From September 10 to October 10 this year, student groups’ operations came to a halt as the Office of Student Leadership Involvement, Formation, and Empowerment (SLIFE) issued a one month moratorium effectively stopping activities carried out by the Council of Student Organizations (CSO) and the University Student Government (USG).
With the ban now no longer in effect and student groups returning to status quo, The LaSallian looks into why the ban was first implemented and how different activities and organizations have adjusted since then.
Reasons for the ban
USG President Gabbie Perez explains that the activity ban was implemented due to the recent changes in procedure in processing activity requirements. According to her, this was both in terms of processes overhauled and many key administration contacts assuming new positions in the past few years, which has led to some confusion among the student groups. This is because certain approvals need to be obtained from specific administrative offices depending on the nature of the activity.
These lapses in procedure, she shares, have become a concern for the offices involved since they have become more frequent. In order to address this, the ban was imposed to give the students time to be oriented on the correct steps they need to take.
“Let’s all stop first. Let’s understand the processes. Let’s try to relearn everything and let’s try to clear everything before we start,” she explains.
FAST 2015 Batch President and 115 Graduation Ball Project Head Maxine Pampolina adds to Perez’s input that organizations and units in both CSO and USG “have not been following the processes meticulously,” leading to the eventual moratorium. She reasons that the ban would provide ample time for both the student groups to evaluate their current processes, and for SLIFE to evaluate their cooperation with the organizations.
Most scheduled activities that fell during the period were prevented from proceeding. The ASEAN Engineering Camp, an initiative of the Engineering College Government, is one such example. Gokongwei College of Engineering Interim College President Iliana Tan shares that the activity was originally slated to start on August 31 but was instead pushed back to October 13 due to it coinciding with the Lasallian Personal Effectiveness Program. According to her, the activity could not be processed as the venue reservation needs to be signed off by SLIFE first. At the time, a verbal agreement was reached that allowed the organizers to move the event to October.
Unfortunately, the initial reschedule was not accepted either as preparations for the event would have coincided with the moratorium, which forced the organizers to move it to March 2019 instead. After the moratorium has lapsed, however, SLIFE had refused to provide the needed sign-off. They explained that it needed to be coursed through the Office of the Vice President for External Relations and Internationalization (OVPERI) first, a detail, Tan argues, that was not made known to them earlier.
The 115 Graduation Ball, another event whose initial schedule coincided with the moratorium period, was also barred from pushing through. Pampolina narrates that even when the ban was first hinted at before its official announcement, the organizers wanted to clarify the repercussions of it early on as this would have coincided with the event originally scheduled on October 7. “It really affected our dates. Internally, we had to decide whether to move it again, and we had to because we didn’t want to prolong any repercussions,” she explains.
According to her, they were already in close contact with then SLIFE Director John Lingatong. However, once the moratorium was finally confirmed, they could no longer push through with the original date and decided to have it on November 24 instead.
This change in schedule also impacted the manpower involved as some of the members of the central committee had either graduated or moved on to other priorities after it was rescheduled. There was also a concern whether other participants might back out due to the ban. Pampolina shares that this was addressed by establishing good communication with the parties and letting them know of the updates.
Exceptions to the moratorium
However, not all activities were affected. The ASEAN Youth Summit (AYS), which was scheduled last September 13 to 17, well within the period of the activity ban, was still allowed to push through. The AYS was attended by students from all around the ASEAN region and held inside DLSU. The goal of the event was to promote healthy discourse and proactive engagement against global and social economic issues.
Project Head and Officer in Charge (OIC) Nates Martin explains that the activity was allowed to push through because approvals were obtained in the term prior. Another reason as to why the event pushed through, he cites, was due to the nature of AYS, implying that it was not entirely covered under the activity ban. “[This was because] it had no workshops, paperworks, and the like,” discloses Martin.
The AYS OIC also reveals that the said summit’s organizers had undergone constant consultations with the University administrators prior to the event to ensure that it pushes through. However, it was not disclosed what was discussed during those meetings.
Changes in procedure
Pampolina laments that post-moratorium, the procedures have become stricter with the organizers being required to undergo the procurement process again. “To make sure the Grad Ball was accepted by SLIFE, we had to [reassure] them that we [went] through procurement,” she clarifies. However, because this is mandated, they are willing to go through the process again just to ensure that the project gets accepted.
Activities and workshops were proposed to be held in order to ensure an improved flow of operations within organizations and supervising offices post-ban. “After the moratorium, what is expected of us as USG and CSO is that we undergo proper training for project implementation,” Tan speculates, and continues, “[SLIFE] is going to make sure that the workshops are mandatory for all project heads, and all elected officers. There [also will be] additional workshops that we have to go through, like project management, financial management.”
Perez confirms that process orientation workshops were held with the various offices they have close involvement with, such as the Accounting Office, the Procurement Office, and the Office for Strategic Communications. On their end, Perez shares that they actively ensure that the update on the processes remain “student-friendly”, and that the offices have been welcoming in supporting the initiative. “So they help us in terms of educating us, and they will [also] help us in lobbying for better student processes,” she summarizes.
Tan also shares that having a new process is “hard” in trying to set a timeline for planned events. Reflecting on the events that transpired during the said ban, in a previous interview with The LaSallian, she mentions that there is an underlying issue with working with offices, specifically with OVPERI. “We have to do a standard set of processes, and I think that’s also included sa moratorium dapat, on how to process projects under OVPERI,” Tan argues.
To avoid the possibility of another moratorium, Perez stresses that project heads should be prepared and knowledgeable of the processes involved in carrying out projects, and that these processes be evaluated to ensure that they remain reasonable. “Sa sobrang daming proseso…kailangan niyong i-balance out in such way that the processes are student-friendly, and that the students understand that processes need to be followed,” Perez concludes.
(Because there are so many processes…there is a need to balance out in such a way that the processes are student-friendly, and that students understand that processes need to be followed.)