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Head to Head: Audrey Garin, Britney Paderes seek to maximize student involvement as VPIA

Audrey Garin from Alyansang Tapat sa Lasalista (Tapat) and Britney Paderes of Santugon sa Tawag ng Panahon (Santugon) bare their plans for a more student-centered government under the Office of the Vice President for Internal Affairs (OVPIA). 

The LaSallian: Both of you have held leadership positions in your respective batch governments. How well do you think you did? How much of your goals did you achieve?

Britney Paderes (Santugon): It was a very good ride coming into DLSU and being given the chance to be able to serve my fellow batchmates…Parang ang dami palang naniwala sa’kin, and [it] made me realize anyone can be a leader and serve our batchmates. When it comes to the achievements, I really wouldn’t count [na] ito ‘yung mga nagawa namin...Because at the end of the day, our goal is to help and serve our fellow Lasallians. 

Audrey Garin (Tapat): One of the greatest achievements that I had [is] ‘yung opportunity ko to be part of a student government and to help hundreds of students…Unfortunately, during the middle of my term as the Batch President nangyari ‘yung pandemic…But, I still make sure na ‘yung priority should be the students, [then] my officers. 

The LaSallian: Aside from USG work, what other factors do you think would make you a good fit for the job?

Garin: Since I started my leadership journey, [I was] curious about a lot of things…especially if alam kong there’s something that I could do about it. So, ‘don ako mas nag-expand; to know kung ano ‘yung kaya kong i-contribute sa iba’t-ibang tao. Dito, nakita ko ‘yung skills ko to become a listener [and] to be a leader as well. And I think…malaki ‘yung naging achievement ko sa pagiging leader ko…in the University.

Paderes: One thing that I have realized is that aside from your credibility and your skills, you must also have the characteristics…of a leader. For example, with the position of being the Vice President of Internal Affairs (VPIA)…my goal is to really build a relationship with the students and…officers kasi dito mo punong malalaman kung ano ba talaga ‘yung…challenges ng mga students na dapat tugunan ng isang…University Government leader. 

The LaSallian: The VPIA is expected to, according to the 2020 USG Constitution, “address student concerns regarding the operational efficiency and development of physical facilities in the University”. What does this mean for you, especially with a possible campus reopening by 2022?

Paderes: Upon consultation with our Vice Chancellor for the Administration, we have expressed our interest in having a possible blended learning [scheme]…He said that constant communication [between] the USG [and] our students [to ensure] that the facilities in our University are well-taken care of. So right now, our focus is on the laboratories and the graduating students who need to take their thesis.

One of the things that we really want to focus on is collaborating with our local government units and our DLSU administration. 

Garin: Sa online setup…We have a platform called the Concierge Project…masasala natin or masa-streamline natin yung pag-raise ng concerns to our admins. To the face-to-face set up naman…what we plan under our GPOA (General Plans of Action) is to prepare a blueprint for the possible gradual return of physical classes. We could follow a scheme…prioritize the students who need to take the laboratories, who need to go to the library for [their] thesis. Kasabay nito ‘yung continuous vaccination program of our University. 

If you guys noticed, may opening sa tabi ng National Bookstore sa may Yuchengco (Hall)—that is the physical version of the Concierge Project. What we want to do is to have an online version of it that would adjust to the current needs of the student…we could collaborate with the ITS (Information Technology Services) to help us with the creation of the platform. Plus, it will be very beneficial not only to the students but also to the offices kasi doon na makakapag-send ng concerns ‘yung students and doon rin makaka-receive ng concerns ang ating mga offices.

The LaSallian: What is your assessment of the way organizations and USG bodies have implemented their activities in the online platform?

Garin: I do acknowledge the efforts of our University…to provide projects to our students. But I also recognize ‘yung pagiging saturated ng platform natin. We just use Zoom [and] do webinars…And being the next hopeful VPIA…I could collaborate with the USG Units, CSO organizations, special organizations, CAO (Culture and Arts Office) groups…to talk among ourselves kung ano ba ‘yung magandang way to improve our implementation of the projects. We actually have a platform in relation to this: the improvement of COLE (Convention of Leaders). Lahat na ng mga possible na organizations could be part of it para mas makapag-usap tayo sa kung ano man kailangan i-address in our University.

Paderes: I believe that as times have changed, our priorities must also shift, too. Upon consultation with OCCS (Office of Counseling and Career Services)…We propose to…establish a USG-led mental health program. We will be able to streamline the process when it comes to OCCS and it will also strengthen kung saan ba dapat lalapit ang mga estudyante…when it comes to [their] mental health. We will be strengthening our USG Affairs [where they] will not just be limited to checking the [feasibility], but as well as being hands on…when it comes to implementing their projects…Aside from that, one of the things that I want to implement [is to]have categories or themes per term so…that the students know the priorities of the USG for that specific term.

The LaSallian: What are some of the activities that you will prioritize during your term?

Paderes: One of the things that [I want to prioritize] when I become the next VPIA [is] student support [and] student well-being. Under that first phase, we have OCCS. Second is to establish programs or initiatives through the help of our Activities Assembly. Third is…we [should] have policies that cater to mental health. Aside from that, I want to present the needs-based database. For example, in Engineering, ito ‘yung mga software na kailangan natin…or ‘yung mga subjects na kailangan ng libro. Due to the pandemic, it’s much harder for us students to be able to get these resources. So through that gathering [of]  data…we will be able to identify sinong mga estudyante sa atin ang nangangailangan ng mga resources na ‘to and how we can provide these resources for these students. 

