JOURNALISTS and student leaders criticized the UST Office for Student Affairs (OSA) for censoring a social media post by TomasinoWeb that showed College of Information and Computing Sciences (CICS) students entering a 7-Eleven store on campus.

The OSA has drawn flak after instructing the online student media organization to take down its photo of CICS students in their “Type B” uniforms entering the convenience store, after it supposedly caused “public ridicule.”

The photo was an attempt to inject some humor into the start of the “Type B season,” when Thomasians switch to collared college shirts and short pants from their regular uniforms to help beat the heat of the hot weather. The CICS Type B uniform looks similar to those of 7-Eleven store employees.

The OSA’s attempt to quell potential embarrassment backfired as its decision thrust itself and the University into the spotlight of public scrutiny, causing journalists, students and alumni to unite in condemning its handling of the situation.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said the photo was “harmless” and criticized OSA’s takedown order as a violation of press freedom and independence.

“Any imposed takedown, especially over an imagined slight and not because of factual or ethical lapse, erodes press freedom and the independence of the press,” the NUJP said. 

“The UST administration’s reaction to a harmless photograph exposes its elitist stance. The Catholic school should instead uphold the dignity of work and honor the workers’ contributions to the Philippine society.”

The student society of the UST Journalism School, the oldest journalism program in the country, described OSA’s directive as reminiscent of “bygone eras of colonial rule and martial law repression.”

“The censorship of student journalists is a throwback to bygone eras of colonial rule and martial law repression and has no place in UST,” the UST Journalism Society said.

Members of the Executive Board of the Central Student Council (CSC), which has the OSA director, Asst. Prof. Maria Cecilia Tio Cuison, as its de facto adviser, slammed the UST office for its “hasty act of censorship,” which they said was “not an isolated incident.”

The six CSC Executive Board officers posted a statement on their personal X (formerly Twitter) accounts on Feb. 19, which did not bear the council’s logos.

Three days after the photo was removed from social media, TomasinoWeb adviser Leo Laparan II resigned from his post. The organization subsequently put its social media operations on hold, pending the appointment of a new adviser. 

Laparan, a desk editor at The Philippine Star, told the Varsitarian that the takedown was an insult to him as a journalist and a form of censorship by the OSA.

“For self-preservation ‘yung ginawa ko–to keep my dignity and pride as a journalist na natapakan, I decided to resign…I don’t want to work in a setting like that,” he said. 

UST journalism student Jeann Miranda, the national chairperson of Anakbayan, criticized the OSA for treating TomasinoWeb as part of a “PR machinery.” 

Miranda was among the student activists who assembled outside the P. Noval gate on Monday to protest the OSA directive.

“[The] OSA does not prioritize the student body but the school’s image […] OSA is the enemy of academic freedom. They want to make us robots, only obeying, never resisting,” she said.

The Varsitarian has reached out to the OSA for comments about the controversy multiple times but has yet to receive a response as of writing. 


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