An Open Letter To The UPLB Office Of Student Affairs

June 10, 2013

From: Filipino Freethinkers-UPLB et al

To: Dr Leticia A. Afuang, Office of Student Affairs Director, UPLB

CC: Dr Rex Victor O. Cruz, Chancellor, UPLB

Good day,

It has come to our attention that your good office has once again distributed (or at least, caused to distribute) free bibles at the recent campus tour for UPLB freshmen. As far as we are aware, this has become a tradition for you, Dr Afuang, since you took charge as free bibles were given out too during last year’s freshman convocation. This was on top of blatantly preaching Christianity during this year and last’s leadership training seminar, which is required for all student organizations seeking university recognition to attend, among other breaches of secularism that have been reported to us.

This is completely unacceptable. Unless you still are not aware, the University of the Philippines is a secular institution. And this fact is explicitly defined in Sec 3 and Articles 177 and 452 of the UP Code, which we are sure you are well aware of.

For surety, we have included excerpts here:

  1. Sec 3. Purpose of the University.As the national university, a public and secular institution of higher learning , and a community of scholars dedicated to the search for truth and knowledge as well as development leaders, the University of the Philippines shall perform its unique and distinctive leadership in higher education and development.

  2. Art 177. Members of the teaching staff enjoy academic freedom; Provided, however, That no instructor in the University System shall inculcate sectarian tenets in any of the teachings, nor attempt either directly or indirectly, under the penalty of dismissal by the Board of Regents, to influence students or attendants at the University System for or against any particular church or religious sect or political party.

  3. Art 452. Any priest, preacher, or minister of the gospel of any religious denomination may speak before student groups or organizations of the University; Provided, That in every case the written permission of the President/Chancellor shall have been previously secured; and Provided, further, That speakers do not discuss questions which might provoke dissension in the University.

While you may argue that the bibles were donations or that receiving them was voluntary anyway, these are but poor excuses. Secularism means fair treatment and privilege to all religions, or to none at all. It’s either you give out free scriptures of all religions or you don’t give any. If this isn’t clear enough, let us stress that there is simply no place for religious instruction and proselytizing within the university, academic freedom notwithstanding.

The university should be a place for students to explore and criticize new ideas and long-held beliefs. It is no place for certain churches to exploit this opportunity to increase membership in the pretense of saving souls or “making disciples.” Let us let students find their own way to faith or disbelief. This is what academic freedom means.

In light of this, we petition the following:

  1. That Dr. Afuang issue a public apology for all accounts of breaches in secularism and violations of the UP Code;
  2. That the UPLB administration conduct an investigation regarding the events cited and take disciplinary measures if found necessary;
  3. That the Chancellor issue a memorandum reminding all staff and faculty of these portions of the UP Code, and prohibiting any university-sanctioned event and academic class to include religious elements that may, directly or indirectly, be meant to proselytize or otherwise influence students’ religious views.

[Signed]

Rafael Navarro

President

Filipino Freethinkers-UPLB

[Signed]

Ma. Patricia San Jose

Vice President

Filipino Freethinkers-UPLB

[Attached signatures of petitioners]

—-

Yesterday’s events were not the only breaches of secularism that have occured inside the university, and by the looks of it will most probably not be the last. There are many more incidents involving many more UPLB instructors. Let us make this petition a reminder that state universities are best kept secular. Surely, UPLB has got more ways to acquaint its freshmen than lambasting that it endorses particular churches, right?

Note: A similar incident also happened last year under the auspices of Dr Afuang. Several students have testified to us that it is usual for Dr. Afuang to preach Christianity in her classes, no matter how unrelated it is to the subject matter. A followup article is scheduled to be posted documenting these first-hand accounts.

Update: A pastor from Victory Christian Fellowship UPLB has spoken on the matter in defense of Dr. Afuang, the Office of Student Affairs and the Bible-giving brouhaha.

Editors note: two images concerning Victory Christian Fellowship have been removed from this article since publishing. Those two photos are not relevant to the secularism violation of the Office of Student Affairs (in UPLB).

 
DISCLAIMER: The opinions in this post do not necessarily represent the position of the Filipino Freethinkers.

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