On September 21, 2022, administrators at Far Eastern University (FEU) began taking disciplinary actions against three students for their participation in a demonstration marking 50 years since Ferdinand Marcos Sr. declared Martial Law in the Philippines.
On September 21, a group of students at FEU engaged in a short protest and discussion about the atrocities that occurred in the Philippines during the period of Martial Law. After the other students returned to classes, three students – Romarie Relator, Marie Justine, Keswani, and Dyan Macerin – stayed at the pavilion. According to Relator, university guards, who had observed and photographed the protest, “forcefully escorted” the three to the Office of Student Discipline. There, university authorities questioned them and took the pamphlets they had distributed during the protest. They were also told that they would need to participate in “Parent Conferences,” disciplinary hearings during which their parents would be present.
In the days that followed the protest, Relator’s, Keswani’s, and Macerin’s school IDs were reportedly blocked, preventing them from accessing campus. During the next six weeks, each student participated in a disciplinary hearing during which they were told that they were being charged with two offenses: “Hazing and recruitment or membership to fraternities, sororities, or other organizations not recognized by the university,” and “Acts of subversion and insurgency, such as unauthorized demonstrations, rallies and boycotting of classes, including use of class hours or classrooms to encourage students to join in subversive acts or insurgency.” These charges could result in the three students being expelled.
Following the Parent Conferences, on November 4th, FEU students protested, calling for the charges to be dropped. Several groups, including Kabataan-FEU, Anakbayan Morayta and the College Editors Guild of the Philippines also called on the university to drop the charges.
Scholars at Risk is concerned by a higher education institution taking action against students for exercising their right to freedom of expression and freedom of association. Higher education officials should refrain from such actions and should ensure students’ due process rights during all disciplinary proceedings. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, disciplinary actions intended to deter or punish expressive activity undermine academic freedom.