ALL University of the Philippines (UP) Cebu graduates who will march on July 29 for their 83rd Commencement Exercises are allowed “to wear their preferred attire in accordance to their lived identities in terms of sexual orientation, gender identity, and expression.”
UP Cebu, through its student council, announced this in a Facebook post on July 10, saying the university is continuously trying to uphold a “safe space” for students who wish to express themselves truly and freely.
“Among these efforts is putting into practice the university’s ideals of freedom and diversity through recognizing and catering to the calls of its student body in expressing their genuine selves,” it said.
With this, graduates will not be obliged to conform to “heteronormative standards” and ask for permission from the administration or prepare a letter when doing so.
“As long as the graduation guidelines for academic costumes, such as color schemes and lengths, are still observed, graduating students may dress themselves how they see fit,” the UP Cebu University Student Council (USC) said.
The statement was made after the UP Visayas USC, which is based in Iloilo, denounced the school administration’s “clarification” made during the orientation for graduation that students are required to send a letter individually in order to be able to dress according to their sexual orientation, gender identity and expression.
The administration also said that those who do not conform to the “heteronormative standards” of clothing prescribed by the university were required to send a letter explaining their gender expression so as to “preserve the solemnity of the event.”
This “clarification” of the UPV admin was made reportedly despite the Office of the Chancellor’s approval to UPV USC’s request made on June 30.
“On July 4, a Notice of Action was sent back detailing the approval and recommendations of the said request. As stated, the approval is to ‘allow graduating students dress appropriately according to their expressed gender following the university's guidelines on graduation attire, i.e. formal clothing should be worn with the sablay to preserve the solemnity and dignity of the graduation.’ This approval should have meant that the students will be given the freedom to present themselves true to their identity. However, the university's clarification on the matter, showed otherwise,” UPV USC said.
It stressed that the university's decision “disrespects” the students' gender identity and “disregards” their right to gender expression.
“The university claims to be a safe place for the LGBTQ+ community yet requires an explanation from transgender and non-gender conforming individuals regarding their choice of clothing. This is not an assurance of ‘formality’ rather an issue of discrimination,” it said in a statement.
It called on the UP System to “review and change the outdated dress code.”
“We stand firm that gender expression is the right of the students. It is not something that needs to be appealed to be ‘allowed’ in the first place. Furthermore, transgender and non-gender conforming students should be allowed to be called by their lived names during the ceremony. It is who they are and contains their history of struggles and victories,” the UPV USC added.
Graduates of UPV Iloilo are set to march with their sablay, the official academic costume of the university, on July 21, while the graduating classes of academic years 2020, 2021 and 2022 of UP Cebu will have their commencement exercises on July 29.
This year will be UP Cebu’s first in-person graduation rites since 2020 when the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic was declared. (LMY)