Because soul-crushing work has never been satisfying without a drop of play or two, the night animal in us was born. We push the boundaries of play with each slosh of the wine and shake of the hip; alcohol drip drip dripping, strobe lights flashing, and blurred, sugary drops of ecstasy swirling on our tongues – content in the notion that the educational system has permitted this small tidbit  of fun. Everything is set in motion – the bass-deep thrumming of music, the quicksilver flashes of acrobatic stunts, and the sweat-drenched mass of tightly-packed bodies moving in syncopated rhythm, and we get drunk in the adrenaline and pleasure of it all – every golden minute spent worthily, every class incentive upholding the party maximized. By the grace of the party animo, the night is young, and so are we.

And because our Thursdays are Happy for a reason, we admit to the Lasallian culture of a night of fun and relaxation at the end of a stressful week – so much so that the boundaries between work and play often blur. We rely on organization events to destress and revitalize ourselves, but are the guest numbers a result of mandated attendance or pure, self-imposed will?

Regardless, a drop of next week’s hit event advertisements from this organization and that, and a handful of professors are quick to give the thumbs-up for class incentives. It is considered as a precautionary measure to not depend on incentives, in order to thrive in a class. However, in some moments of, perhaps, weakness or need, incentives might just be a way of academic survival. Incentives come in various forms: parties, musicals, plays, bazaars, movie screenings and recreational activities. Others exude a more formal aura: seminars, lectures, workshops and the like. Grades can oft be easily earned or boosted through proofs of party attendance, presence in a movie screening or simply an appearance at a certain bazaar; some, which come packaged with noble promises and sealed with charitable motives (think proceeds to Yolanda victims), vindicate the need of students to enjoy for a tad bit, possibly and indirectly at the expense of others.

On the various types of incentives, there is an array of choices for professors to choose from but going back to the basic question on the definition of incentives, Prof. Real So of the Management and Organization Department says, “Incentives are supposed to encourage them to participate in this, so they can learn and widen their horizons but it is not. The point is that the students should be joining the organization and attending these events because they want to widen their perspective or gain exposure.”


On offering incentives

For Dr. Shirley Lua, a faculty member of the DLSU Literature Department, incentives are offered in accordance to its relevance to the course. “Usually the activities are connected to the topics in class. If it is a literature class, the activity has something to do with arts. Maybe a dance performance, or say poetry reading. If that is the case, then usually I do give incentives. If it is not related to the course, I will announce it and ask them to attend but no incentive; it is optional.” Similarly, Prof. Real So shares the same thought on this particular matter, “Okay, if it is connected to the subject, it may be considered but if it is not, then what is the connection? There is none. It’s two different things. It has nothing to do with academic subjects.  Incentives are so abused already. Maybe alternative class, yes, but when it comes to parties, what is the value of the party to the course? So why would I give incentive? There’s no connection.”

This disparity leads to the basic definition and purpose of giving incentives and so Prof. Real So adds, “What is the incentive for? So you go back to the reason and the rationale for the incentive because you want to encourage them to participate but the problem is that the students are participating in an activity, not because they love the activity, not because they could learn from the activity or the participation, but because there is a grade. So they are afraid that if there is no grade, they will not be participating; therefore, I think there is a disconnection there.”

Ms. Marie Henson of the Psychology Department shares that she gives incentives for psychology-related events. Only once did she give incentives for a party, which was sponsored by the Samahan ng mga Mag-aaral sa Sikolohiya (SMS), the school’s official psychology organization. It is one of the ways with which she can support the organization, but other than that, she could not see why she should grade someone for their own fun. She adds that people should go if they want to, not because someone gave them additional points, as it defeats the purpose of the party.


A matter of necessity

The whole system on incentives depends on various factors which may include the student’s need for additional grades, the professor’s aim to provide extra knowledge outside the class or even the requirements imposed upon some organizations. “The events offered by organizations are too much, I think, although I understand the concerns of these organizations. They are obliged to hold events and admittedly, they are catering to the students but seemingly everybody is preoccupied with a lot of things, so they do not have enough audience or they do not have enough profits, which is why they are targeting certain marks. If they have not achieved their targets, they ask the assistance of the professors. I understand their problem although, yes, there is an abundance of events,” Dr. Shirley Lua shares.

From the Filipino Department, David San Juan is one professor who gives minimal incentives. “As much as possible, the activity should be beneficial to the students one way or the other and the proceeds of the activity are meant for charity and/or socially relevant projects. Generally, I do not like the idea of giving incentives for activities.  Unfortunately, that is the only way to help student organizations and their partners gain enough participants in their typically good activities.”


Incentive takers

Some incentives are believed to be added in different ways to help improve one’s grade – “I add incentives to exercises and recitation but not in the overall or raw grade,” Dr. Lua shares. Ms. Henson also shares that while it may make sense for lagging students to be the ones to take advantage of offered incentives, this usually is not the case. Instead, those who are already excelling in class are the ones who take incentives; thus, the purpose is not ‘fulfilled.’ She, herself, would not attend a party for incentives.

Jose Edeza (IV, ECO-MKT) cites both convenience and need as reasons for taking incentives. He agrees that “It is the professor’s discretion to give incentives.” Indeed, the giving of incentives for both academic and non-academic activities remains a common practice in the university, and it seems that it will remain so for the foreseeable future. The said ‘incentive culture’ may or may not have become a little too much, but then a little bit of fun never did hurt, did it?

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26 replies on “Exposition: The incentive culture”

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