier.
Alajar says, following the recent incidents, the school has taken steps to remind students of the principle on which the school was founded. The student handbook has been revised, the changes effective immediately, “to provide for a clear policy on student organizations.”
The school will do more than just give out the handbooks. Since victims of frat violence are mainly freshmen, Alajar says, “during interviews with new students, the guidance counselor and admissions officer would (explain to them) the policy … regarding frats and related matters.”
In fact, during the last orientation, the science department showed a video of violent initiation rites, no doubt prompted by the Reglos incident. Alajar says he does not know how they managed to get the video.
Students, other than members of the orientation committee, will be prohibited from interacting with incoming freshmen as “it is usually during this time that frats recruit members,” says Alajar.
Reminders about nonrecognition of frats will be posted in different parts of the school and students will be asked to sign waivers that state they will not join frats, only recognized sociocivic, cultural and other organizations of the same bent.
Signing the waiver means they will be willing to face the consequences, including expulsion, for any infraction.
Alajar says that, for the undergraduates, especially the new students, they will even require the parents to sign.
However, he points out that most frats are in the law school where the students are older and supposed to already be discerning adults who do not need as much parental supervision as the others.
From the first day, Alajar says the school will state in unequivocal terms that it does not recognize frats, much less condone hazing. Students will be asked to list down the organizations they plan to join.
Alajar belies any impression that the school is sweeping the hazing issue under the rug.
He reports that, although seven of the 40 students implicated in the Reglos case were able to graduate as the incident happened at the end of school year 2011-12, the College of Law informed the Supreme Court that there were pending administrative cases against them for suspected membership in a fraternity.
Presumably this will affect their chances of becoming full-fledged lawyers.
The school also disqualified from enrollment and/or allowed the voluntary withdrawal from SBC of 16 other students.
The remaining 17 have denied membership in a fraternity. They are conditionally enrolled pending verification of their claims.
In the Marcos case, a committee of discipline started its investigation of the administrative aspect of the case on Aug. 6. Any student proven guilty of violating the ban on fraternities will be expelled, he says.
Although alleged frat members were identified by recruits, Alajar admits the code of silence that governs the organizations is hampering their efforts at pinpointing those responsible for the recent incidents.
He adds that the school is fully cooperating with law enforcers in the investigation.
Alajar says they are also banking on the cooperation of other sectors—family, government (particularly the legislature) and alumni—in enforcing the frat ban.
Realizing that many alumni, including faculty members, are frat members—most of them from the law school—he says the Law Alumni Association plans to hold a dialogue with alumni who are frat members to ask for their help in finding a solution to the problem of fraternities and hazing.
The SBC official, who has been with the school since he was a student, says the problem is rather new for them. “People seem to have a greater need to belong and (to have) the connections when it is time to find a job. (They are also told) when they join a frat, they will have access to past exams (making it easier to pass tests) and they will have an edge in the job market.”
Sense of belonging
He says, “We have to make them realize this is not true. They should already feel a sense of belonging (when they enroll in the school as) San Beda is already a fraternity, a family.”
At present, the school has a student population of about 7,000—modest by university standards, but “an anomaly” in the Benedictine confederation where schools average only 700. “The arts and sciences unit already has 4,000 and law has more than 1,000,” he says.
Alajar adds that SBC’s outstanding performance in the annual bar examinations—96.55-percent passing rate in 2011—should be more than enough recommendation for its new law graduates. Almost every year an SBC law graduate is among the top 10 bar examinees.
Alajar, who says the school does not want any violence in and outside the campus, says they dream of a frat or sorority founded on reverence for life, respect for diversity, rule of law and “hazing” that is in the form of community service.
Toward this end, they are organizing dialogues with students, writing to parents to seek their cooperation in discouraging children from joining frats and sororities.
He says that for the Benedictine fathers who consider themselves shepherds and the students their flock, the victims of hazing were not just those who died and members of their family but also the people who caused them violence.
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