SG urgently has to change, students have to engage more

Photo manipulation by Nichole Ragas

I still remember how conversations with my grandfather were always filled with discussions of political figures, principles, and policy. On weekends, I would massage his palms while he eagerly told me stories of how he once dreamed of becoming a journalist. Although this ambition was not fulfilled, he did not lose his enthusiasm for social issues which he passed on to me, influencing my wide interest in politics and to a keen lookout for good governance. 

Which is why I place much expectation in the reputations of our governing leaders not only in national politics but also within our school system. Needless to say, I think it is also important that we hold our student government (SG) accountable to its duties since like any other form of government, SG should always be founded on the premise of reflecting the best interests of its constituents–the students. 

Truth be told, the plans drawn by De La Salle Lipa’s (DLSL) SG during the froshie’s orientation was something I looked forward to as a first year student. I was convinced that an exciting academic year awaited me in what appeared to be a well-regulated system and the possibility of underlying administrative issues did not cross my mind.

But these first impressions did not last for long. I soon came to realize that despite the ten months given for each elected SG officer to carry out the duties of their respective positions, I have seen nothing but an absence of urgency in formulating resolutions to address so many of the institution’s unfavorable decisions–and it seems like it’s been going on like that for a while now.

“It is also important that we hold our student government (SG) accountable to its duties since like any other form of government, SG should always be founded on the premise of reflecting the best interests of its constituents–the students.” 

In the past two semesters of my stay at DLSL, I witnessed how the SG has grown to remain tight-lipped in addressing pressing college-wide controversies–from being seemingly indifferent to the newly installed turnstiles that were more of impediments to students and to PWDs especially, to handing out endless surveys about online classes without releasing the results, turning a deaf ear to students’ appeal to tone down the first tranche of second semester tuition fee, and disseminating misinformation about their conference with the Academic Council to the student body without even issuing an erratum or an apology. That SG seemed to echo more of the institution’s directives—becoming more of  the administration’s stooge to post guidelines for payment settlement as well as counteracting the introduced home-based online learning already too late into the game—instead of having a voice of its own for the students. They have depicted a passive, easy-going, and voiceless governance more prone to negligence than conviction.

Both an administration’s credibility and their platforms are likely to be passed on to their successors, especially in a campus with only a two-party system. To my disappointment, when I interviewed the former executive president of the SG about a story I was working on past and the incoming elections, I found out that they do not even have a clear track record of their projects, plans, and initiatives ranging from past administrations up to the incumbent one. I had to track the information I needed by going to former executive presidents and a faculty adviser, indicating at best, a wavering form of management and planning especially when it comes to the projects and virtues they advocate. Thus, how can students place their trust in an administration which remains clueless of its own history?

The apparent confusion of the SG officers due to lack of complete records calls into question their capacity to lead and fulfill their sworn duties. This might be the root of a problem currently circulating within the SG system itself–for the past three years, SG officers have been merely appointing officers for a number of positions due to failed elections according to DLSL’s Committee on Elections (COMELEC). The growing culture of appointment has been swelling year in and out that the role of democracy has long been put in jeopardy. Because of this reason, it happened that the election’s low turnout became an annual issue as well.

Effective leadership can never begin from scratch. Thus, knowing the background of this year’s SG candidates and the reputation each of them holds was a must for me, likewise, students do not deserve to repeatedly go through what I consider to be a continuous pattern of an oblivious style of governance. 

“The growing culture of appointment has been swelling year in and out that the role of democracy has long been put in jeopardy.”

The trust and confidence of most college students towards the SG had never been high based on voter turnouts. Almost half of the college population every year do not vote. It was fortunate though that the results of this year’s SG election differed with a 10.64% rise from last school year’s 50.95 percentage voter turnout. While this latest batch of SG officers is expected to commit steadfastly to the people they have assured to serve, it is the duty of the students not only to follow up on the commitments made by these leaders but also to maintain firm cooperation with the SG regarding the elections. This duty of participation could be the key to restoring the long-lost trust of most students to SG because, after all, if we desire for change, all students must be willing to submit and cooperate with the student government.

Students must put to mind that their engagement should not only be promoted, but maintained towards the direction of the governance each of us yearns to have. Participating with and demanding more from the student government contributes by pressuring student leaders to serve and perform. An active SG in turn will result to more voter turnouts in upcoming student elections. 

I have been told by my grandfather that history doesn’t repeat itself as it is people who repeat history. The thing is, regardless of how the current SG officials wish to be remembered by their names, the stained reputation of their past counterparts has become a fixed impression upon the student body. This has to change.

“Students must put to mind that their engagement should not only be promoted, but maintained towards the direction of the governance each of us yearns to have.”

As a froshie student, I was told by my seniors and some professors about how year after year, nothing really changes except for the faces of the student leaders who organize the same from projects such as froshie orientation, Lasallian Cup or College Week. In my first whole semester, I myself could also validate the SG’s lapses because I have experienced and observed them as well. Reforming the DLSL SG system could be our first step towards nurturing a politically upright environment not just in the academe but also in life beyond the school premises where bigger challenges lie ahead. This sense of awareness is necessary to hone citizens who hold their leaders to high standards by insisting on accountability, transparency, and inclusive growth. 

Because if there’s one thing I realized after all the conversations I had with my grandfather about politics and my first-hand observations on SG’s leadership, it is that we have to keep on engaging more as the primary constituents of our own government in demanding good governance from elected officials—whether they be in inside or outside of campus—so our voices would not have to be misrepresented again and again. 

Reshaping our thinking towards this new set of officers would be the backbone of how we and the student leaders can build better interactions and form stronger student-led institutions. Now, more than ever, is the time for student involvement to be adapted, scaled up and maintained in order to ensure that the dynamics of the governing body with its constituents would bear great and beneficial outcomes for all.

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