Crossroads: Graduating student leaders discuss issues in DLSU-D
The HERALDO FILIPINO held a round-table discussion with five graduating student leaders of AY 2018-2019 from different organizations in the University. They were asked for their insights regarding the issues that affected the campus for the past four years.
Before they finally leave the University, here’s what they have to dare and address.
Note: Some statements are translated to English.
AT A GLANCE
- The University lacks transparency with tuition increase; the University Student Council (now University Student Government) has not been quick in disseminating information about it.
- The Performing Arts Group do not have suitable in-campus venues in showcasing and improving their craft.
- Most DLSU-D students aren’t exactly “passive”; they are aware but confined.
- There are no reported cases of discrimination on race and gender inside the campus—but there are no vocal and formal initiatives for diversity and acceptance either.
ON TUITION INCREASE
HF: When you enrolled in DLSU-D four years ago, the average tuition per semester is more or less 50,000 PHP. But the recent tuition increase has caused it to rise to a maximum of 70,000 PHP per semester. What can you say about this?
Bianca Isabelle Lariosa (Heraldo Filipino): The expenses are increasing because according to the admin, the improvements in the campus are continuous. The question is do we really feel these improvements? The admin and the University Student Council, the representative of the entire student body, had discussions about the tuition increase but the USC is not quick in spreading information about it. We all know that the USC expressed their disapproval on the tuition increase, considering the decrease in student population due to the K-12. However, the admin countered this, saying that it doesn’t matter if the student population declined because the University will have to continue its operations. The school is not transparent when it comes to tuition increase. The students would not know about it unless The HERALDO FILIPINO reports it or the students ask the administration themselves. The next thing you know is that the tuition has already increased.
The school is not transparent when it comes to tuition increase.
HF: Did you feel the said improvements? What improvement would you want to see from the school?
Chris Gerard De Mesa (DLSU-D Chorale): I think I have seen improvements. In CBAA, they placed a roof in the Azotea; the Ayuntamiento was finally opened; they placed a roof above the pool; the walkways in CEAT and COED were improved. However, one thing I never saw is the school providing a perfect venue for Performing Arts Group (PAG) to showcase their talents—unlike De La Salle Santiago Zobel School that has a theater that is comparable to the mini-theater of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP). We have seven PAG, but no proper avenue to showcase their talents. We would often have to rent venues that aren’t conducive for any performances.
We have seven PAG, but no proper avenue to showcase their talents.
HF: How did the scholars feel about the tuition increase?
Samantha Clare Alaba (CoSA): The scholars felt bad about the tuition increase. This semester marks the lowest number of accepted scholars compared to the past years. While the tuition continues to increase, the number of sponsors for the scholarship lessens. The admin wanted to increase the tuition to finish ongoing projects and infrastructures. But we are not aiming for a good-looking school, we are aiming for quality education. The reason why we work hard as scholars is because we want to be equipped. We want to advance our skills. I have worked with students from other La Salle schools and based on my observation, compared to us, students there are more equipped. I think the admin focuses on the quantity of infrastructures and not the quality of education; it should not be like that.
De Mesa: The scholarship of the members of the PAG was affected too. The former batches of PAG experienced 100% discount—they only need to pay for the miscellaneous fees. Now, our scholarship only reaches a maximum of 25,000 PHP, but I understand that in a way. Technically, this school is a business. The students are the customers. If the University loses a segment, which is mainly a whole batch of students, the financial operation of the school will be affected. At the end of the day, what the school would focus on is how to maintain their remaining amount of money without going bankrupt. Maintaining the budget when there’s a deficit of students is the school’s problem. Those remaining students will be the one to experience the weight of the increase in tuition.
ON STUDENT LEADERSHIP AND EMPOWERMENT
HF: Several student leaders have stepped down from their respective positions due to surmounting pressure and responsibilities. In 2017, the USC president, vice president and public relations officer resigned. In 2018, the USC vice president, treasurer, and business manager stepped down from their positions too. What can you say about this?
Mary Angelique Ballesteros (UPSFC): On the matter of stepping down of student leaders, I feel that this has an effect on some students, especially because they are afraid to become officers of an organization. There are instances when they worry stepping up, saying that ‘If this person couldn’t finish their term, what more of me if I would take that position?’ These thoughts would enter their mind, because they look up to that person and they would often think that ‘I can’t do that; I can’t handle that kind of position.’ That is why, at times, it is difficult to find new student leaders.
