Archers, Blue Eagles take on Tigers in 'Varsi' row

MANILA, Philippines – The Archers won’t let arrows fly into the Tigers’ camp on this one, but the Blue Eagles are raring to show their talons. The official student organ of De La Salle University has responded to the scathing attack of the University of Santo Tomas’s Varsitarian against pro-RH bill professors of Ateneo and DLSU with one word: respect.

The Ateneo’s official student organ Guidon used a more castigating tone, however, on its counterpart, calling “unacceptable” the use of “offensive” and “dismissive” language by the Varsitarian in attacking DLSU and Ateneo for not taking a unified, hardline stance against the RH bill despite being Catholic schools

 While commending the Varsitarian for taking a courageous stand against RH bill, The LaSallian said the editorial in the Catholic university’s student organ did the cause of encouraging enlightened debate a big disservice by resorting to ad hominems and name calling.

A similar theme was echoed in another DLSU student publication, Ang Pahayagang Plaridel of its Dasmarinas, Cavite campus.

The LaSallian’s response online came as the UST management issued a statement on its official FB page, distancing itself from the name-calling that had marred the editorial, and drew flak from social media. The Varsitarian editorial castigated Ateneo and DLSU for not sanctioning professors who endorsed the RH bill, saying that Catholic universities must weigh in on the side of the church hierarchy on the debate.

But in its response, The LaSallian reminded the UST writers of the papal encyclical that encourages all Catholics to rigorously study and ponder issues of the day, in order to arrive at a reasoned stand.

“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 (ECE II, Art. 2, sec. 4).”

The LaSallian did not release an official stand on House Bill no. 4244, or the now re-named Responsible Parenthood Bill, “despite numerous requests and pressure from a majority of our own members, as well as various University stakeholders. .. because we respected, and we continue to respect, every person’s right to have his or her own informed opinion, including our individual editors and staffers.”

The LaSallian added: “What we stand for in many issues is the process of discernment, and for one’s personal stand and conviction to surface from rigorous research, contemplation, and discourse, before pursuing determined action.

"In this publication, we believe in independent thought, and we encourage our staffers to go against any norms in public opinion and rightfully deconstruct, and discern their own beliefs through issue-oriented critical thinking, if and only if it is what they believe in, and for as long as they too would respect the rights of others to voice an opinion contrary to their own."

While saying they “applaud UST’s official student publication for declaring their stance with such great conviction,” the LaSallian lamented that “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 deserves constructive discourse,” said the DLSU student writers, adding “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.”

Ateneo’s Guidon responds

The Guidon released its own statement Tuesday titled, "Our duties as student journalists" and called The Varsitarian's use of offensive and dismissive language "unacceptable."

It said that a student publication should promote "rational dialogue and fruitful exchange of ideas" within the student community and that what The Varsitarian wrote in its editorial was a "disservice" to its readers.

"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," The Guidon said.

The Guidon, however, steered clear of tackling the Reproductive Health bill itself, which over 140 Ateneo professors have rallied behind despite the Jesuit university's official stand against it.

Ateneo's student paper said that The Varsitarian should "reevaluate itself" and to "point its penchant for impassioned critique unto itself and hopefully establish itself as a publication worthy of its readers’ respect." With a report from Abigail Kwok,