Academic Year 2014-2015 has seen various changes being undertaken by the University, most prominently the academic year calendar shift, Student Handbook revisions, adjustment to the K-12 curriculum, and the continued integration of the Science and Technology Complex (STC) in Biñan, Laguna. Halfway through the year, The LaSallian offers a mid-year assessment of how the University Student Government (USG) has performed in light of these changes.
With most of the seats in the Executive Board (EB) held by Santugon Sa Tawag Ng Panahon candidates, the sole exception being the Office of the Vice President for Internal Affairs (OVPIA) held by independent candidate Pram Menghrajani, it is sufficient to say that the working relationship between the offices should be efficient, but does it reflect in the services that they give to the student body?
Behind the scenes: EXECOM
USG President Carlo Inocencio has led the USG, through the Office of the President (OPRES), in their goal of involving the entire student body in different projects, such as the Student Handbook revisions. He clarifies that the USG is not composed of only the governing body, but the entire student population. Because of this, it is one of his mandates to the vice presidents to always include the ideas of the students within their discussions.
Inocencio stresses the importance of knowing the insights of the students in different timeframes and taking these in consideration to help improve the USG. “The first step in everything would be consultation with the students,” Inocencio notes. Afterwards, implementation of the projects needed or wanted by the students ensues. He furthers, “The last one would be the evaluation. It’s very important in [the] cycle that after an action has been done by the USG, dapat mabalik sa students kung anong tingin nila.”
Inocencio identifies unresponsive students as one of the problems that the USG faces, but he is firm in his belief that this concern should not hinder the USG from serving the student body. Despite this, Inocencio also notes that the responsiveness of students is where the USG this year improved as compared to last year because he, together with the whole EB, continuously tries to make sure that the whole student body becomes aware of their different activities and advocacies.
On the other hand, Menghrajani and her OVPIA team have been busy both within and outside her office in ensuring that her campaign promises will be met. In her campaign for the office, she rallied for the following: Financial transparency, affordable and healthier meals, recognition of appointed officials, arts, sports, issues discussions, proper representation, proper feedback system, and proper information dissemination.
Menghrajani cites the various activities revolving around the Student Handbook revisions as an example. “OVPIA, together with OPRES, the college governments, and the Legislative Assembly, conducted focus group discussions, open forums and surveys regarding the various Student Handbook issues,” she recounts. “The focus group discussions were targeted per student group and the open forums were targeted per college as well as University-wide,” she further explains.
In crafting projects for the student population, Menghrajani shares that their office considers three things, namely, student clamor, project efficiency, and project sustainability. She shares that each proposal is looked at in terms of its long-term effects. “We now look at the project in the long run and if the next set of elected officers can still handle the same project. If so, we push forward with the program or project,” she explains.
In the Office of the Vice President of External Affairs (OVPEA), Mae Mae Gonzales handles mostly opportunity-related programs, such as careers, community development, self-fulfillment, exchange programs, and the like. In delivering projects, they make sure that the opportunities that they give are what the students want.
Gonzales details the process their office follows in making projects which ensures that the concerns of the students are addressed in a feasible way. “We make sure that we do proper research first,” she shares. She clarifies that this research encompasses different stakeholders in the University, including the students and the administration.
Gonzales also mentions that students often forget that the problem and the approach are separate from each other. “In our case, it’s easier to search for the problem, but finding the proper approach wherein the students will really benefit from it or be accessible to them, that’s the challenging part,” she expounds.
To see to it that the students’ will benefit from the activity, OVPEA ensures that the approach is fit for them. They also make sure that they have follow-ups, specifically for exchange programs. “We don’t just give them the contact details and everything, we make sure that until the end, we are with them. It doesn’t end on paper,” Gonzales says.
In the Office of the Executive Treasurer (OTREAS), Rupert Laurel explains that their main goal is to focus on student-centered financial policies and creating policies that would cater the most to what the students deserve. What their office considers in creating projects for the Lasallian community are the need of the project, its relevance, and its impact.
