With the 2017 General Elections upon the student electorate, the University once again will welcome new platforms, new campaign slogans, and of course, new student leaders. While the electorate looks forward to familiar faces and new candidates alike for the upcoming elections, The LaSallian looks into the milestones and achievements of the University Student Government (USG) for the past year, especially those of the Executive Board (EB).
On facing issues
Upon securing a seat in the USG, each incumbent EB member focused on certain specific goals. For Executive Treasurer Brian Chen, the first issue he focused on was transparency. “At the start of my year kasi, tinira yung finances of the entire USG,” Chen shares. (At the start of my year, there was an issue about the finances of the entire USG.)
“So what we did was launch a transparency report,” he starts. “A financial report wherein all off the finances, transactions, and balances of the entire USG, not just my office, but the entire USG will be made available to the students.”
According to the Executive Treasurer, this was a move to ensure transparency and accountability. “[We launched it] to ensure that there’s transparency and accountability [on the] part of the officers,” Chen explains. “So that is where I started and tried to focus on first, in order to make sure that [the issues], whether they be true or not, don’t happen again,” he ends.
Executive Secretary Monica Otayza also focused on similar issues. “This year, the entire EB, including my office, focused on transparency,” Otayza shares. “We wanted to increase the different channels for communication… We made a new Telegram channel, a new website, and right now we just launched the new text messaging system.”
For Otayza, increasing communication lines was vital to building better student services and pushing for transparency between the USG and the student body. “We really wanted the students to see what’s happening inside and we wanted to show them that they are a part of everything we do in the USG,” Otayza explains.
Aside from transparency, USG President Zed Laqui focused on achieving a student-centered university. “It was a matter of me controlling the entire USG executive committee or me as the president ensuring that they’re on the right track,” he says, explaining that he had to strictly implement an EB alignment, a meeting with the college presidents, every week.
“Having weekly meetings with the colleges and the EB was very simple but it was very effective because all the initiatives were aligned. If a college needed help, the EB knew how to help them. If the EB needed help, the college knew how to help the EB as well,” Laqui expounds, explaining why the EB alignment was an effective idea.
Setbacks and hurdles
No plan exists without encountering setbacks. In exacting their platforms for the student body, the incumbent EB also experienced their own fair share of problems. According to Otayza, the OSEC’s first and foremost problem was their lack of manpower. “We had a hard time having people stay in our CenComms or our committees,” shares Otayza. “Not everyone was as active as we expected them to be.”
However, she notes that this was overcome by regular encouragement and a volunteerism scheme. “Throughout the year, we kept encouraging them to keep working with us,” she says. “We didn’t want to impose any services and duties on them so we always ask them to volunteer, and through volunteerism we got to know officers who we didn’t really see or hear from in the past term.”
On the other hand, sustainability and continuity was Vice President for External Affairs Reigner Sanchez’ foremost problem. “In an organization like the USG, it’s very challenging to achieve sustainability,” says Sanchez.
“I faced a lot [of problems] in terms of the operational side,” he admits. “We discovered numerous debts that were recorded years back, and of course, we have to face them as the incumbent EB.”
Having laid out numerous plans and executed much of them, it is only normal for any incumbent officer to worry about the future of these projects when they step down.
Vice President for Internal Affairs Karl Ong shares this sentiment. “Well of course, there’s always the concern that, with the change in leadership, they may have different directions. But for us, for instances like that, we hope to see our projects be sustained,” he mentions.
“Concerns in terms of continuity will always be there,” Chen asserts. “Unless you do something about it, like say you formalize it, there will always be that factor,” he says. “What I did as a proactive measure is to make most, if not all, projects, established programs, and others are formalized.”
Similarly, USG President Zed Laqui admits that he is worried about the continuity of his programs, but shares his hope for the future. “I just hope and I just pray that whoever wins the elections, whether you’re from Santugon, whether you’re from Tapat, these programs that really are relevant, admired, and looked for by the student body, I hope that these programs can be continued.”
He then adds, “At the end of the day, you have to trust in democracy. The students elected the incoming officer because they would either continue or improve the program. I still have faith in democracy.”