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Head to Head: ACG ‘homegrowns’ Francisco, Ilagan want inclusive, socially conscious CLA

As the second largest college in the University, the College of Liberal Arts (CLA) houses a wide variety of creative departments that overflow with students from all batches. On the issue of bridging gaps in efficiency and effectiveness of college-wide programs, presidential candidates Yanna Ilagan of Alyansang Tapat sa Lasallista (Tapat) and Ashley Francisco, an independent candidate from the TINDIG CLA (TINDIG) coalition, say they are ready to take on the challenge. 

The LaSallian: What part of your background do you think contributes the most in making you a capable college assembly president (CAP)?

Yanna Ilagan (Tapat): I have been a homegrown ACG (Arts College Government) student since I was a frosh and the opportunity of becoming a director really fostered [in me] a stronger passion to serve. Because of this, I have really seen what works and what doesn’t in ACG and how it performs in the college. With this, I have been given the opportunity now to step up and become the leader who will really listen and give students a voice in all matters of student life. I may not [have been] an elected [officer], but this is where I can utilize the lens of being a normal student. That can definitely be beneficial in being a personal and professional leader—in making sure that every need and concern of all CLA students will be heard and accounted for. 

Ashley Francisco (TINDIG): Same with Yanna, I’m actually homegrown also from ACG. One of my first positions in ACG was [as] an executive for student welfare and this gave me a background and inspiration on what I really want to be offered to my batchmates and also to our college. [I was also] given the opportunity to already serve as a two-time batch legislator and [work] as a chairperson for the college legislative board. This really allowed me to handle the student welfare committee, not just of ACG, but also of the different FAST batch units. This, the different interest checks, [and] the different welfare checks really gave me a comprehensive background on the sustainable programs and policies that can be implemented in our college. I believe that because of this, I am more than capable to serve as [the] next CLA college president. 

The LaSallian: What is the first matter that you wish to address if you were to be elected as CAP?

Francisco: The first matter that I would want to be addressed would be the adjustment of the students to the full face-to-face setting and also to the hybrid setup. Currently, our goal in TINDIG CLA is to promote safety and inclusivity. We created a five-point plan, which is Academics, Rights and Welfare, Student Support, Opportunities, and Community Development; I really want to give my priority when it comes to our Academics plan. 

I have this program called the “CLA Learning Spaces” where we really want to provide a conducive learning environment for students, both for those studying as a hybrid student and also our pure online learners (POL) in order to cater to them and [ensure] na ‘yung assessment ng programs na ginawa namin is really needs-based, down to the roots of the problems na kinakaharap ng students [such as] the adjustment from the online setting to face-to-face. I really want to provide assistance to these students through the CLA Learning Spaces as well as [review] and [institutionalize] the Liberal Arts Grant in order to provide these students allowances na kailangan nila for transportation, meals, and other types of financial allowances that we can offer to these students. 

Ilagan: This is with the inefficiencies and the learning gaps still present in the college. As blended learning continues, we know how challenging it is for students to balance their academics with everything else that’s going on because of the pandemic. With this, my main priority will really be the call for accessible quality education. 

We need to ensure that CLA students will be well-guided and well-equipped in this transition. This initiative that I will prioritize is the CLA Transition Plan. It is a multi-faceted approach in addressing the said inefficiencies and gaps brought by the hybrid setup, aligning [with] our Executive Board’s educational platform. This plan revolves [around] three objectives. First is a reassessment of academic policies. This is University-wide, so [it includes] reviewing the no-fail policy, and also college-specific policies—maybe grading systems, curriculum reviews. 

The next would be providing COVID-19 aid, such as subsidies and, of course, excused absences for [cases of] exposure. Lastly is strengthening the hybrid and POL guidelines. As we know, it is important that as we transition, [mayroon] tayong ligtas balik-eskwela, [but] at the same time [be] inclusive with the POL [students].

The LaSallian: What are the greatest challenges CLA faces as a college, and how do you plan to overcome these? 

Ilagan: It’s important that not only do we focus on the student life inside but outside the University as well. We’re focusing on three key pillars; this is strengthening their access to education, building a proactive student life, and also amplifying their civic engagement. I really want to highlight that our first priority will always be education. As students, their education really must be a right and not a privilege. And for DLSU students, we really want our CLA students to be accounted for and well-heard during their education life.

