For students, the University Student Government (USG) General Election (GE) provides a temporary break from the mundane routine of the courses that they are enrolled in.
The desire to participate in any election-related activity, especially campaigning for officers, is present among students, but the facts are straight: for the candidates time spent campaigning is time lost for academics, and for the rest of the students and faculty, lectures might finished earlier if it were not for disruptions caused by constant knocking on doors and the redundant query of whether “they can have a few minutes of your time.”
Br. Ricky Laguda, FSC, the President and Chancellor of DLSU, tells that he has been observant of students’ activities during GE season, including debates between candidates and room-to-room campaigns, and hopes that the electoral process of the students continues to improve as it has in the previous years.
“I hope we can represent an alternative way of addressing issues and concerns that really matter to the students, not just the way traditional politicians do,” Laguda says, adding that the campaign culture in the campus mimics that of the country.
Together with Laguda, some of the more seasoned members of the DLSU community have aired their thoughts regarding the activities that take place during this season of elections. Like the students, these professors also hold mixed sentiments about student politics.
The campaign trail
One common complaint of students is that the hustle and bustle of GE season is disruptive to learning, especially when it comes to room-to-room campaigns. Some professors agree, while others are more willing to sacrifice five minutes of the class time to allow the candidates to make themselves known.
Engineer Carlo Ochotorena, a professor from the Electronics and Communication Engineering Department, tells that he checks the feasibility of a room-to-room (RTR) campaign before allowing it while the class is ongoing. “Sometimes, I’m in the middle of a lecture and it’s a disruption to the class, but if they come in at a right time, then it’s fine,” shares Ochotorena.
Meanwhile, Victor Manhit, a full time professor from the Political Science Department, shares that he is in fact encouraging of the candidates’ campaigns. “For me, as a professor of politics, I encourage room-to-room campaigns because it’s the best opportunity for students to hear and understand their candidates,” says Manhit.
The professors interviewed by The LaSallian note that the students who participate in the electoral campaigns, whether as candidates or as campaign managers and political party members, also face their own dilemma mainly in how they will need to make up for the classes that will be missed during the election period.
Professor Mitzie Conchada of the School of Economics (SOE) makes it clear that she holds nothing against students who run for office, but as she says, “[These students] should be responsible for the classes and lectures that they miss.
Literature professor Kate Ramil shares Conchada’s sentiments and believes that nothing is wrong with wanting to run for office, saying, “As long as they complete their work and know their priorities, it’s alright.”
Endorsements, encouraging students to vote
On the campaign trail, word-of-mouth endorsements tend to get voters in favor of a certain political party. Professors are sometimes also approached by candidates or political parties for possible support, but many shy away from doing so. One example is Dr. Winifred Villamil, former SOE dean, who says that he is “quiet” during the peak of the elections. “I rarely even point out former students campaigning [during my class],” he shares.
Conchada also tells that she does not endorse anyone nor does she tell students in her classes if any of the candidates were previously under her. “I do not make comments that would be biased towards the students who campaign. I just tell them to vote wisely and to weigh the pros and cons of voting for a specific candidate,” she says.
Villamil, while he himself does not endorse his students, believes it is not wrong for professors to endorse candidates based on their platforms, but reiterates that elections and campaigning “should be governed and shaped by the students only and not by opinions from professors”.
While the professors interviewed do not encourage students to vote for specific candidates, most of them do encourage their students to vote and participate in the elections. Manhit is one of these professors and shares, “I tell them not only to exercise [their right to vote], but also to be more attentive and analytical in choosing their candidates.”
In the same light, Laguda emphasizes the importance of participating in the elections, as it is one way for the students to make heard their voices. He stresses, “Students should look into the right to vote and the right to be represented by the officers in the University and if they exercise that vote then maybe they will be duly represented… Ideally, that is the hope for the elections.”
Expectations, measures of effectiveness
Just like how the students evaluate candidates based on a set of standards or expectations, so do the professors who stand as witnesses to the activities of the season. The professors interviewed shared the same view that platforms were vital and that the candidates were expected to be well-disciplined and with good personality.
Ramil, for example, not only encourages her students’ participation but also reminds them of the importance of platforms in voting for a candidate, “I do [ask them to vote]. I ask them to demand more from their candidates.”
“I [personally] expect discipline, true leadership, and global knowledge… They need to be guided and exposed. They should not reflect the kind of politics we have,” she furthers.
Likewise, Villamil expects USG officers to be “an example in terms of being responsible students, doing well in class, and not holding meetings inside the classroom.”
Manhit also expects the officers to be “the advocates of student interests”. He adds, “We also expect them to fight for the rights and privileges of the students.”
The interviewed professors also spoke up on mudslinging, which tends to be common once the campaign period begins, telling that it in no way encourages healthy competition between the parties and the students.
Ramil believes that the candidates and parties who do so are “low class and rooted in bad taste.” Ochotorena feels the same way, saying that this reflects the problems of the parties right now. Manhit also acknowledges the negative reality as something part of the campaign trail, stating that it is almost inevitable.
In general, the professors agree that while standards are set, the best way to judge if a candidate has met expectations is, if elected, they are able to actualize the promises and platforms made. Their success as elected officers will be the measure of effectiveness, not just for the political party that wins majority seats, but also of the entire USG.