Thursday, October 11, 2012

A controversial editorial

published October 10, 2012, MST, page A5

After Senator Tito Sotto and the Cybercrime Prevention Act—against which the Supreme Court issued a 120-day temporary restraining order Tuesday—Filipino netizens are venting their collective ire on something new.

This time, it is an editorial that appeared in the latest issue of The Varsitarian, the University of Santo Tomas’ official publication. The 1,565-word essay entitled “RH bill, Ateneo and La Salle: Of Lemons and Cowards” also appears in www.varsitarian.net. The headline is a dead giveaway to what the editorial contains.

The piece, after establishing UST’s unequivocal stand against the controversial reproductive health bill, challenges its own faculty members: If you don’t agree with the school, then you have a problem. You must resign.

Fine, but that is not really what the editorial is about. It proceeds to criticize the 192 Ateneo and 45 La Salle professors for going against the Church’s teachings. “They are dishonest and do not have the courage of their intellectual conviction….They want to have their cake and eat it, too. They’re intellectual mercenaries, nothing more, nothing less.”

The editorial likewise attacks the administrators of Ateneo and La Salle for treating the RH-supporting professors with kid gloves. “What is more appalling is that the Jesuit and Christian Brother administrations of Ateneo and La Salle didn’t reprimand their faculty members for openly defying the bishops. Ateneo said it respects the academic freedom of its professors: it had nothing to say about the intellectual dishonesty of its faculty members who are teaching in and receiving high salaries from a Catholic institution who however chose to bite the hand that feeds them all in the name of academic freedom.”

And because of this failure to act as good Catholic administrators, Ateneo and La Salle officials are lemons.
Indeed, the editorial declares: “Intellectual honesty and moral conviction are in such short supply in Katipunan, Quezon City and Taft Avenue, Manila.”

***

It is irrelevant to ask who wrote the essay. There is no by-line for an editorial—any editorial, for that matter —because it is supposed to be the opinion of the entire publication. I would not be wrong to conclude that what the editorial says is exactly what the University of Santo Tomas intends to say.

It is thus the intention of UST to meddle into what is supposed to be an internal issue between school administrators and the professors of Ateneo and La Salle.

It also deliberately wants to say that education is only a secondary function of a Catholic institution. Indoctrination is the primary objective.

Finally, through the editorial, UST is saying that it is the better Catholic institution, because all members of its community adhere to the teachings of the Church.

But what is so Christian about lifting oneself up by bringing others down?

Some of the most telling reactions to the editorial are from the UST graduates themselves. On Facebook, for instance, a Batch 99 BCS-Eco graduate says “It [the editorial] has ‘prayle’ written all over it!”

On the Varsitarian Web site, “pabolanos” says, in bold letters: “As a true Thomasian, I refuse to be represented by this editorial, by sheer hubris!”

“Cfadalumni” says the writer’s tactlessness is “unThomasian.”

“Rafael” says : “If this is your idea of faith and the Catholic church, how is it different from slavery? Forcing individuals to abandon their common sense and just sticking to what a single institution is saying.”

“Thomasian” says: “I am confident that the University did not raise me this way. I was taught to respect the opinion of others even if it is contrary to my own.”

Then again, if we are talking about freedom of expression, it is not good, too, to take down the Varsitarian, or UST itself, for saying what it feels is right. This is, after all, UST—did we really expect it to say otherwise?

How the piece has turned out eventually only reflects on the institution that caused its publication, or at least cleared the piece for publication.

Editorials are supposed to be an exercise in persuasive writing. That this editorial has not swayed our thinking to its favor—oh, far from it! —is the Varsitarian’s failure.

adellechua@gmail.com

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