Since the first term of academic year 2016-2017, the University Student Government (USG) has been engaging in benchmarking activities together with the student councils and governments from other colleges and universities. According to the Term One Open Book released by the USG, the benchmarking initiative began on November 10 last year with the University of the Immaculate Concepcion in Davao. A discussion of the USG’s structure and sharing of best practices were held during the said initiative.
Meanwhile, representatives from Naga College Foundation were invited on November 18 in an exchange of processes and functions that can be benchmarked. The previous term this 2017 resulted to a successful continuation of the program as the USG also engaged in benchmarking activities with student council representatives from Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Valenzuela, Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Muntinlupa, and De La Salle Manado in Indonesia last February 18, March 17, and April 25, respectively.
Rationale for benchmarking
“Benchmarking activities are solely for the exchange of best practices of two [student] governments or councils. At first you may think that it would be them learning from us, but let me assure you that majority of the time, we also learn from them. The way I see it, that is the main essence of benchmarking activities,” USG President Zedrick Laqui explains.
Laqui notes that it is important to distinguish a student government from a student council. “The student government of DLSU has a very advanced structure, which fosters proper student representation through various kinds of positions and job descriptions. It is known for its patterned structure [from] the Philippine government,” he adds. Unlike the student government structure, student councils would apply different strategies to improve their system that are based on these benchmarking initiatives.
It can also be noted that the USG was established in 2009 mainly to revamp the student council structure which previously functioned as an activities and government board. According to a November 2010 article by The LaSallian, DLSU’s campus politics transitioned into the current system to make the student leaders’ efforts on University and national issues more effective and efficient. Until today, however, the students’ positive reception on the USG remains to be seen.
Some students, on the other hand, prefer to detach themselves completely from anything related to the USG. Nevertheless, more efforts such as the benchmarking initiatives prove to be a useful tool for making the necessary changes to the USG.
During these benchmarking initiatives, Laqui emphasizes that there should not be a dominant or superior council, and that everyone involved should mainly aim for proper student representation. He asserts that this is the main basis as to why the USG conducts such initiatives.
Among the things that Laqui and his team learned throughout the benchmarking activities is to apply a better approach. Another important takeaway is the camaraderie among other schools’ students, faculty, and administrators. The leaders of each sector in these schools conduct their teambuilding activities, planning sessions, and workshops together. In DLSU, these activities are typically conducted independently per sector. Organizing joint activities may potentially enable better bridges of communication between the administration and student body.
“Fostering a good working relationship with other sectors would definitely go a long way. We may even bring in other sectors of the University to promote inclusivity and transparency when it comes to our decision-making,” Laqui states.
Usually, student governments or councils from other schools request for a benchmarking activity from the Dean of Student Affairs. Once this is approved, the request will be directed to the USG. For this term, however, Laqui shares that they cannot guarantee the approval of all these requests, and that they need to be flexible. “[This is because] I have asked the team currently in charge of these benchmarking activities to focus on finalizing another program, which is the Student Council Federation proposal,” Laqui reveals. He adds that he wants to go back to other La Salle schools this term to learn from their practices.
In the coming weeks and months, the USG General Elections (GE) will come into full swing once more, and the topic of restructuring the USG continues to be among the essential elements that need to be taken into consideration. These benchmarking activities, as well as other current and future initiatives of the USG, help create a better system and process for the relatively young student government. As new student leaders fill in the positions this coming GE season, the question also remains whether there will be continuity in the projects already jumpstarted this academic year.