Last academic year, the University Student Government’s (USG) constitution was opened for amendments. Through the Legislative Assembly (LA), elected officers discussed the possible revisions that could make the current structure if the USG more efficient. The constitution that had not been updated since 2009.
After consulting both the judiciary and executive branches, and holding several LA sessions the modification of the USG constitution, the resolution regarding the new USG constitution was passed last February 28, 2014. Some of the proposed revisions are the elimination of the batch vice president position, the compression of the number of USG units from 43 to nine, the centralization of the executive branch of the student government, and making the appointed officers more accountable.
Despite the USG’s clamor for updating its constitution, any changes to the bylaws of the student government must undergo the approval of the entire undergraduate student population. Through a plebiscite, Lasallians could vote for or against the revisions of the constitution. In addition, at least fifty percent plus one of the student population needs to participate in voting to make the plebiscite valid. Due to time constraints last academic year, the LA decided to hold the plebiscite this academic year instead.
Ineffective educational campaigns
The last few weeks have seen the USG’s efforts to inform the students about the various changes in the constitution. Each college hosted a town hall meeting for their constituents to not only learn about the specific provisions that will be updated, but also to ask questions and to raise concerns. Last October 29, the USG held a town hall meeting for all students to cater to those who were unable to attend the college meetings. It was also conducted in order to explain the reasons behind the proposed revisions and the process behind the plebiscite.
With all the efforts of the USG, however, it seems that only a few number of students are aware of the changes that are happening with regards to the USG constitution. “The USG is creating a new constitution that will remove the batch government. Meaning, all the officers will be under the USG,” Marian Ferriols (II, AB-OSDM) shares.
Christelle Jayco (II, AEF-ADV) remarks that they are changing the system to have direct representation of the students through the batch representative, who will replace the positions of the president and the vice president in the batch government, making it more centralized and efficient.
“I’ve heard of it while having a conversation with some of my org-mates during booth manning and the profile pictures of the people on Facebook. If I’m not mistaken, [the plebiscite] is a poll that the USG is spearheading sometime this month to know if students are for or against a ‘new USG,’” says Patricia Rodriguez (II, AB-OSDM).
The other students who were also asked if they are aware of the plebiscite said that they do not know much about it, or have only seen the publicity materials on social networking sites, but do not know the actual reasons behind the modifications of the USG constitution.
Speed bump ahead
Through the plebiscite, the students are given the chance to choose whether they want the current system to change. With concerns regarding the number of students still uninformed about the proposed constitution, the proponents behind the revisions are anxious of the plebiscite results. Originally scheduled on Nov. 3 to 7 in the Manila campus and on Nov. 10 to 14 in the Science and Technology Complex, the plebiscite was temporarily suspended after two concerned students filed a complaint questioning the legitimacy of the plebiscite.
A temporary restraining order over the plebiscite was issued by the USG’s judicial branch as part of due process. In the hearing of the complaint last Nov. 10, the magistrates declared that the allegations of the concerned students are not truthful. The plebiscite will be rescheduled on the last week of November.
Should the new constitution pass the plebiscite, students shall see less candidates fielded during General Elections in 2015 and a drastic reorganization of the USG structure next academic year.
There is still a probability that majority of the students might vote against the proposed revisions. If the plebiscite results will be unfavorable to the proponents of the revisions, the provisions of the 2009 USG constitution will continue to be implemented until the constitution will once again be opened for amendments and up for another plebiscite.