Miriam College boosts safe spaces on campus

Published August 3, 2020, 2:46 PM

by Merlina Hernando-Malipot

Miriam College (MC) held a series of Town Hall Meetings (THM) in its community last July to get more feedback and formulate concrete programs and policies that would ensure safe spaces on every campus level.

(Miriam College / MANILA BULLETIN)

The initiative came after the creation of an independent committee to look into complaints of sexual harassment in its high school.

Last June, MC students and alumni shared stories and experiences of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior by some faculty on social media. The college responded by convening a Committee on Truth and Justice to review and resolve reported cases.

The THM were conducted among Miriam College administrators, faculty, alumni, Student Council members from different academic levels, and office employees from both the Quezon City and Nuvali campuses.

The series of THM with its community last month were initiated by the school’s Institutional Committee on Ethics and Protocol (ICEP).

“Recent developments opened our eyes to the need to listen and seek the truth behind the stories of harassment in our campus,” said MC President Laura Quiambao-del Rosario. “The welfare of our students is paramount to us and the first step in our efforts to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future is to look inward and get the consensus of our community about causes and solutions to the past situation,” she added.

The THMs allowed community members to openly share and articulate their understanding of safe spaces; identify existing systems, culture, programs, and activities in their respective units that either prevented or promoted safe spaces; and propose solutions that would strengthen safe spaces.

The special focus of the THM was placed on processes that would allow students to report cases of sexual harassment without fear or judgment. “The town hall meetings were “crucial to hear out observations, opinions, and recommendations to create and maintain Safe Space in our institution, moving forward,” Del Rosario added.

Del Rosario, in a letter to the MC community last June, said the school “will undergo a serious process of self-criticism to re-define more deeply the meaning of justice.”

MC High School (MCHS) Assistant Principal for Student Affairs Sofia de Guzman said that the THM were “very helpful for us to express our ideas, emotions, and perceptions on the issues surrounding safe spaces.”

De Guzman said that there were suggestions on how MC could better highlight transparency and promote respect and inclusivity. “It was not only a necessary exercise but also a clear demonstration of the school’s commitment to undergo a process of self-reflection and redirection,” she added.

MC said that its ICEP is currently gathering and studying the results of the THMs to serve as a basis for new school policies, processes, programs, and practices. These will be integrated into handbooks and other relevant platforms for students, faculty, and employees. The ICEP was also tasked to ensure that the new policies are aligned with the Safe Space Act.

Last June 29, the school requested all aggrieved parties to report incidents of sexual harassment to the email address, [email protected]. MC noted that the Truth and Justice Committee (TJC), chaired by lawyer and UP College of Law professor, Atty. Ma. Gabriela “Gaby” Concepcion, is “now waiting for the complaints to be completed so they can act on the concerns while observing due process.”

Other members of the committee are clinical psychologist Dr. Maria Lourdes “Honey” Carandang; Corporate and Data Privacy Law specialist Atty. Maria Resa “Sam” Celiz; Maryknoll Sister Teresa “Sr. TD” Dagdag, MM; executive director of the Ateneo Human Rights Center, Ray Paolo “Arpee” Santiago; and former Presidential Human Rights Committee member and Human Rights Law and Constitutional Law professor, Rene Sarmiento.