This year’s University Student Government (USG) General Elections (GE) has seen an engaging campaign period–only that the publicity it received was mostly negative. Since the start of the election season, allegations of corruption resurfaced and new scandals emerged amid calls for abstention.
In what was the second GE following the Special Elections (SE) held in 2015, this year’s election once again faced the hurdle of reaching the voter turnout quota. On the first day, only nearly nine percent of the student body showed up to vote. This number increased to nearly 25 percent on the second day, then closed at 50.68 percent by the end of the third day of voting. However, two colleges were faced with lower turnouts that did not reach the quota, which led to the extension of the voting period.
In comparison, the 2015 SE saw a voter turnout of 55.70 percent while the 2016 GE registered a slightly higher turnout at 56.31 percent. Prior to 2015, noticeably higher turnouts were registered, from 72.73 percent in 2013 and 62.05 percent in 2014, before plummeting to 35.90 in 2015. This year’s speculated turnout–which seems to be plateauing at 51 percent–appears to be just another indication that amidst all the mudslinging and leaked conversations, the student body has lost its trust in the student government.
This year, as a new set of officers is elected, we challenge the USG to change this perception. In 2016, the USG proved to be successful with regard to playing its part in the rejection of the proposed change in the University Break. It also continued engaging the students in more accessible consultations regarding the tuition fee increase. And on a lighter note, it is with the efforts of the USG that events like University Week and Animusika happen.
At the same time, however, they received criticism for not taking larger initiatives in protest of the burial of Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, as well as supposedly failing to act in the wake of the CHED memorandum that temporarily halted off-campus activities. Students also complained of long-standing issues such as redundant offices and positions, and a failure to address general student needs. Combined with the scandals that rocked this year’s GE, fueled by mudslinging and accusations from both sides, and it only goes to show that there is still a long way to go before the USG can fully reclaim the trust of the student body.
This coming academic year, the USG is set to deliberate on the student body’s suggestions for the student handbook revisions, an opportunity window that opens only every three years. If the rising amount of complaints on social media is any indication, then the student body wants change in the way that they are approached, represented, and led by these candidates–that much is clear. Though the GE was successful after the quota was met (albeit barely), the pressure rests on the USG to bring about this change. It is time to steer away from trapo campaigns, glittering generalities, and rumor spreading, and go back to the very core of what the USG is supposed to be.
At the same time, the student body must do more than being engaged only when there is drama enveloping the USG. And while much can be said about the USG and their faults, we must always remember that the students have a role to play as well. Before complaining about the USG, take a look at the activities and services provided by the USG. If you have any issue with what they’re doing, or if you find an activity useless or have an idea for a service you’d like to avail of, take the time to let them know. Read. Be informed.
With all the active campaigning and promotions the officers do, it’s not hard to contact them. Only when you’ve exhausted these very simple actions do you have the right to complain.
It rests on both the new set of elected candidates–who must veer away from the tactics that have muddied the name of the USG and ensure that the students are well represented for the incoming year of policy changes–and the students body–who must take the time to be informed, and hold elected officers accountable–to bring back meaning to the USG. Governance itself is a two-way street, after all, and we must all do our part, whether calling for the rise of the ordinary or a progressive Lasallian engagement.