Failure to represent students is failure of duty
We have all kinds of ideas on what a student leader should be, most of them colorful and glorious, evident enough through profile pictures with frames and long captions, flowery promises, and rave events. The most important of them all, however, is the duty to influence policies, which can only be done if they stand up for the student body, if they fight for their rights, if they see through their struggles, and if they take it to heart that they can do something about them.
The public health crisis that took the world to a great standstill gave life to challenges in school and magnified gaps existing in the system. In the conversation about academic directives especially on online classes, mass promotion, and refund, we have our student leaders to scrutinize these policies according to what the students truly need. This is a job specifically entrusted to student governments who do not only govern but represent the student body to the institution’s administration, a job not to be taken lightly for the power and platform that entail the position.
In the previous weeks, we’ve seen some of the most vigorous initiatives from student leaders across different universities including the entire De La Salle system. These movements that attempt to negotiate directives are borne out of their inner conviction to serve the students—or simply because they know this is their responsibility.
The HERALDO FILIPINO listed the unfolding of these events across La Salle campuses, starting from the suspension of classes after the implementation of community quarantine, up to the days where councils appealed that no student should be left behind. Student organizations united, student publications spoke, town hall meetings were arranged—in other words, fire ignited, fighters fought, leaders listened—but in the middle of all of this rigor, silence from DLSU-D University Student Government remained so. While others did not contain themselves in the complacency of waiting for directives to revise themselves, they stood up and issued their clear and bold stance regarding divisive issues, like thoughtful friends of the students, if not true enemies of the status quo. After all, no issue too divisive can baffle leadership that has clear vision and deep understanding of purpose. Sadly, waters surrounding DLSU-D USG remained stagnant, save for announcements and a message of promises, which time crossed without announced follow-through in the spirit of transparency and good service. The actions they willed behind their walls are surely not in vain, but whatever those pursuits were the students have no idea.
The truth is, students of DLSU-D are aware and vocal when it comes to social realities of this pandemic. But a big difference happens when there is a strong voice that leads and empowers them.
If duties are made clear, any less than what is promised is self-authored betrayal. The failure to represent the students is failure of duty.
In many scenarios other than this, like that of the tuition fee increase proposal earlier in February, we expected more. The value of student representation lies on making a stand and ensuring the students’ awareness of all exchanges, appeals, conversations, and developments regarding academic affairs. It is in their best interest to protect the Patriot house that they want to build, knowing all pieces of this infrastructure—the students—are important. In USG’s constitution, the Preamble mentions “inclusive representative student government” in the mission of “student representation in university and academic affairs, preserve, protect, and defend our inalienable student rights”, and so on. If duties are made clear, any less than what is promised is self-authored betrayal. The failure to represent the students is failure of duty.
As student leaders, we have a sworn allegiance to the community. In this essence, we should fear the ironies that escape us, whether we find them inside the campus or in society. All of these are difficult to confront to say the least, but there is value in knowing no war waged is wasted if fought hard enough. Clearly, now is a meaningful time to be a student leader. When all of this is over, whatever that means in context of the pandemic, we are not sure the students will remember which duties we upheld or neglected, which news we reacted to or ignored, which words we used for new promises, but there is only one thing they will remember us for: silence or courage.
Note: The HERALDO FILIPINO tried to reach out to USG on April 20 and still waits for response.
Illustration by Nadine Dumali