“It’s really, really important not only to have projects for the sake of us having projects, but of course, we have to consider us making an impact on the whole Lasallian community,” Laurel claims.
For their consultation process, Laurel recounts that his office considers and determines how important a project is to the community. For instance, he shares that they were able to give out 20 scholarships during the first term of the school year, and they aim to give out more in the coming terms.
Behind the scenes: College governments
In the college government level, the different colleges have been addressing the specific needs of their respective colleges as well as issues that may confront the entire University.
For the College of Education (CED) President Monique Ungco, one unique problem her college faces is the elevator situation in Andrew Hall, where CED classes are held. She shares that her office was able to work with the Legislative Assembly in order to propose the creation of a “No Round Tripping and Line Cutting Policy” in the Student Handbook. “This proposed policy is now on its way to being passed to the Administration to be considered in the student handbook revisions,” she states.
In the College of Business (COB), meanwhile, President Juancho del Rosario tackles the supposed apathy the student body has regarding the USG. “Conversations, feedback, and [a] humble but confident disposition have done well for me so far. Oftentimes, there is a temptation for those creating programs to forget that they too were bored or disinterested in a lot of what was going on around them,” he says. He adds, “The goal is to shift that idea of the majority of apathy, and to do that, you need to make sure they see the benefit for them in a way that goes beyond acknowledgement.”
He credits these as reasons behind the success of the following projects: COB Channel, a 24/7 online tutorial service for COB students, the crafting of the COM-COM flowcharts, and the Generation Innovation, a tie up with the college presidents of the Gokongwei College of Engineering, the College of Computer Studies, and the College of Science.
Meanwhile, College of Liberal Arts (CLA) President Vjohn Dizon recounts that during the first term, the Arts College Government (ACG) created a survey to better understand the needs of the students. During the second term, the focus of the office shifted more towards the cap organizations in CLA “Because our vision is ‘One CLA,’ so it’s really more on getting to know the needs of the student organizations because they focus on the needs of the students since they are the organizations of each [of the] courses,” according to Dizon.
Dizon also explains that the ACG has a systematic way of getting feedback from the organizations, and that the FAST units have their respective research programs, such as conducting surveys online or in personal. “On my own, at times, I talk to random students just to get to know how they see or how they feel about certain programs of the USG,” he shares.
To crosscheck the projects of the USG and the awareness of the student body, an online survey was conducted in September. In a survey conducted by The LaSallian, 109 undergraduate students were able to rate the midterm performance of the USG. Among the 109 respondents, 42 percent gave positive comments about the USG. On the other hand, 36 percent gave the opposite, while the remaining 22 percent gave ambivalent answers.
When asked to give the USG a grade using the DLSU academic grading system, the mid-year grade point average was 2.65, slightly better than last year’s 2.53 rating. Although this grade can be considered as good, it is clear that there is still room for improvement.
When asked of the USG projects they can recall, students named the following: Pahiram Payong, Pahiram Libro, Achiever Scholar Program, Animo Rally, Condo Assist, 12-Hour Famine campaign, LRT/MRT ticket selling, Green Purse Bonus, and the Student Handbook revisions.
All in all
When the students were asked to justify the grade that they gave the USG, a prominent answer surfaced: This year’s USG is better than that of last year. However, some students still do not feel the presence of the USG and are not aware of the projects that they offer to the Lasallian community. This was also a common problem mentioned by the elected officers — that they experience difficulty in making their projects known to the entire student body, comprised of around 17,000 students this year. In addition, since the students do not know about the projects in store for them, another problem that the officers cite is the lack of manpower or participants for their projects.
With efficient and proper information dissemination and more ways of promoting the different activities or projects, perhaps the USG can solve the aforementioned problems. In turn, the students will be able to participate in them and will no longer be in the dark when it comes to the programs that the USG has implemented, since these are for their benefit after all.