Silliman University is set to implement mandatory drug testing as a requirement for Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) once the face-to-face classes resume. This is pursuant to Commission on Higher Education (CHED) Memorandum Order No. 18, Series of 2018, all HEIs are required to have a Random Drug Testing Policy.
During a virtual meeting on Wednesday, April 21, the proposed guidelines were presented to the members of the Silliman community with the presence of the Dean of the SU Medical School and University Physician Dr. Walden Ursos, the Dean of Students Dr. Edna Calingancion, Head of the Student Organizations and Activities Division Mr. Abe Cadelina, and SU COVID-19 Response Team Secretariat Atty. Joshua Ablong.
The student body was represented by the incumbent SU Student Government (SUSG) President Jose Paolo Echavez and Vice President Stef Ledesma, with members from the SUSG Students’ Rights and Welfare (STRAW) Committee, and several representatives from the various colleges and departments.
According to Dr. Walden Ursos, the guidelines were given by CHED in 2018, and the university was set to implement these guidelines two years ago yet there were hindrances and delays, which prompted CHED to follow up on the university’s implementation.
“This (CHED Mandatory Drug Testing) will really reflect on the university’s autonomous status because Silliman has an academic autonomy but we are mandated to protect our students from health hazards, including illegal drugs,” Dr. Ursos stated.
According to the proposed guidelines, the purpose of this mandatory drug testing is to primarily protect members of the Silliman community from illegal drugs. It aims to enable the university to manage any drug-related incidents in coordination with the appropriate government agencies, including the rehabilitation of drug dependents that the university may identify.
The drug testing will be done by DOH-accredited testing centers. This will be part of a new program that aims to educate the students on various health-related issues such as HIV/AIDS, Reproductive Health, Mental Health, and Lifestyle-related diseases, as part of the university’s “preventive or proactive” stance.
Students are allowed to refuse, however, they will have to sign letters of consent proving that they do not agree to participate.
According to Atty. Ablong, “the students may refuse (drug testing) but those who refuse, their names will be recorded and reported to a new drug-free committee in the university, with utmost respect and confidentiality.”
During the meeting, several student representatives showed their discontent regarding the issue. Maria Jaya Ariola, the chairperson of the SUSG STRAW Committee, cited the danger of the issue presented in relation to the various extra-judicial killings and Tokhang deaths linked to the drug war.
The representatives also expressed their dissatisfaction when it was shown that students would shoulder the cost of these tests. It will be added in a new “Health Services” fee, in the students’ school fees, although it still needs approval by the Vice President for Finance and the Board of Trustees.
These proposed guidelines are already approved and will be added to the university’s student manual. It will also be posted on Silliman University’s social media sites.