The University Student Government (USG) General Elections (GE) 2016 annual Harapan debate was held last July 29 at Yuchengco 507-509, where candidates from political parties Santugon sa Tawag ng Panahon (Santugon) and Alyansang Tapat sa Lasallista (Tapat) exchanged views on several issues in the University. Jorge Francisco of Santugon, Jason Dizon of Tapat, and Kevin Tan of Tapat were the winners in the three rounds of the debate. Meanwhile, Zed Laqui of Santugon was awarded as the Best Speaker.
On autonomy of student organizations
For the first round, Santugon’s Francisco and Tapat’s Yans Joaquin, running for College Assembly President for the College of Computer Studies and the Br. Andrew Gonzalez College of Education, respectively, were asked regarding the autonomy that student organizations should have in the University.
Joaquin stood by her belief that student organizations should have full autonomy. “To give full autonomy means being a completely independent body that can have the power to govern [its] constituents and to do things at [its] will without having to ask permission from others,” she declared.
Joaquin explained that such autonomy would enable organizations to be sources of transformative learning. “[Autonomy will allow students] to implement what they learn in the classroom. This enriches the already diverse culture of the University,” she said, adding that strict accreditation must be implemented along with full autonomy.
On the contrary, Francisco said that student organizations should only be semi-autonomous. Francisco reasoned that he believes student organizations are accredited organizations that carry the name of the University; therefore, any actions of these organizations will not only affect the name of the organization, but also the name of the University.
“Student organizations could not be absolutely free, because the school has to exert its effort to ensure that they are still morally obligated and morally bound to keep the students safe,” Francisco expounded.
On “Happy Thursday”
Dizon of Tapat and Reigner Sanchez of Santugon, both running for Vice President for External Affairs, were asked how they will be able to balance the growing concerns of both parents and faculty regarding the drinking culture of “Happy Thursday” prevalent among students.
Dizon stated that he is against the removal of drinking establishments since it is better for students to be drinking in the vicinity of the University since immediate response can be given by University security personnel should problems arise. He emphasized that the student body should instead fight for the improvement of security features within such establishments, such as by calling for the implementation of stricter checking of IDs.
Dizon also added that the students’ welfare should be well taken care of in order to balance the concerns of the parents, faculty, and the students. “[The] optimal point is found in having these bars exist and having these security features increase [while recognizing] that it’s not even the majority of the Lasallians who drink,” he elaborated.
On the other hand, Sanchez pushed for propagating a counter-culture to “Happy Thursday,” which means giving the students options whether they will go out to drink during Thursday evenings or not. Sanchez cited extending library hours, making the sports facilities accessible to students, and empowering student organizations to promote programs on Thursdays as part of this counter-culture.
“We have to look at the sentiments of the students if they don’t want these bars around the campus. And if they don’t want it, I believe that it is our role to have that push to really uphold what is written on the law,” Sanchez also emphasized. He said that the University must uphold the rule of law and mold the students to be responsible drinkers.
On making the USG more inclusive
For the final round, presidential candidates Tan of Tapat and Laqui of Santugon were faced with the question of how to make the USG more inclusive towards students.
Tan stressed that making the student body rally behind a substantial platform entails their interest on the USG. “Involvement will result in giving the students what they actually need,” Tan said, as he addressed relevant issues of Lasallians. He advocated Tapat’s platform to assist the student body in grievance cases, enlistment concerns, and everyday difficulties through opening the USG office all year round and offering services to Lasallians in need.
On the other hand, Laqui shared that Santugon aspires for the full trust of the students. For him, there are two steps in making the student government more inclusive. First, he said that the USG must reconnect with the students. Second, he said that the USG must collaborate with every sector of the University and promote cooperation. He said that as a collaborative learning environment, proper streamlining must occur in order to make the most out of the USG for the students.
A follow-up question was asked by a member of the audience, regarding the respective candidates’ stand on the proper implementation of the ID policy.
“My personal stand is that I was against it because it was limiting our choices. However the administration became transparent with us regarding the rationale behind it,” explained Laqui. Moreover, he said that the ID policy ensures that everyone has a particular business inside the University.
On the other hand, Tan answered that if the ID policy does not contribute substantial efforts for the betterment of the student body’s discipline and notable values, Tapat will be against it. He emphasized that the ID policy safeguards the protection of the students but there is always a certain extent to rules and regulations.
In addition, a follow-up question for Laqui came from Dizon, who asked why it took seven months for the Executive Treasurer to announce the final tuition fee increase of the University for next academic year. To answer, Laqui responded that he wanted to wait for the Commision on Higher Education memorandum approving the increase to ensure that he would be relaying the correct information to students.
After the debates, an open forum was held.
The event was organized by the USG Commission on Elections, La Salle Debate Society (LSDS), De La Salle Alumni Association, and DLSU Judiciary Branch.
The panel of adjudicators was composed of LSDS President Katherine Albert, LSDS member Lyssa Ajero, National Debate Competition 2015 Adjudicator Chris Ferriols, Gokongwei College of Engineering Magistrate Rafael Rabacca, and Chief Magistrate JC Santos.