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Sustaining momentum: Student orgs step up to challenges

Multiple sectors in the University have been affected by widespread quarantine measures against COVID-19, and student organizations are no exception. The shutdown of schools since mid-March not only signaled the halt of face-to-face classes, but also left student organizations in a tight predicament.

With no place to hold events, seminars, or even meetings, organizations had no choice but to postpone activities or shift them online. Having 44 student organizations under its wing, the Council of Student Organizations (CSO) bears the brunt of the challenge.

Operations suspended

Among the events now thrust into limbo is the much-anticipated Lasallian Enrichment Alternative Program (LEAP). Normally held every third term of the academic year, LEAP features  interest-based alternative classes—such as museum trips, exercise sessions, and art classes—that are hosted by CSO organizations and other student groups. 

However, with physical distancing and other safety measures now mandatory, CSO Chairperson Nicolle Bien Madrid laments that quarantine measures have “heavily affected the operations of the organizations, including [scheduled] events.” With health measures expected to continue indefinitely, activities are increasingly being put off.

Former AdCreate Society President Annette Tanlimco expresses concern for delayed activities and events that have already been planned out. “It is a challenge to prepare for Term 3 given the unpredictable and continuous change in [the] academic calendar and even the possibility of the extension of the lockdown depending on the government’s decision,” she states. 

With this, organizations are adjusting and moving their operations online. The online activity approval process of the CSO Publicity and Productions team, one of the few arms fully operational at the moment, has been “smooth sailing”, says Alexandra Austria, president of Management of Financial Institutions Association (MaFIA), adding that they were able to process “online cancellation papers for activities which were approved and supposed to push through prior to the lockdown.”

Publicity and issue advocacy-oriented activities were also carried out online by the CSO organizations. “CSO immediately set up an approval process [with the Office of Student Leadership Involvement, Formation, and Empowerment (SLIFE)] for the organizations who wish to exercise their right to issue a statement or [to use] any methods they wish to express their opinion,” Madrid shares. 

Organizations under CSO aired stances on issues that emerged amid the pandemic, including the ABS-CBN shutdown and the University’s shift to online learning. The continued push in the publicity arena also serves as a channel to muster support for organizations’ initiatives.

CSO organizations have also begun initiating COVID-19-related partnerships and launched their own donation drives to aid those in need. Austria explains the process, “Organizations have to answer a Google Form [and] provide complete details of the partnered beneficiary, [then] the response will be checked by SLIFE for approval.”Archers for UNICEF (AU), meanwhile, created an online awareness campaign, #mycAUse, covering matters like self-care and pandemic relief efforts. AU President Jian Tan believes that the crisis propelled various groups and industries to “return to advocacy-based projects and causes,” even if these were not directly related to their mission.

Making allowances

With organizations trudging through a rough patch, making concessions is inevitable. “We let go of some of the requirements in documentations. The best we can do is to really extend everything. Some of the requirement [deadlines] are extended until June or July,” Madrid says. 

Currently, CSO is still waiting for the University to issue policies for student organizations in terms of conducting physical or online events. Madrid’s team has pursued discussions with the administration as to how organizations might be able to conduct activities for the upcoming term.

Further, Term 2 physical activities, already canceled previously, are also being evaluated for possible rescheduling during Term 3. Madrid emphasizes that once classes resume and campus access is deemed safe, CSO will still take into account the restrictions and health standards that will accompany big events.

Student welfare

Aside from seeking alternatives for events and operations bogged down amid the crisis, CSO makes sure that the welfare of their members is also a top priority. Recognizing that not all of their members have consistent internet access, CSO takes into consideration their most accessible medium of communication. 

“I am currently checking with the officers of CSO and presidents of the organizations on how they are coping with the pandemic. Organizations also hold initiatives to check on [their members],” Madrid says, adding that administrative bodies such as SLIFE, Office of Student Affairs, and Office of the Vice President for Lasallian Mission are also monitoring their welfare. 

Tanlimco believes that the priority of all organizations, including CSO, during this quarantine period is the welfare of their student members. “CSO and the organizations are working hand-in-hand to represent the students well and to provide help in any way we can during this pandemic,” she explains. 

With expert opinion predicting health measures to remain well into 2021, student organizations—undeniably key players in a lively University setting—may have to adjust and find new alternatives for the time being.

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