Ateneo, La Salle papers react to Varsitarian

Posted at 10/10/2012 12:59 PM | Updated as of 10/10/2012 1:29 PM

MANILA, Philippines – The Varsitarian’s counterparts at the Ateneo de Manila University and De La Salle University have spoken on the paper’s controversial editorial.

The Guidon and The LaSallian, the official school publications of Ateneo and La Salle, respectively, published separate statements regarding the editorial titled “RH bill, Ateneo and La Salle: Of lemons and cowards.”

The much-talked-about article of The Varsitarian, the student paper of the University of Santo Tomas, tagged the pro-Reproductive Health bill professors of Ateneo and La Salle as “intellectual pretenders and interlopers.”

‘UST students deserve far better’

In an editorial titled “Our duties as student journalists,” The Guidon slammed The Varsitarian for employing “a kind of dismissive language that verges on the fanatical.”

“A student publication that is arrogant enough to dismiss the participants of a debate as mere ‘intellectual pretenders and interlopers!’ – complete with an exclamation point – does a disservice to all its readers. It’s as if it only seeks to demean and destroy, without contributing anything of substance to the larger social discourse.

“The Varsitarian may be the official student newspaper of a pontifical university, but it is still a student newspaper. The stands that it must make are not exempt from the basic expectations of respect, decency and logical sense – valid demands on any credible publication.”

A screenshot of the opinion piece titled "Our duties as student journalists" published by The Guidon

While it respects The Varsitarian’s stand on the RH bill, The Guidon stressed that its articles should “be held to the standards of sound journalism.”

“Unless The Varsitarian truly believes that its audience is purely uncritical, the paper owes it to the audience to treat them as thinking adults who can distinguish well-reasoned arguments from unsound drivel.

“The students of the University of Santo Tomas deserve far better, and the first step The Varsitarian can take is to honestly, sincerely and critically reevaluate itself. Perhaps it is high time for The Varsitarian to point its penchant for impassioned critique unto itself and hopefully establish itself as a publication worthy of its readers’ respect.”

‘No need to impose’

The LaSallian, meanwhile, stressed the need to “respect every person’s right to have his or her informed opinion, including our individual editors and staffers” in an opinion piece titled "With all due respect."

This, the paper said, is the reason it did not release an official stand on the RH bill.

“Precisely because we are members of a Catholic university, following Pope John Paul II’s encyclical letter Ex Corde Ecclesiae and its challenge to university students, we encourage our individual staff to make personal judgments that may guide them to truth. Perhaps we may make recommendations, but we would never impose on the freedom of conscience.

“We did not feel the need to impose any stance to support or refuse a bill that would blatantly disregard the stances of some of our editors and writers.”

A screenshot of the opinion piece titled "With all due respect" published by The LaSallian

Like The Guidon, The LaSallian said it respects The Varsitarian’s anti-RH bill stance. But it was quick to criticize the UST paper as “the method of expression used to express the matter veered away from the real issue, while creating new and unnecessary ones.”

“The RH bill is an important issue that serves constructive discourse. None of this constructive discourse, however, can come from ad hominem lambasting from any of the parties involved, whether Pro-RH or Anti-RH. We believe in sticking to the issues, and backing conclusions with substantial, objective arguments.

“This is the nature of sincere rational dialectic. We advocate constructive discourse, and the search for truth that Catholic Universities so aspire for can, in our opinion, be only attained through issue-oriented critical thinking.”

‘Not representing UST’

In a press statement released Tuesday, UST washed its hands off the article published by The Varsitarian.

“The opinion expressed in The Varsitarian opinion-editorial insofar as it supposedly called the pro-RH bill professors of the Ateneo de Manila University and the De La Salle University as ‘intellectual pretenders and interlopers’ does not bear the university’s imprimatur,” UST said.

But the oldest Catholic university in Asia said that it supports the paper’s stand against the RH bill.

“The University of Santo Tomas has been steadfastly consistent in its opposition to certain provisions of the bill which are repugnant to the teachings of our Catholic faith.

“The university thus supports The Varsitarian, its official student publication, in its stand against the RH bill and for that matter any organization united in this regard with the Catholic Church,” it added. “While it is one with The Varsitarian in this light, the university does not impose its will nor exercise prior restraint on the opinions of the school paper’s writers nor the manner by which they are expressed.”

UST made the statement after several Filipinos took to Twitter to vent their ire at the university and its student paper.