There’s a good reason why a lot of us don’t see student politics as a “big deal”.
Student council officers- the people in charge of checking attendance, and the ones we blame for ugly T-shirts. They’re the sorry faced babysitters who frown hopelessly mid-meeting, thinking to themselves: “I should be doing my lab reports now”. Student politics has become as tasteless to us as juicy fruit chewing gum after 3 seconds in your mouth. Because over the years it’s been reduced to an ‘event organizer’ function so much, that as long as there’s someone running a position, it’s good enough.
Student council activity peaks in the months of June, July, and August; or as we know them: acquaintance, Intrams, and Anniv. They then hibernate until the College anniversary, or until someone wants to start a fundraising campaign, before culminating with the election of new council officials to give the previous ones their sweet release. That time period from June to August is what essentially spices up University life for us students. Here and there we trade 2-hour meetings in drafty venues, and financial contributions, for 3 months where you have events and “holidays” to look forward to. And our council officers are the ones tasked to make sure that everything is in place.
Considering all the things we need to do as students, that arrangement is already pretty neat. Sure we throw around “way klaro” and “dugaya sa meeting uie” a lot. But no one really goes through the trouble of formally filing complaints. Academics are already a headache, why add more right?
That kind of thinking, however, is also the reason why student politics in VSU has been consistently mediocre. No one wants the extra effort of shouldering a whole bunch of activities and managing a lot of people.
What we don’t realize, is that the student council is actually powerful. Eight thousand students are enrolled in VSU this year. Eight thousand students who pay that 20 peso fee every semester. That’s 160,000 pesos automatically. Who gets to decide what happens with it? Of course the students….right? Well, since we’ve seemingly just left it to the “organizers”, that amount of money has been mishandled last year. Do you recall the previous failed attempt at a fundraiser through a concert? Were the students asked beforehand? Was there a consultation? Could we not have used those funds for a different, more enjoyable activity? Or even a more useful one? Had the majority of us been involved in the decision-making process, I’m sure we could’ve pulled out a bunch of good ideas. There are 8,000 of us after all.
Now how did we aim to resolve that little USSC problem? By pulling out more money from the students. We all agreed, during a general assembly, attended by quite a few students (because not all of the 8,000 showed up), to buy out that loss by paying 10 pesos each. That’s 80,000 pesos. There weren’t any major complaints aired since “10 isn’t really a big deal”. I was there, and HELLO? Was everyone missing the whole point? Why are we to pay up for a screw-up we knew nothing about? Well, we should have known, that is what happens when we opt not to. (Good news though, our 10 peso contributions will not be used to pay the debts. They’ll be taken in as advance payments and we’ll just be paying straight from the Student Development fund. Neat right?)
Also, did you know that the students actually have a say in the VSU presidency? Apparently, the students are represented in the selection by a single vote. That of the Student Regent/ USSC President. Were we asked our preference? Was there some sort of poll or meeting? Nope. But then again, how many students know about the three vice-presidents who were running for that position?
You see, by just “leaving it to them” we are missing out on so much.
In this year’s SSC elections alone, people were actually begged to run for positions. Four colleges had parties running unopposed, and one college even had no president. Mind you, because of our current system, college SSC presidents become the automatic nominees for presidential position for the Supreme Student Council. So the choices consist mostly of candidates who were just heavily persuaded by circumstance to run. Not that we could vote or anything. Isn’t that ironic? The highest position in the highest student governing body of the University is not something the students get to decide on. See, those are the things we missed. Only the members of the council get to vote on a position that is critical to all of the students.
Student politics carries with it a huge potential; a very underappreciated, and underdeveloped potential. This is a system that could bring us so many advantages. Now we can choose to continue with how we tolerate how it’s run, and voluntarily waive our right to be involved in governing our student system. Or we can step up and actively involve ourselves, to maximize this potential.