August 03, 2020 at 07:15 pm
Following its creation of an independent committee to look into complaints of sexual harassment in its high school, Miriam College (MC) held a series of Town Hall Meetings (THM) with its community in July to get more feedback and formulate concrete programs and policies that would ensure safe spaces at every campus level.
MC students and alumni shared stories and experiences of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior by some faculty on social media last June. Miriam College responded by convening a Committee on Truth and Justice to review and resolve reported cases.
Town Hall Meetings were then 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. Initiated by the school’s Institutional Committee on Ethics and Protocol (ICEP), 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. Special focus was placed on processes that would allow students to report cases of sexual harassment without fear or judgment.
Amb. Laura Quiambao-Del Rosario, Miriam College President, said, “Recent developments opened our eyes to the need to listen and seek the truth behind the stories of harassment in our campus. 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. The town hall meetings were crucial to hear out observations, opinions and recommendations to create and maintain Safe Space in our institution, moving forward.”
In a letter to the MC community last June, Quiambao-Del Rosario said the school will undergo a serious process of self-criticism to re-define more deeply the meaning of justice.
Miriam College High School (MCHS) Assistant Principal for Student Affairs Sofia De Guzman said, “The Town Hall meetings were very helpful for us to express our ideas, emotions, and perceptions on the issues surrounding safe spaces. The suggestions on how MC could do better highlighted transparency and promoted 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.”
The ICEP is now gathering and studying the results of the THMs to serve as basis for new school policies, processes, programs, and practices that will be integrated into handbooks and other relevant platforms for students, faculty, and employees. The ICEP has been 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]
. 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. The independent committee is mandated to recommend sanctions for those found guilty of inappropriate behavior.
Atty. Concepcion said the Committee will also review MC’s policies on sexual harassment, safe spaces and child protection and will recommend changes where needed to ensure that Miriam College is a safe and nurturing environment for its community.
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.