Lariosa: Once you feel that you are on the top, you tend to not see the people below you; especially now, with the newly implemented USG Constitution. They do not know that when you are at the top, the student does not look at the spokesperson or the representative, they are looking at you, the president. The reason that a lot of them quit or resign is that they do not think that people care—this is where we can relate the term student passivity. ‘Okay, if I resign then the council will continue and who am I to stop that? These student leaders are there to take part, but they are not there to take over.
These student leaders are there to take part, but they are not there to take over.
HF: What can you share about student empowerment?
Ma. Nery Balatay (COMMSOC): In my perspective, the Council of Student Organization (CSO) have empowerment for the students because they monitor every organization through the Monitoring Executive Board (MEBO). Through the MEBO, the organizations are constantly guided and updated, and I think it’s actually nice to have that among organizations, so we could see ahead of time which organization needs help.
Ballesteros: I agree, their system of consultation helps. They take care of the organization—the individuals and the entire group. There is that sense of belongingness. Despite being busy, they would still take time to care for the organizations and ask about its welfare. Emotionally and mentally, you would feel that you belong to a family.M
ON STUDENT PARTICIPATION, PASSIVITY, AND ACTIVISM
HF: There are times when students would not participate in events in the University. They say that the tickets are costly, or the events are not interesting. This affects the performance of organizations. What can you share about this?
Balatay: I would like to note that organizations in DLSU-D work really hard to lower the ticket prices of their events. Sometimes, the students would complain about the ticket price when in fact, they would go to Manila for an event that is as costly.
Ballesteros: Based on my observation, events are made for the students. However, most of the time, they wouldn’t attend. Now, if there’s no event, some students would complain. Organizations in DLSU-D are producing quality events and projects, but the participation of students is quite lacking.
De Mesa: As officers of the Chorale, we consider the perspectives of those students who attend our events. We ask what kind of concert these students want from us. Example, many students attended our Disney concert. That event became quite fruitful because we asked the students what they want, and we were amazed by the fact that the students became responsive to our inquiry. The students, who are the target participants of our events, are changing. So, you have to ask what the students want. I think this is where student passivity roots itself. We are not offering the students what they want. The students are thinking. If an event is what they want, they will go. If they want something else, then they’ll pass.
HF: There are cases of students posting on social media about the passivity of their fellow students. Do you think DLSU-D students are truly passive?
Lariosa: As Lasallians, I don’t think we’re passive about social issues. In fact, we’re very much aware. But because of the faraway outlook here in DLSU-D, we feel like we are confined to this space while the social issues are in the outside world. If you will notice here in school, the USC have statements on social issues. However, there’s no update or progress regarding their statements. It’s not enough to make a statement—you have to do something about it. It’s easy to say that you’re standing for an issue, or you’re against it. The statements are empty when we don’t do something about it. And the students are smart, they will say that ‘those are just mere statements with no actions. It’s not enough to make a statement—you have to do something about it.
It’s not enough to make a statement—you have to do something about it.
De Mesa: I think, the reason behind student passivity can also be seen on students who do not know how to exercise their rights. In the case of the USC, they didn’t train the students to exercise their own rights, particularly the newly revised constitution. For me, the constitution is a sword, DLSU-D is the battlefield, and the students are the soldiers. If we’re untrained to use that sword, we will die helplessly in the battlefield. I have seen DLSU-D students exercise their statement about a certain issue when they gathered in front of the church as a protest against death penalty. Everyone is dressed in white—that’s the kind of balls you want to see from the students.
HF: One of the many ways to combat student passivity is through student activism. It’s allowing the students to protest, conduct rallies, and demonstrate their reaction regarding social issues. Should DLSU-D students join rallies?
Lariosa: There’s a negative connotation when it comes to rallies. The thoughts that first come to mind is violence, sweaty militants, burning stuff, danger, bold placards, and angry mobs. But, rallies are not like that. There’s a certain period in a rally when you can sit and discuss with different kinds of people—the marginalized, the farmers, the youth. That’s the main point of a rally: to discuss with the people. I remember, in the Mayo Uno protest, we walked far and long to gather in Mendiola. We sat there with other student journalists. The heat is scorching, but it felt like such a safe space because you are with the people who are fighting the same battles as you. Yes, I agree. Lasallians should not only attend rallies but also immerse in those kinds of situation. However, we should also realize that fighting for a good cause doesn’t end with participating in rallies. You have to immerse yourself with the sector you’re fighting for.
