Marco San Juan has served the student body as an appointed officer since 2019, holding multiple executive positions across his batch, his college, and the student government, as well as within his political party, Alyansang Tapat sa Lasallista. Seasoned in the University Student Government (USG) Executive Secretary’s office itself as chief of staff, he aims to take the executive role to new and urgent heights.
The LaSallian: You have served the USG through appointed positions throughout the years—in the Office of the Vice President for Internal Affairs, Office of the Executive Secretary (OSEC), and the Arts College Government. How would you say these past experiences helped prepare you for the role of Executive Secretary, especially since you have not held an elected position?
Marco San Juan: I personally do not see myself running for the first time as a disadvantage because I can say that although this is my first time running, I have a clear vision of what it takes to hold this position. And my experiences in the USG really helped me to learn about not only the technicalities and the nature of the work, [what] these different units or committees entail, but also the intangibles—the responsibility, the hard work, and even checking up on your fellow officers and especially yourself. So I can say that in my three years of experience in the USG, I’ve gone through all of these, and I know what it would take to become an elected [officer].
The LaSallian: The job of the executive secretary is clerical and administrative by nature. Just to establish the importance of the position you are running for, how relevant is it for the student body that the USG has an executive secretary, given most of the mandated responsibilities are quite USG-internal?
San Juan: Aside from the internal responsibilities that OSEC entails such as USG officer development, we value that OSEC, for me, is great. It really [plays] a significant role in the USG and how the USG can be able to help the students, mainly through information dissemination and representing the USG as a whole. It’s OSEC’s responsibility to really make sure that all of the necessary information is accessible to the students—naaabot dapat ‘to ng mga estudyante.
And aside from that, OSEC should also ensure that all of the information is understandable [and] easy to digest by the students. I do recognize that there’s an influx of information and announcements na students can receive each day, and it can be quite confusing. And…sa email lang ‘to nakikita ng students, and again, this is where OSEC really shines—in making sure that all of [this] information can reach the students. This ultimately ensures that students are well-guided in terms of their student life.
The LaSallian: Can you talk about what you would do in the position that would contribute to your slate’s plans in Redefining Lasallian Education, Raising the Standard of Student Life, and Reclaiming Our Democratic Spaces?
San Juan: First, in Redefining Lasallian Education, I believe that one of the most specific platforms we have that I can greatly contribute [to] as well as OSEC is really establishing proper and specific learning guidelines for different situations. We can never [predict] when COVID-19 cases would rise or when different situations would arise, and right now, there [aren’t] that [many] clear guidelines as to different situations. So one of the things that we plan to prioritize is establishing these guidelines and redefining Lasallian education so that handa ang mga estudyante, handa ang mga professors, at handa ang University.
Next, with Raising the Standard of Student Life, in the pursuit of our fight for student representation, one of the things that we plan to do is to improve the SOGIESC (Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, Gender Expression, and Sex Characteristics) policy. This would be done through three phases: first, integrating lived names and pronouns in Canvas, ID, and even in graduation rites. Ultimately, this would also lead to comprehensive sexuality education being integrated into our curriculum.
So, Reclaiming Our Democratic Spaces naman, one of the platforms we have under this is allotting a space or spaces in the University for students to freely demonstrate, protest, [or] mobilize. Now, we can ensure that we can control…and track students that would do this by having systems in place so students can reserve these spaces, students can see kung may gagamit ba o [wala], and this would also be in coordination with the admin and the University.
The LaSallian: Since you have worked under OSEC for a year now, what do you think can be improved in the USG’s current internal records management?
San Juan: As far as records management goes, as chief of staff, I was able to see how efficient na-document lahat ng necessary documents under our office. But I feel that we can utilize more platforms, more places such as Google Drive, maybe look toward these different platforms, kasi although Google Drive is very efficient, you know, we need more places where we can access these documents, as well as transparency. I believe that we can let students have more access to records that really show what really transpired during this time, during this meeting, [or] during this event. And this could also help toward the transparency of the USG as a whole. So not only keeping these records internally and ensuring [their] efficiency within the USG, but I believe that we can also work toward making this more accessible to the Lasallian student body instead of just keeping them internally in the USG.
The LaSallian: Do you already have any candidates for additional platforms other than Google Drive?
San Juan: As of the moment, I’m still looking into it, but I’m considering Google Suite, even Notion.
The LaSallian: How would you evaluate the current internal training programs of the USG, and are there improvements that can be made?
San Juan: In terms of officer development, coming from the side of OSEC, its potential from last year had not really been maximized. There was FAME 2022 (Fundamental Approaches to Management Effectiveness); it was one of the first USG projects that [were] held face-to-face after the pandemic, and it was executed last June. This focused on leadership formation for then-freshmen [elected officers] na ID 121. But other initiatives on leadership training or officer development from OSEC such as the Lasallian Leadership Training Summit and the establishment of the Commission on Officer Development have not been executed due to different reasons. Either napu-push back siya or nare-revise ‘yung project.
During my term, this would really be one of my main priorities as I personally really value officer development and believe that USG officers should really be well-equipped in order for them to be able to serve students.
The LaSallian: Part of transparency and accountability work is disclosing the attendance of USG officers. While the Legislative Assembly has continued reporting their attendance, do you plan to bring this back for the Executive Board?
San Juan: Definitely. I really see the value in ensuring checks and balances in the USG. And one of the ways that we can do this is by checking attendance talaga. So whether this would be internal alignment within different committees or if it would go down to weekly Executive Board alignments, we really need to take into account the attendance of our USG officers, especially our [elected officers], because this is also a part of their evaluation of their performance and accountability as well.
The LaSallian: One of the OSEC’s main functions is supervising the USG’s information dissemination activities. In fact, it is the most visible part of the job. Can you comment on your predecessors’ performance in this regard?
San Juan: I would commend OSEC in the past year, especially in information dissemination. I believe that the key to also effectively assisting students is sustainability. OSEC also needs urgency as there is a lot of information that students need to know almost instantly. This past year, OSEC really did a great job, and right now, what’s left for me to do is [ensure] that the USG remains as accessible as possible to all students by also sustaining the different communication platforms of the USG that [were] strengthened this past year, whether this [is on] Facebook, Instagram, Telegram, even Twitter, and especially [on] our website. We’ve been able to see its [effectiveness] online last year, but the challenge and priority as well for me [are] to see how well this would translate now that we’re in the gradual return to the face-to-face setup.
The LaSallian: As you said, you inherit the challenge of transitioning to a blended setup. Do you plan to innovate the ways in which the student government can circulate necessary information? How?
San Juan: I think that given the gradual return to face-to-face, even I feel that…our approaches that we would adopt would be determined as we experience it. A lot of testing would be required talaga, a lot of trial and error. But ultimately [we will be] seeing what is most effective and seeing what is not. So in terms of going back to face-to-face nga, parang right now, I can’t really determine the most effective way [of] translating these initiatives and efforts face-to-face and its [effectiveness] especially. Right now, [we will be] sustaining these efforts but also [will be] looking at how we can improve this.
The LaSallian: How about for gathering feedback from the student body?
San Juan: Aside from what is already existing such as the student census, where the USG can get an idea of what the students are experiencing and ‘yung mga kalagayan ng mga estudyante for it to serve us data and other purposes, especially in pushing policies, one of the ways that we can also look [at is]…asking USG officers mismo…since ang mga USG officers rin natin ang mga nakakarinig talaga ng mga problema ng ating mga estudyante, they experience it first-hand in the way that students approach them about their problems [and] about what they’re going through. So that we can really adopt a grassroots approach, looking at the problem from where it’s starting.
This interview was edited for length and clarity.