Sunday, June 29, 2008

Barbarians in Our Midst

There is perennial interest from the media and the general public every time there is an incidence of violence or death related to UP's fratenities. I think the interest stems mostly from puzzlement over how some of the country's supposed 'best and brightest' could commit such inane acts. I am sure sociologists have more sophisticated explanations about how the group dynamics of these organisations work - and why they result to senseless, stupid and lethal ends. But here is my two cent's worth. And some suggestions.

These organisations have cultures and histories that are self-perpetuating. The old 'encounters' of years past continue to colour how they relate to one another. I am sure countless dialogues have been set up for these fraternities to fraternise amongst one another, but obviously they have not been very successful.

On grounds of functionality, I understand that members can avail of resources and opportunities which stem from their frat's networks. Networks that extend to public and private sources of power and authority in Philippine society. To my mind this quasi-feudal anomaly has no place in a so-called progressive university. But anyway, this culture persists as UP mirrors what is good and what is bad in our society.

Groups inherently serve to include and exclude. When a group is created there is an effort to delineate who belongs and in which ways. The differences with other groups are magnified in order to preserve difference. Where there is difference, there are hierarchies. Aside from histories of previous rumbles, I am not aware of any rational, tangible reasons why such rumbles occur. The only thing I can think of for the moment is that the fact that these frats, peopled by young, testosterone-drunk men, must engage in overt displays of masculinity to underline their superiority as a group (vis-a-vis the others) and also to reassure each other that they have penises. As if they didn't already know. Maybe they don't, because there may not be much there (if APO's centennial oblation run is any indication). To my mind - displays of manhood and masculinity is inversely proportional to one's phallic apparatus. Awww. Poor littl boys.

I am glad that a new organisation has been set up a "watch" over these frats. I love their name - UP SAWA (Student-Led Anti-Fraternity- Related-Violence Watch Alliance). I too am "sawa na" (have had enough of/sick of) these willful acts of stupendous stupidity.

If UP's frats cannot find a place to co-exist constructively, I suggest they be disbanded. If the members of these groups truly want to contribute to social causes, then there are plenty of cause-oriented orgs around.

Hemingway, here is UP SAWA's official statement.


Last Tuesday, 24 June 2008, only several weeks into the start of the academic year and just after UP marked its 100th foundation year, the university bore witness once more to the rearing of the fraternity system's ugly head. Members of the Beta Sigma (BS) and Alpha Phi Omega (APO) Fraternities figured in a violent rumble for which some fraternity members sustained head injuries. While this latest incident of fraternity-related violence may fail to offend the sensibilities of the largely resigned and exasperated UP community, aspects of the incident cannot fail to provide cause for heightened alarm:

According to reports compiled by the UP Diliman Police, the rumble erupted when members of the Beta Sigma Fraternity staged a surprise attack against APO members then at the AS Walk. Considering that the ensuing violence occurred at around 10 a.m. in the busiest part of the most densely populated building in the university, the rumble can only be described as a barbaric display of audacity; and of an utter lack of consideration and sensitivity to the welfare of innocent fellow students. At the height of the commotion, Prof. De Villa of the Department of Philosophy even attempted to break the fight up, only to find himself the victim of assault from one of the malefactors. The rumble was also a product of clear premeditation, because there was a conscious effort on the part of the perpetrators to breach and take advantage of the paucity of security personnel manning the entry points of AS.

As members of the UP community, there is no cogent reason for anyone of us to take the stance of a passive spectator in the midst of this increasingly brazen exhibition of barbarity. We have a duty to defend the integrity of our institution and the safe and secure learning environment which it must strive to create as a matter of moral obligation and imperative. All existing avenues must be activated to send a clear and unequivocal message that any fraternity wishing to engage in such barbaric intramurals in the future shall face the full force of the law and the condemnation of the entire UP community:

1. We call on the Student Disciplinary Tribunal and the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs to deal with the perpetrators accordingly and expeditiously;

2. We call on all University, College, and Dormitory Councils to swiftly adopt and implement concrete measures aimed at protecting the welfare and safety of their respective constituencies, in coordination with the University and College administration;

3. We call on the network of fraternity resident members and alumni of Beta Sigma, Alpha Phi Omega, and all other fraternities to commit to helping the police in the investigation and resolution of this case, and to ensuring that such acts of violence shall never again be employed for any reason;

4. We call on all students, faculty members, and administrative staff to take small but significant steps within their personal circles to continuously and emphatically condemn any and all forms of fraternity-related violence in the University.

UP is an academic community. In this enclave of intellectual pursuit, there is simply no space for the kind of barbarity and violence that only unthinking and uncritical individuals subscribe to. We should set a clear example for all fraternities to see. We should not let UP's one hundred glorious years be tarnished by this cancer in a supposedly healthy concept of brotherhood. If we sweep this incident under the rug again, the cycle of violence will continue, and the level of impertinence and malevolence will also be elevated. It is within our capacity to deal with this latest fraternity rumble in the proper manner – with unmistakable condemnation and steadfast resolve to prevent its repetition.

UP SAWA (UP Student-Led Anti-Fraternity- Related-Violence Watch Alliance)

For inquiries please contact:

Michael Jobert I. Navallo

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