As the academic year slowly draws to a close and with the 2018 General Elections (GE) right around the corner, President Mikee De Vega discusses some of the issues spotlighted under her administration, including her being antagonized in the eyes of members of the student body.
Reliving the experience to empower
While this school year saw the USG branching out to projects which touch on the national political climate, it was not without repercussions. Two of the more notable issues the USG faced this year were events that touched on sensitive topics, namely the EDSA Commemoration Week, and the United Nations (UN) Women’s Month.
The USG was under fire for its EDSA Commemoration Week; with the event named “Ghosts of Martial Law”, partnered with a tagline “Relive the Experience”, the event did not sit well with the student body, which saw the marketing for the activity as irreverent to the victims of the time.
The initial poster included a link for a sign-up sheet, which encouraged students to form groups of three to get a chance to win cash prizes once they join the competition to “relive the experience.” The USG, together with the University’s Committee on National Issues and Concerns (CoNIC), advertised the event as an immersive learning experience for the students.
Meanwhile, to celebrate the UN Women’s Month, the USG organized a benefit-concert to celebrate and empower women. The said event was not limited to DLSU students, as the USG opened the event to non-members of the Lasallian community. In an attempt to both publicize the event and make non-Lasallians aware of the existing University Dress Code Policy, the USG released a detailed infographic that summarized what is permitted to wear inside campus. The post gained traction online with Lasallians and outsiders alike, reacting to the ill-advertised event. In both cases, the events were aimed to educate the students, but was, however, mishandled.
The President’s stand
When asked what could have been improved for the Women’s Month publicity material, De Vega reiterates that the dress code shown is in line with the University’s policy, and emphasizes that it was the prerogative of the organizers to inform the outside participants of the rules on campus.
However, she admits that there were lapses in terms of the way it was communicated. As an example, for Animusika, the culminating night of the 2018 University Vision Mission Week, a dress code was also put into effect for the event but went unnoticed by the community. She believes that this may have been because the event did not deal with sensitive topics as compared to the Women’s Month activity.
For EDSA Commemoration Week, De Vega maintains that she supported the nature of the project, primarily because of the prevalence of historical revisionism, and the strong need to educate Lasallians about Martial Law.
“We felt that it was important for the USG to also bridge that gap for national consciousness. Others find it distasteful. I can see why, but at the same time there were some students who felt inclined to learn in such a manner,” she explains.
However, De Vega acknowledges that the publicity materials, especially the chosen tagline, was off-hand, but admits that this may be due to the fact that raising national awareness was not an area of expertise for the USG, and that these mishaps are “birthing pains” borne from attempts to launch these new projects.
Relationship with the students
Given the nature of being the highest elected officer in the USG, it would come as no surprise that they would have their own fair share of detractors, especially with the recent issues. When asked about being seen as an antagonist by some members of the student body, De Vega responds that she does not believe students would be that harsh.
“I think that the worst that I see is that they don’t care at all about us, or what we do,” she counters. “But I think it is a natural part of the democratic process. I think anyone who runs for USG will know that you will not please everyone whatever you do.”
She cites that some students will be divided on issues, and that no matter what stance the USG takes, there will be those who disagree.
Overall, however, she believes that her relationship with the students is “up and down,” in a sense that for some issues such as the recent change in the University Break schedule, she feels close to the students when she was on the ground gathering signatures from students for the petitions filed, while on other days she feels distant especially when faced with criticisms.
Looking back, going forward
With modern developments, it is expected that each new batch of student leaders face problems that were not met by their predecessors. In line with this, De Vega believes that the issues faced nowadays has changed, that it is more sensitive towards certain issues. “We started talking about things like historical revisionism, sexual harassment—which are gut issues, issues close to the heart,“ she elaborates.
From the perspective of the student government, she also sees the longstanding issue of whether or not the USG serves its function in representing the students being more highlighted now than before as they have become more involved in lobbying for the student body. She cites the recent handbook revisions and the opening of the 24/7 study area as examples of the USG making progress on that front, but admits shortcomings when it comes to the U-Break petitions failing.