Return to reason
March 18, 2014
March 18, 2014

We are almost done with this year’s elections season, almost done with polite requests to take a few minutes of our time, almost done with the season of seeing orange and yellow everywhere. While some people may argue that campaigns are all year long, one trademark of the GE that we will say goodbye to for another year are the candidates’ room-to-room campaigns.

After one such RTR session, one of my professors asked the class if the sing-song, choral and repetitive technique employed by the candidates worked for us. What he got in response was composed of half-hearted grunts and heads shaking no. Although it may partly be because it was an 8 am class, my classmates’ response to that simple question is an interesting indicator of Lasallian opinion on University politics.

According to my marketing professor, the campaign RTRs have been delivered by candidates every year in the same style ever since he had started teaching in DLSU some ten years ago, and student response has been pretty much the same as well. He wonders about the effectiveness of these RTRs when most students, he posits, consider it as mere noise.

I’m sure that in their decades of existence, the political parties have thought about that as well. Perhaps these leaders have the best intentions when crafting their speeches, and do indeed mean every word they say when reciting them as one. The problem with RTRs is not that they are an old strategy, but that they do not reach their intended audience as effectively as their proponents hope.

From my three years of experience on the receiving end of campaign RTRs, I know that at best, these speeches inform me of the candidates’ platforms and the agendas they would like to set if elected into next year’s USG. At worst, they are a reprieve from class discussions, a break in the otherwise mundane lectures or an excuse to avoid seatwork, even if it’s just for a few minutes of our time.

It may perhaps be beneficial for political parties to rethink their style of conveying their platforms during RTR campaigns, not just for a break in tradition, but to better align their plans with their purpose. If this tradition has outlived its purpose and does not adequately inform students of their platforms or convince Lasallians of their merit, then it might be best to discontinue it. They can look for alternatives that can achieve this goal more effectively.

There’s a reason that RTRs are not received as well as political parties hope, and that most of the attendees of the recently held Miting de Avance are clad in yellow or orange – attendees that, for all intents and purposes, have more or less decided on which candidates to vote for and had come to cheer them on, as opposed to those who came curious about the platforms to be discussed. When most are quick to blame it on student apathy, I think it’s because the intended audience does not match up to the actual turnout, and it’s sad to think that these parties seem to be doing it more for themselves now – the RTRs simply to meet established tradition, and the Miting de Avance to put on a show for their supporters.

I know that reactions to this opinion article, as with most opinion pieces on a topic such as this, would include some from people who would invalidate my opinions because I am not from the USG or either political party and have no experience whatsoever with how things work within those bodies. I have seen this in many posts online, and have heard it in everyday conversations around campus. People are told not to judge so quickly, because we do not know just how hard the USG or the political parties’ jobs are, and I admit that even if I was part of the batch student government for a while, I do not know the USG inside and out.

The thing is, most Lasallians don’t.

To invalidate opinions simply because their owners are not familiar with how the USG works from the inside is to ignore the stands of students who the USG is supposed to be serving. In that logic, even the “good” opinions some officers have asked us in the media to highlight time and again are invalid.

Any student government, “student-powered” or otherwise, should listen to the opinions of the students they represent, even those unfamiliar with the internal procedures and mechanics of governance. This isn’t because we are disregarding the difficulty of government work, but because there is a need to provide feedback on the products of these government efforts. The USG does not exist for itself, and failing to at least acknowledge opinions that may not be aligned with those who work within the system completely disregards the USG’s main function of student representation. This also goes for any party that professes support for student rights and aims to get their candidates into next year’s USG.

Perhaps the best reaction to negative opinions about the USG and political parties is not to brush them aside and label them as misinformed or partisan. These comments are not an attack on people, political parties or the USG, but honest evaluations of the things that transpired from our side, as part of the collective pursuit of a better Lasallian community.

There’s something to be said about leaders who would ask for a few minutes of our time to tell us all about themselves but do not let students’ opinions take a few minutes out of theirs. It feels like a monumental overask to expect students to listen but not to criticize, to accept but not to analyze, all the while claiming that these platforms are based on creating a better community of Lasallian critical thinkers.

It is important that students continue questioning the platforms presented to us, in the same way that it’s important for all parties concerned that they find ways to solve the issues raised by the students they aim to represent, and improve themselves based on the criticism given.

Apathy has been thrown around as one of the biggest problems in the University, but perhaps it’s not entirely borne out of an inherent indifference towards campus politics but rather, a lack of confidence in the system that is supposed to be of the students, by the students and for the students.

Maybe it’s because voicing our thoughts does not seem to have had much impact on those who, at least during elections season, promised to listen. There is so much at stake for us to hold our leaders accountable though, and when the ballots have been counted and all the noise and chaos of the general elections have settled down, I hope they make do on those promises.

After all, how a student government aims to adequately represent and empower students without listening to them, I have no idea.