Categories
General Elections University

The Vice President of Internals as the student’s chief solicitor

When students need someone to fight for their rights, one USG Executive Board office should, according to the USG Constitution, take the lead. This office handles all student concerns within the University; this office is none other than the Office of the Vice President for Internal Affairs (OVPIA).

 

The office’s involvement is evident in grievance cases that escalate beyond the informal level of conflict resolution, which eventually requires mediation from USG representatives.

 

In the event that students need assistance in processing their grievance cases, Student Handbook directs them to visit the University Student Government Office on the third floor of the Br. Connon Hall. The responsibility of assisting students in grievance proceedings falls to the University Student Government, which is mandated to be at the forefront of the students’ struggle for their rights and welfare as stated in Article IV of the USG Constitution.

 

Consequently, the office could be evaluated based on its performance in handling the grievance system. A grievance, as defined in Section 6 of the Student Handbook is any controversy between a student as the aggrieved party and a member of the academic community as respondent who may be the cause of a complaint.

 

According to the student handbook, a student may file a case against any member of the academic community. The process dictates that a case should first be informally addressed, with the terms and the resolution left to the necessary discretion of the professor and the student(s). Only if the concerned parties are unable to come to a resolve will a formal grievance – written and signed – be pursued. In such an event, the complaint is filed with the Department Chair to which the faculty member belongs.

 

Should the party not be satisfied with the resolution of the Department Chair, the complainant could avail of the option to appeal to the Ad-Hoc Grievance Board (Board) composed of the Vice Dean of the college to which the faculty belongs, senior faculty member of the department to which the faculty belongs, USG President, College Assembly President of the college to which the complainant belongs, and a Faculty Association representative.

 

Incumbent Vice President for Internal Affairs (VP Internals) Robert Hechanova tells that during his term, no cases have been appealed to the Board. He explains, “This year, we didn’t actually have a case that elevated to that level yet.”

 

One possible reason grievance cases do not escalate to this level is that students may be discouraged from filing cases because they are worried that the outcome may not be worth the effort required to process a case. In an article released by The LaSallian in January regarding the grievance procedure, one student (II, CAM-ADV) says, “The procedure [seems] to be designed to give students a hard time when it should be empowering us instead.”

 

Such complaints about the grievance system are but an indication of a possibly even more pervasive issue: grievances that fail to be aired. Academic grievances which fail to be raised to the proper avenues only reinforce the students’ fear of not being meted with due justice. A third year Accountancy major cites his fear of this reflecting in student records and the impression in leaves on the faculty and other students. He furthers, “I’m scared that filing a grievance might have unwanted effects.”

 

On a larger scale, a significant portion of the University student sample may not feel that the USG is doing enough to prioritize students’ rights and welfare. In an informal survey conducted by The LaSallian, majority of the respondents gave a 3.0 rating (on a scale of 0.0-4.0) when asked to rate the effectiveness of the USG in representing student rights and concerns. In encouraging students to be more proactive on students’ rights, and in evaluating efforts done and policies created that help promote students’ rights, majority of the respondents ranked USG efforts as passable, with a score of 2.0. The mean scores fall between 2.2 and 2.6.

 

Several respondents stated that upholding students’ rights did not appear to be a priority of the USG. Ji Eun Kuk (III, BS-MGT) remarks, “I am [a] foreign student, and I am not well aware of what were the activities USG did for student rights.”

 

Hechanova explains that to resolve issues in student representation and maintaining a close, personal relationship with constituents, he focused on restructuring the office and internal teambuilding efforts. Several teams focusing on different student services and concerns were formed under his office with the intention of cascading responsibilities to point persons who take on more operational tasks.

 

This, according to Hechanova, would allow his office to pinpoint and address all student concerns. He explains, “We had a lot of people come in, a lot of new people and a lot of new fresh faces so it was really important for me to tap into their personal file for service… we want to have people working specifically on these concerns.”

 

After Hechanova’s term, plans to further bridge the distance between the USG and fighting for student concerns vary between the two candidates vying for the VP Internals post. Incumbent Executive Treasurer and Santugon candidate for VP Internals Carlo Innocencio’s thrust is to mold VP Internals into a research-based unit, saying that the instruments would enable them to effectively get feedback on the students’ real problems and during Goals, Objectives, Strategy, Measures-setting meeting before proposing solutions to these. These instruments would be disseminated and cascaded through the colleges and the batch governments.

 

Inocencio cites that the USG needs to better represent the students. He plans to address this by creating additional representative councils where student representatives could consult with multi-sectoral committees.

 

The candidate suggests that the grievance system, specifically concerning academic grievances, could be shortened, and proposes the creation of a grievance generator, an online calendaring system that aids students filing grievances by generating a list of dates to note in the process to further expedite the entire process, complete with FAQs that detail the process.

 

Former President of Alyansang Tapat sa Lasallista (Tapat) and candidate for VP Internals Gab Andres asserts that to actively defend students’ rights in multi-sectoral committees, he will push for the development of a Student Services Charter, a manual that consists of policies and guidelines that would enable students to easily voice out their particular concerns and identify areas for improvement in terms of the defense of student rights in the University. He says, “We can ensure that we [will be heard by] each of the [concerned administrators].”

 

Besides the Board, other committees that have student representatives fighting for student interests include the Student Discipline Board, Security Committee, Multi-Sectoral Committee on Budget, Graduation Committee, Honors and Awards Committee, and the President’s Council of Representatives, among others.

 

But at the end of the day, despite the number of multi-sectoral committees and proposals for additional legislature on student’s rights, the students who continue to fight for their right to professional competence from faculty and other administrators would need all the help they could get from the University Student Government, which is tasked to help them promote their rights as students and individuals.

By Dana Uson

By Juan Batalla

Leave a Reply