Francisco: For me, the greatest challenge that our college faces would definitely be the risk also to the safety and security of the students. Right now, naririnig natin na maraming kidnapping cases happening around the University, and also marami akong naririnig na reports of different cases of students na hindi nila alam kung kanino sila magre-report when or if ever na-encounter nila ‘yung mga ganito. And that is why I really want to make CLA more policy-driven, given my background in the Legislative Assembly. Strengthening these policies [is] important and I am really planning to coordinate with our different security offices and even [the Student Discipline and Formation Office] in actualizing this. 

One of our plans in our college legislative agenda is lobbying for enhanced University safety and security services. We are planning to do this first by reviewing the current campus security policies and procedures, especially na [kababalik] lang natin sa eskwela and we don’t know if our administration is informed [of] these current reports. Second, ensuring that these concerns are really streamlined—not just to the USG, pero…nabri-bridge nila ‘yung concerns na ‘to sa security offices natin, lalo na that DLSU, if I’m not mistaken, [is] in partnership with the Task Force for Safe Schools. I really want to emphasize the safety and security of the students not just within the University but also outside the University because that’s what we advocate for when we say [that] we want to push for a safe and inclusive CLA. 

The LaSallian: CLA is home to students with double degrees, which by nature extends their stay longer than their peers. How do you plan to communicate and engage with the older batches, especially in addressing their needs?

Francisco: Acknowledging the fact na marami tayong mga [ID] 118 [and] 117 ngayon, one of the concerns also that I have identified upon creating these plans and programs is ensuring na inclusive ba ito sa mga terminal batches natin. Baka nasa isip nila ay “hindi na kami pinagtutuunan ng pansin kasi yung focus is nasa lower batches.” This is why I have this program under our Student Support plan called the Progressive Student Life Program. Same lang din naman ‘yung concerns ng terminal batches as the lower batches—University processes, regarding kung kanino ba magre-reach out when it comes to mental health and well-being concerns, career counseling, especially that they are graduating, and I’m pretty sure na marami din sa kanila na nagdadalawang-isip kung “itutuloy ko pa ba tong LIA-COM program ko or ido-drop ko ba ‘to.” 

Another [program] under our five-point plan is the Career and Academic Opportunities Network, wherein I aim to consolidate all information regarding these career opportunities such as internships, externships, [and] workshops [and to make] it more course-specific, so that it can help these students identify kung ano ba talaga yung magiging decision nila na ido-drop ba [ang] course or “should I just pursue a future-based opportunity for me.”

Ilagan: For our second pillar, this is building a proactive student life, as I carefully plan and create my platforms, I have not only catered initiatives for the younger batches but also remembered that older batches still need to be supported as they almost reach the end of their college [lives]. The main facet that we have is “CLA Assist”, and there, we have specifically the thesis and graduation assistance initiative. This is centered [on] those students needing services such as [survey] respondents, networking, research funding, assistance to processes for graduates such as application to graduate, document request, class auditing, and commencement [exercises]. But I also do want to highlight that in our pillar two, we also have “ACG Cares”. With that, we also focus on the well-being of students, not just for the younger batch, but for all CLA students. 

The LaSallian: Another concern is that CLA is one of the biggest colleges in terms of the student population. How will you accommodate all of them?

Ilagan: We recognize that there have been great efforts to address different concerns and processes regarding student services such as the previous flowchart fixing, “CLA Hopes”, and such. However, as long as there are students who still struggle with these processes, we should know that CLA has yet to be [fully] effective in this aspect. This gives us a window of opportunity to do better, to create effective and efficient services, and to ensure that we prioritize their concerns. With a service-driven CLA, my platform, CLA Assist, will really prioritize a well-equipped student life through streamlined communication channels providing thesis and graduation assistance and, of course, lobbying for campus support, ensuring that their student life will be well-supported throughout their college experience. 

