‘Online censorship?’: UST under fire over release of social media post guidelines for student orgs

August 21, 2020 - 10:29 AM
Image by FirmBee via Pixabay

Youth groups are calling to junk a new directive issued by the University of Santo Tomas that supposedly puts the social media activities of its student organizations under surveillance.

In a Twitter thread on August 17, Raoul Manuel, the president of the National Union of Students of the Philippines, shared a UST memorandum that dictates its student groups to seek approval first before sharing any posts on their social media accounts.

Manuel stated that he obtained a copy of these guidelines from an anonymous source, which includes a “Petition to Post” form that students are required to fill out and submit.

Based on the photos sourced, the memorandum issued by the the UST Office for Student Affairs last August 8, requires all advisers of recognized student organizations within the institution to monitor their official postings.

Any post needs the clearance of the adviser before publication via the petition form.

“The organization adviser shall monitor the social media accounts/postings of the student organization. Posts should be cleared first by the organization adviser,” the guidelines read.

“In unavoidable circumstances, however, the organization adviser retains the right to remove or edit the post-even if it has already been published-if something is found to be erroneous or irregular,” it added.

In an instance of disagreement between the organization officers and the adviser, either the UST-OSA or the Simbahayan Community Development Office will be the ones to decide if the content should be retained or taken down.

The social media pages should also bear the official name and logo of the organization.

UST-OSA stated that these guidelines were made to prevent the members of the academe and the student leaders from engaging in online “misbehaviors” such as word war and bashing.

“Prudence must be demonstrated in all forms of social media activity,” the memo stated.

A form of censorship and oppression

Manuel cited the similar memorandum order from the Commission on Higher Education that also required student organizations to report their online activities to their school administration which he called a form of oppression among the students.

He then related this to the controversial Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 which has been signed into law last July 3. More than 20 petitions have already been filed to challenge its constitutionality before the Supreme Court.

“What we experience under the Duterte admin is too much already. He aims to further silence the Filipino people through Terror Law and other means. We call on the UST admin to not allow its walls to mirror the culture of repression that prevails our society today,” Manuel said.

In a separate statement on August 18, the NUSP also denounced the UST administration’s regulatory protocols “student repression,” citing the need to sign a petition before online publishing.

ALERT: The University of Santo Tomas (UST) has released a memorandum requiring its student organizations to allow…

Posted by National Union of Students of the Philippines on Monday, August 17, 2020


“The Union calls on UST to abolish these provisions that mirror the current regime’s moves to hinder freedom of expression and speech,” the organization stated.

“We also compel CHED to cease the patronizing of counterproductive, anti-student policies when it has yet to fulfill its role of ensuring quality, inclusive education amid the pandemic,” it added.

The UST chapter of the League of Filipino Students, meanwhile, described the approval process as an added burden to the students and their group advisers.

“Not only will this prolong the process of releasing contents for the student organizations’ accounts, but content that will be set to be released by students will also be heavily moderated and controlled by the university administration,” its statement read.

As of writing, the UST administration has yet to release a response on these concerns.