Campus sexual harassment and assault, despite it being the year of the #MeToo movement, is still a pervasive problem. On November 20, 2018, Upsilon Sigma Phi, a prestigious fraternity of the University of the Philippines, came under fire after alleged screenshots from its members went viral. Here's a glimpse:
Two days later, Upsilon posted this official statement on their Facebook page, saying they have "conducted an initial investigation on the matter":
UP Student Councilor Ian Serrano addressed the issue and "resigned" from the fraternity through a personal Facebook post:
This isn't Serrano's *first* statement, though. Facebook user Anton Onato posted screenshots of Serrano's initial status alongside those of Upsilon members Juan Carlo Tejano's and Yael Toribio's—all of which have been deleted. Onato wrote, "Unang-una, magkakamukha yung content and how it was crafted (might come from one speech writer); pangalawa, same time of release (it could be a frat command na damage control at mag-whitewash kaya [nag]-post na yung mga leaders ng statements); pangatlo, vague yung action points (may LOA ba talaga sa frats?), making way to questionable sincerity of those who posted."
Understandably, feminist and sex-positive advocates have a lot to say on the matter. Grrrl Gang Manila together with Youth Against Sexual Harassment released a joint statement:
"We demand full accountability from the members of the subject group chat, most of which have already been identified therein. We also demand full accountability from their fraternity and the UP Administration, both of which have shown complicity, and enabled these attitudes among their fraternity brothers."
"There is simply no place for sexist, misogynist, and homophobic statements, whether blurted out in public spaces, or in private group chats. In condemning their behavior, we hope to move forward toward a future that is not only female, but also human."
Deus Sex Machina, a local comedy show that promotes healthy sexual relationships with consent, wrote on Facebook: "We can—and should—denounce all the hateful things said in that chat, but we should also take an active role in helping reform frat culture. Frats have been a bubble of toxic masculinity for way too long, and for some reason, we've always just let it slide, despite the mountain of red flags we've seen over the years.
"We share the outrage, but we can't just stop there. We owe it to ourselves to change the culture they've perpetuated all this time. Educate your friend, your relative, your prof, or whoever else is a brod on gender sensitivity and equality. Open up some much-needed conversations, and then we can go from there."
"At this point, filing legal complaints is 50/50 since they have brothers in power as well."
But it isn't just advocacy groups who've been vocal about their disappointment and disgust of Upsilon's actions. Former and current UP students have been shaken to the core. They told Cosmopolitan:
- "A concoction of anger, bitterness, and fear ran through my veins as I scrolled down the group chat. These boys were misogynist, Islamophobic, homophobic, xenophobic, and ableist, but the worst part is none of us were surprised. We knew for a fact that fraternities are breeding grounds for men to be vile pieces of garbage, and yet we never called them [out] because of fear. They are in power, they are rich, but most of all, their reign reaches beyond the university and even in government positions.
What hurts is some of these men were our friends, were there for us, but could we truly call them that if a part of them actively believes and tolerates such thinking? They may have been friends to us, but it begs us to think if they can still be our friends now.
At this point, filing legal complaints is 50/50 since they have brothers in power as well. To girls who have found themselves in the groupchat, surround yourselves with a support system you can call on at any time and will keep you safe. Refuse assistance, contact, interaction with, or help from any of these men.
For far too long, we never called them out because of fear but today we stand fearless, awfully tired and done with their deeds. It is easier said than done, but to throw fear out the window is to look them in eye and tell them enough is enough. We are a force to be reckoned with." —Current UP student
- "Sobrang disgusted, disappointed, and I felt that very unbecoming ng pagiging tao yung mga pinagusapan nila. Personally, kahit wala naman pangalan ko sa group chat, nanghina ako at naapektuhan in a sense na sobrang betrayal of public trust ang ginawa nung ilang UP admin na nangungunsinti sa members nila. Iba-iba ang reaction ng mga nakabasa, at ramdam ko kung paano nayurakan yung pagkatao nila kahit nababasa ko lang yung tweets ng involved victims sa group chat. Baka na-trigger pa mental health issues ng iba. May mga kilala akong girlfriend nung involved sa group chat. Hindi ko siya nakakausap, pero base sa tweet niya, naniniwala siya na na-violate yung right to privacy nung boyfriend niya. Dalawa lang naiisip ko ngayon e, either i-confront niya yung guy niya at hiwalayan siya, or pagtakpan din siya." —Current UP student
- "I was disgusted and angry when I saw the group chat. I'm mad at the misogynist, xenophobic, homophobic, and Islamophobic slurs and traits displayed by these boys. Actually, that's an understatement. I didn't want to breathe the same air as them when I read the messages. Some of them were even people I knew and worked with in the past.
With regards to one person in particular, I really wasn't surprised because he's really like that. Right now, I just feel bad because there were so many chances for us to call him out, but we let it slide. If I were one of the girls mentioned in the group chat, I'd be even angrier. I'd file legal cases against them and do everything for them to suffer the consequences." —Former UP student
While there's still so much that needs to be investigated about the issue, it's important to note that the conversation should keep going, and with that, actions must be made to stop the cycle of misogyny and sexism in this country, more so, in the academe.