According to Article XII of the University Student Government (USG) Constitution, batch governments (BG) are responsible for implementing programs and encouraging participation in college-wide and university-wide activities among their respective batches.
In academic 2013-2014, the Legislative Assembly (LA) opened the USG Constitution for amendments. Most of the revisions came from Project REFOCUS, proposed by former USG President Migi Moreno. One if its major proposals was the removal of the Batch Vice President and dissolution of the BG.
Bigger every year
There are a total of 26 BG units in the USG. Their executive boards are composed of three elected officials, namely, the Batch President, Batch Vice President, and Legislative Assembly Representative. The rest of the officers are selected by the top three during the Student Government Annual Recruitment.
Each BG varies in size, depending on the organizational chart drafted by the elected officers. Larger colleges, like the College of Liberal Arts and College of Business, tend to have roughly 50 people in their BGs, with BLAZE2016 once having over 100 officers. On the other hand, smaller colleges sometimes have BGs with as little as 20 appointed officers.
According to Micah Fernando, three-time LA representative of EXCEL2015, BGs create programs pertinent to their batch, which may include advocacy activities and services. They also assist in the execution of college-wide and university-wide efforts.
Fonso Ramos, BLAZE2018 batch president, shares that the number of the BG officers is upon the discretion of the BG itself. In the previous school year, his BG was composed of nine committees, with each committee having a chairperson and five to six people assisting the chairperson. For this year, the number appointed positions in BLAZE2018 has grown bigger. Additional vice chair positions were created since the number of applicants tripled from last year’s.
“A batch government is not only limited to student representation; it is also for advocating students’ rights and welfare,” Ramos states. He adds that, aside from student services, BGs also collaborate with each other to identify the needs of the University.
Lack of awareness
Besides representation, BGs are formed to cater to the students’ needs. According to EXCEL2018 Research and Development Chairperson Brian Chan, a BG is a way to serve the batch through specific projects.
“You can say that a BG is a student’s best friend. The students were the ones who chose the current officers, so the students can feel like they’re just approaching their friends for a problem,” expresses Ram Ocampo (II, BS-LGL).
Many students who participated in an informal survey conducted by The LaSallian claim to know little about their batch government. On the other hand, people who are aware of what the BG can do are those who have received services from the BG, or have benefited from the different projects they have conducted.
According to Paulo Vizcarra (II, BS-IE), elected officers are really doing their job, but that it’s only based on what he can see, having admitted he knew little about the BG. However, he adds, “My BG was really active in social media on posting updates about what’s happening inside the school like shifting, but that’s about it.”
In Article IX of the scrapped constitution which would have overhauled the structure of the USG, each batch would have two elected officials, namely the Batch Representative and Legislative Assembly Representative who are both part of the College Student Government (CSG).
To aid the batch representatives, section 18 of the same document states the creation of a Batch Council (BC) that will act as an advisory board for the elected officials. In an online interview, Moreno emphasizes the BC’s role as an advisory board and highlights its composition as the main difference in comparison with a BG.
“The [BC] is ideally composed of at least one student per course, altogether taken as a group, [and] will primarily serve as the advisory body. [On the other hand], the Batch Student Government (BSG) is composed of students whose positions vary in function similar to those of organizations,” Moreno elucidates.
He further explains that the point of this particular amendment was to refocus the duties and unify the efforts of the BGs. “This will effectively streamline and maximize resources within the CSG, which can serve as a means for support for all the batches,” he adds.
Fernando, also one of the authors of the proposed constitution, traces the rationale behind the amendment to the shift of focus and centralized approach found in the 2014 Constitution.
“It (the proposed constitution) was supposed to focus completely just on student representation to the administration, student services, advocacies, community development, student rights and welfare, national issues, student policy, and of course Lasallian formation,” he expresses.
Future of BGs
During a plebiscite held in November 2014, only 8.49 percent of the student population turned out to vote on the proposed constitution. Due to the low turnout, the plebiscite failed and the 2009 USG Constitution remains to be the one in use today.
Two years after the failed plebiscite, the same sentiments against the relevance of the USG are still common among the student body. The low voter turnout during the last USG General Elections, especially for batch level officials, seems to reflect the growing discontent of the student body.
Although Fernando stresses the importance of BGs under the current constitution, he still believes that the proposed amendments in the 2014 Constitution, including those pertaining to the dissolution of the BGs and creation of BCs, should be revisited and discussed in this year’s LA.