Garin: Gusto ko sanang unahin ‘yung pag-reinforce natin ng academics…Marami pa rin tayong kailangan i-improve na academic policies na magiging fair to every student in the University. 

Hopefully, mas ma-improve natin ang pag-streamline ng student concerns.

Sunod naman dito is to also have other offices have their own student volunteers…We’d like to highlight offices that need manpower, such as FAO (Finance and Accounting Office), registrar’s office, and other offices na concern ng students ngayon na mabagal daw ‘yung response…which affects their learning journey. 

Internally naman, I would like to have an SS council. Through this, maiiwasan ‘yung pagkakaiba ng information which causes confusion to the students 

Lastly, I want to safeguard the student support initiatives that the USG and the University have. We’re very fortunate to have our own University Safe Spaces Policy as well as the University Mental Health Policy. Through this, mas ma-empower yung mga University offices, most especially as LCIDWell (Lasallian Center for Inclusion, Diversity and Well-being)…para mas matulungan ‘yung students natin. We want to really lobby for University psychologists or psychiatrists…i-refer ng OCCS ‘yung student to a psychologist or a psychiatrist, [so] the student doesn’t need to spend a lot of money to look for those people. 

The LaSallian: Enlistment is one of the problems that students continue to face. How will you improve upon the USG’s current handling of enlistment procedures? 

Garin: Unang-una, I think it all boils down to pre-enlistment—not all students were able to pre-enlist, so I think we need to be strict…in a way to assure them that they will have slots. In the Psychology Department, what we do is we make sure that every student gets to pre-enlist. We actually have screenshots, so maybe we could do it University-wide para assured ang students na ‘di sila mahirapan sa enlistment process. 

Pangalawa…the SS council [which will] convene all the SS chairs, vice chairs, SS team of the batch units, and CAPs to devise a plan with regards to handling enlistment. Dito pagu-usapan kung ano ba ‘yung kailangan na policy na i-follow kapag ganito ‘yung nangyari sa isang estudyante

Paderes: Firstly, we have to be aware…with the new system of DLSU…the CAMU system. It’s basically a mix of the MLS (My.LaSalle) [and] the Animo.sys into one system. 

I understand that we cannot wait for the system to be implemented for us to have an easier enlistment. That is why…I have the thrust called the Enhanced Student Services. Firstly, we have the Animo Feedback System…to consolidate all the concerns of our students when it comes to communicating with the offices in DLSU…We also aim to get the concerns of our students monthly…so that we will be able to cascade these kinds of concerns to our administration. 

To go into technicalities, I have also thought of the enlistment ticketing system. I thought of making a scheduling (sic)since it’s the system that we really must prioritize talaga…it’s not really final yet because we need to consult with ITS and as well as our students on how we want the enlistment to go.

The LaSallian: As the Executive Officer for Internal Affairs, one that is focused on internal grievances of students, how will you measure the success of your plans? 

Paderes: We already have a grievance process. In ACG, the way we handle grievances is that we [first ask] the students…to coordinate with them (professors) kung okay ba ‘yung proposal niyo. But, you also have to acknowledge that sometimes, students are [hesitant] to really communicate with the professors…During the academic year, we have received a lot of grievances (sic) concerns from the students. 

We must really prioritize giving out information kung ano ba talaga ‘yung proseso ng grievance natin and we must also get feedback from the students on how they think the grievance processes are being implemented in DLSU so that we would be able to further furnish or revamp the process.

Garin: The grievance system is still something na hindi masyado reachable ng (sic) students. We could utilize the SS Hub to put the information about our grievance system and utilize [it so] students could raise their grievance concerns [there]. Grievances are now being handled by the Judiciary [Department], so we will work hand-in-hand with them [in] utilizing the SS Hub. Pwede din natin i-utilize ‘yung mga different websites ng mga college president. 

But I’d like to point out that we [have to keep] improving the grievance system…We need to take note [of] all the problems that happen within the process. That’s why we really like to lobby for the University psychologists and psychiatrists because they will aid the students…as they go through the grievance process. And I think as we continuously improve the grievance process, we need to have our professors within the cycle of improvement kasi they are also part of it.

The LaSallian: How do you envision the University and your office to be by the time your term ends?

Garin: Our vision is being stronger against all odds. Through OVPIA, dito papasok lahat ng academic concerns, academic policies, student support, as well, being coordinated with different organizations within the University, aiding them with their implementation of their projects. 

Paderes: We acknowledge that each student faces different realities every day. And as a USG, it is our responsibility to be there for the students and to side with them. I really envision that we would leave a legacy that would make the students think na “I had a better student life this year”. I believe that…what the OVPIA really needs to prioritize: to listen to the students, acknowledge what they need, and represent their needs to our administration. Because through these collaborations you will be able to show them this is what a Lasallian education is; this is what it means to be a Lasallian.

This interview was edited for length and clarity.

By Kim Balasabas

By Magz Chin

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