“Overcomplicated”, “redundant”, and “excessive”. These are just some of the words used to describe the processes within the Council of Student Organizations (CSO). Founded in 1974, the council describes itself as a union of the various student organizations for the University. Its Vision-Mission sets its commitment to “delivering quality services and activities”.
Yet, it seems student expectations beg to differ. Complaints posted on social media pages such as the DLSU Freedom Wall pointed out concerns over CSO’s practices. When it comes to activity planning for certain organizations, the council’s stringent processes has received the most flak, as it allegedly hinders organizations from getting their plans approved.
“I hate how they get to evaluate literally our every move and we can’t evaluate them,” expresses Samantha*, an Executive Board member of a CSO-accredited organization. She adds how “unfair” and “unbalanced” power relations are between CSO and the organizations they handle. Additionally, she complains that the members of the council show little to no acknowledgment of the concerns of its community.
“Even if we complain, they won’t change their system. They would just nod at you [and] apologize,” Samantha supposes.
Among the problems she raises are misplaced documents and sudden revisions during the document’s approval stage. She expounds on the alleged inconsistencies of CSO, citing that they would leave documents in pending status, despite organizers dutifully following the instructions the council gave them in the first place.
Frustrated at their management, Samantha demands accountability, saying, “These are mistakes that they should fix, but instead, it’s the [organizations] that suffer.”
Cultura President Justine Cabrera backs up Samantha’s claim, adding that the student complaints are “not unfounded [nor] uncalled for.” Like Samantha, she observes the “overcomplicated” and “excessive” processes of the CSO, which she claims has negatively affected student organizations. She recalls hearing her members complain about not receiving clear instructions or answers from CSO members who are in charge of their documents, much to her organization’s frustration.
She adds that these complaints are not just directed at CSO, but even at the Office of Student Leadership, Involvement, Formation, and Empowerment (SLIFE). Although most documents are handled by CSO, SLIFE still oversees the implementation of activities. Most finance processes, for example, must be reviewed by the SLIFE director for approval.
Coordination and development
“Inconsistencies [with our processes] are really something that…[has become] the problem for the past few years,” CSO Chairperson Nicolle Madrid acknowledges.
On the concerns raised against CSO by students and Executive Board members of CSO-accredited organizations, Madrid assures that his team has been researching on possible measures for improvement in the face of the alleged inconsistencies.
One of those solutions is focusing on coordination; Madrid shares that his team has continuously talked with University offices, such as SLIFE, to better streamline certain processes of the CSO surrounding activities and documentation.
And it is not just offices within the University that the CSO is trying to collaborate with, says Madrid. Student-run organizations, such as the La Salle Computer Society, have been approached by CSO to help improve its processes, such as discussions to help overhaul tracking systems for the council.
Finance processes also remain major problems for organizations. Policies changes introduced by the University administration in previous years, such as the removal of reimbursement and the institution of the procurement process, were criticized by student organizations. Madrid discloses that CSO Executive Vice Chairperson of Finance Angel Sesante and USG Executive Treasurer Kevin Wu have been discussing with the Accounting Office on how to ease up financial processes.
USG and CSO representatives have also tried to compromise with University officials earlier this year to settle the aforementioned concern. Among the changes proposed were the creation of a procurement manual, implementation of a threshold system for the procurement process, and the restoration of the cash advance system.
Besides red tape concerns raised by members, Madrid confesses that officer retention rates for the CSO also remain dismal. The K-12 program, which saw the addition of two more years in high school, took its toll on CSO, which suffered cutbacks on officers because of the reduced student population.
He expounds, “Kumonti din yung possible officers na pwede nang maging part ng CSO.”
(Potential officers for the CSO also decreased.)
Madrid explains that to combat fatigue
as well as stifled member development, CSO personnel are being provided
with organizational development activities that focus on leadership skill assessments, conflict management, and project management.
Despite facing a shortage of members—which Madrid discloses is a problem across several other student-run organizations as well—he assures, “We’re starting to cope naman din with the changes.”
Additionally, there is the factor of lead time, which is the period wherein preparations for activities start and get completed. Madrid acknowledges that while some of the internal struggles of organizations may be the reason for their own activity’s delays, he admits that there are certain scenarios where the fault falls on the CSO officer overseeing the activity.
If the errant CSO officer had an excusable reason, such as academic priorities or schedule conflicts, Madrid ensures that they try to compensate the organization for the delay by asking the assistance of SLIFE in its final approval.
“Being part of CSO is really a thankless job,” he remarks.
Albeit sentiments circulating online concerning CSO’s process and systems have been acknowledged by Madrid, he still appeals for students to use the “proper channels” when expressing their complaints. CSO committees use a variety of platforms as official channels, including Facebook Messenger, Telegram, and text messaging, expounds Madrid, “If [a committee] found out that an [organization] has a special concern na, ‘Uy may kulang sa pre-acts’, may kulang sa finance process, they actually text them na agad, lalo na if it is an urgent matter.”
(If there’s something missing in the pre-acts, if there’s something missing in the finance process, [the committee] texts them at once, especially if it is an urgent matter.)
Madrid discourages organization members from airing their complaints in online posts. He elaborates that anonymous complaints sent online might not fully detail the specific problem or might be one sided offering only a perspective from the complainant. “When they still use these communication lines [like DLSU] Freedom Wall; hindi guaranteed na ma-address siya,” Madrid explains.
“CSO [more than welcomes] these concerns,” he assures.
*Names with asterisks (*) are pseudonyms.