There’s a certain period in a rally when you can sit and discuss with different kinds of people—the marginalized, the farmers, the youth. That’s the main point of a rally: to discuss with the people.
De Mesa: I reviewed the Constitution as I prepare for this interview, and I’m glad because we have a provision that says students are allowed to protest. For me, a rally gives voice to the voiceless. In DLSU-D, it can be an avenue to make our leaders aware of their own actions—or the lack thereof. A rally can be an avenue to make our leaders realize that they have to do something. I think that’s a way for our leaders to recognize the fact that students participate in rally because the way they represent the student body is inadequate and not enough.
We have a provision that says students are allowed to protest.
Alaba: I believe in rallies but in a neutral kind of way because firsthand, I have no experience with rallies. And personally, I believe with open communication. That is why I believe that the best way to solve an issue is to solve the root cause.
ON INCLUSION AND DIVERSITY
HF: Diversity and inclusion has always been a compelling topic—especially for the Lasallian Community. People of different gender, race, and religion are in pursuit of acceptance amid differences. What can you share about the state of inclusion and diversity in the University?
Ballesteros: In our football team, there are many foreigners. Example, foreign students from Timor-Leste play football with us. We also have a Muslim member. The team is inclusive for both boys and girls. We’re okay about it. We’re there to play, for the sportsmanship. No one is bringing another person down because of race, religion, and gender.
Truth is, there’s no reason to not accept the foreign students. Even the LGBTQIA+ Community, there’s no reason to not accept them.
They are the same person as us regardless of gender, race, and religion.
HF: Speaking of religion, some professors encourage—and even require—students to attend masses. It serves as attendance for some classes. How do you feel about this?
Lariosa: At its core, DLSU-D is a Catholic University. It’s not a bad thing that they are promoting the Catholic faith. However, they must keep in mind that there are Lasallians who belong to another religion, who practice another culture. Also, there are Lasallians who don’t believe in organized religion. We should remember that there are Lasallians from other religions—and even those who don’t belong to a religion—are the minority in our University. So, it’s also important that we host events that cater to them. After all, the world outside the University is diverse.
We should remember that there are Lasallians from other religions—and even those who don’t belong to a religion—are the minority in our University.
Balatay: In one of COMMSOC’s events, we invited guest speakers who are members of different religions. However, the administration almost did not approve of that event. The Campus Ministry Office questioned that event. They questioned why the guest speakers are not Catholic. It seems like they don’t want people from other religions to be our guest speakers. That made me sad. The University is a Catholic school but there are people from other religions who will enter it. Truth is, many Lasallians who attended our event felt happy. Some of them wanted the event to be bigger. I think non-Catholic Lasallians should be encouraged more to speak about their own religion so students who lack knowledge about it will be enlightened.
HF: In 2016, the De La Salle-College of St. Benilde became the first Lasalle school to accredit an LGBTQIA+ organization—the Benilde Hive. In your own opinion, why is there no LGBTQIA+ organization in DLSU-D?
Alaba: I think it’s because there’s a lack of “push”. I think it’s because the admin is not very open about it. I observe that it is not their priority. The topic isn’t raised to some students. That’s why some students are passive too about the LGBTQIA+ Community. Some DLSU-D students do not focus on the issue—unlike in other Catholic institutions where students can freely voice their need for recognition and action.
De Mesa: I think the reason why the LGBTQIA+ in DLSU-D isn’t heard is because there’s no certain organization that represents them. Yes, there are individuals, but not in an organized group. I feel like if there’s an organized group who will amplify the voice of the LGBTQIA+, they will be heard. I think the admin is only waiting for someone to start an organization that is focused on the LGBTQIA+. The students are the one who must initiate in establishing such organization, not the admin. Besides, it will be a huge issue if the admin refuses to allow that kind of organization to be established in DLSU-D
Disclaimer: All of the statements provided by the student leaders are opinions from personal observation and experience, all of which do not aim, in any way, to malign the name of the University. Moreover, the opinions of the student leaders expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of The HERALDO FILIPINO.
Written by Jomar Villanueva and Marjorie Alanzalon (Contributors)