Francisco: Recognizing na ang sobrang daming students [sa CLA], I really want to prioritize our academics plan, which is the CLA Learning Spaces. Under this, we plan to lobby for our own CLA study hall—for those students that would want to stay in the St. Miguel building. Kasi syempre, [mayroon] tayong Goks, yung College of Business, [mayroon] din silang own learning space. I want to ensure that ‘yung CLA students, given that marami tayong collaborative works, [mayroon] din silang area na mapapagstay-an within the Miguel building. The second one is the Liberal Arts Resources Pool. This is actually one of my main plans under the CLA Learning Spaces, wherein a needs-based assessment talaga ang ginawa namin while creating these plans and programs for the CLA students. Through the Liberal Arts Resources Pool, sa students mismo namin aalamin kung ano bang kailangan nila. Kailangan ba nila ng photocopying and printing services pagbalik nila? For our POL learners and hybrid learners, ano bang kinakailangan nila in order for us to determine how we can make our programs more adequate and sustainable.

The LaSallian: For Ashley, as an independent candidate, do you still adhere to your former party’s political views and leadership values, or do you have your own?

Francisco: Actually, my biggest deciding factor upon choosing to leave the party and also choosing not to run anymore under the political party’s banner is that with the recent issues, circumstances, and events that have happened, I find myself no longer aligning with these values and principles. Yet, I note to myself, having experienced running under the said party [for] around two elections already, I really do respect and I’m really thankful for what I have learned from this. But now, as an independent candidate, I’m sticking to my own values, my own principles, along with the members of our independent coalition. 

The LaSallian: For Yanna, how do you feel about your first run for an [elected] position, specifically for one that is as big as a college-wide position? Do you feel any kind of disadvantage or maybe an edge to this?

Ilagan: To be honest, it really took a lot of decisions and a lot of thinking time [to determine] if I am really the right leader to run under the banner of our party, and also to serve the students of CLA. But it really came to a point that I realized that when you’re given this opportunity, I think you should grab [it], step up, and become that leader to represent all those students, especially those who are not being heard—the least, the lost, and the last. It may [sound] cliche, but it’s really about ensuring that all students will [be] accounted for. Representing those students really ignited me or really pushed me to run. I think an edge is that I was really just a simple executive from ACG before and the different leaders that I encountered really honed me to become the leader I am today…I can really serve CLA because I know what they really need and I think that’s where I can really [give] service and the passion to serve my administration. 

The LaSallian: What is the most important value a CAP, or any student government leader, should possess?

Francisco: For me, definitely, it would be individuality. That’s something that I’ve realized upon serving as a two-time batch legislator. Initially, perspective ng isang student na hindi pa nararanasan maging isang USG officer, [nakatatakot] yung position, na you need to [have] power, you need to know this, you need to know that. But something I believe that has really helped me along the way and get to where I am today is [the] value of individuality; you stick to your own values and principles, and also you show your genuine heart for service to the students in order to be able to provide equal student representation. I believe that it’s really important that you hold on to those values and principles up until the end, dahil pag nakita yun ng mga estudyante, they will really see that this leader is the rightful leader for them. 

Ilagan: I think this is where my principles or values that I learned from my party come in; this is where being a principled leader is important when you lead or become a student leader. You keep your word and never compromise for your values, standing for what you believe [in]. I believe that once you’re principled, being personal and professional comes in, and it’s really important that you have your own moral beliefs and values for you to really serve the people. Once you have that mindset of showing that you care and have these deep reflections, beliefs, and values, you will really recognize and instill those aspects to the next [administration], once you’re in position. 

The LaSallian: How do you envision CLA to be at the end of your term? 

Ilagan: I envision a service-driven College of Liberal Arts that is primed for and beyond student life, a college that will strive to do [the] best of its abilities until no student is left behind. For and beyond means that we will give importance to their student life inside and outside the university, ensuring that information, support, and opportunities will be accessible and [will be] empowering them as we amplify their social consciousness. [I envision] a college that students will be proud to say is for them and with them every step of the way. 

Francisco: Ang layunin ko para sa kolehiyo ay ang TINDIG CLA—Together in developing an inclusive government for the College of Liberal Arts—especially now na nagta-transition tayo sa new normal. Given my background in the majority floor and as a batch legislator, I saw that there is a need to lobby for more inclusive and safe programs and policies in order to help each and every student to adapt to this current setting. If ever mayroong ibang circumstances and events na mangyari in the future, I want to ensure that the students are with us in the process of creating different solutions in order to address their different needs and concerns. I really want to emphasize that we want to ensure that we cater to each and every sector of our college. 

This interview was edited for length and clarity.

By Kim Balasabas

By Clarisse Bernal

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