With the approval of the DLSU administration, the University Student Government (USG) has officially announced that it will be implementing a federalist governing structure starting academic year 2017-2018.
The move was done in response to calls for greater autonomy for college governments, as well as plans to integrate DLSU Taft, Science and Technology Complex, and College of St. Benilde in the coming years.
The plan is greatly supported by both the USG and the administration, although the sentiments of the student population are yet to be seen. While most see the benefits of greater autonomy in the coming years, several issues are currently being anticipated.
Efficiency and other benefits
USG President Zed Laqui explains that the main reason for the move was to improve the efficiency of the student government, as well as to address more accurately the needs of each college.
“For many years, the USG has struggled to be as efficient as it can be with the fulfillment of its projects and programs for the year,” he narrates. “We have experienced numerous problems, but we feel that one of the largest issues we must recognize is the diversity of situations faced by the colleges. Each college has a different set of students, professors, subjects, and whatnot, so it has been difficult to reach out to all [colleges] at once.”
Laqui further reveals that the structure of the school in the coming integration, as well as the way the USG is currently departmentalized, all make federalism an advantageous structure to follow. He references the fact that students currently engage in more autonomous forms of campus activism through student organizations that are separate from the USG.
USG Vice President for Internal Affairs Karl Ong makes a similar statement, saying, “Currently, a certain level of autonomy already exists. Students have student organizations, which are not linked to the USG directly. Within the USG itself, college presidents lead their colleges, then an executive board is in place as a central government. However, each college has its own issues—whether it’s curriculum, or facilities, or whatnot. We feel that it is time for them to have even more autonomy over their own matters.”
Ong further cites that implementing a federalist government would reduce bureaucracy in the implementation of projects for specific colleges. He further suggests that for University-wide projects, a federalist structure would improve dissemination of information and would strengthen the voices of each college, thus improving collaboration and solidarity.
Likewise, Laqui posits that such a move could, in fact, increase participation and representation of students around DLSU. He asserts, “With the coming DLSU integration, our colleges will be further divided. This calls for greater autonomy, but we also think that this kind of autonomy will lead to better representation and participation, since now each college government will need the full cooperation of its own students in order to function.”
USG Executive Treasurer Brian Chen also reveals that this structure could improve the fundraising and auditing practices of the student government. “Each college will have to manage its own funds, in both audit and raising [of funds]. While this is happening in the present, federalism will delegate the task more earnestly to the different colleges, especially since they will be doing their own projects and having their own rules and whatnot, so that’s what they have to account for,” he explains.
USG Executive Secretary Monica Otayza shares that the federalist structure would make information dissemination much easier and faster. “Information dissemination is extremely important. The executive board is there, but individual colleges have different information needs. With more autonomy, these needs will be better addressed, as there will be more interaction among students and their respective college boards,” she states.
Nonetheless, some risks are anticipated. USG Vice President for External Affairs Reigner Sanchez acknowledges that despite these benefits, there could be a variety of risks, such as less checks and balances among colleges, as well as certain colleges becoming more isolated and inactive in the larger University scope.
“Some colleges might not be as active. Some colleges might not be able to interact as much. Other colleges might be overly active, and shut out the rest [of the colleges], thus creating division and isolation. These are all possibilities, but we feel that Lasallians can reconcile these in the long run,” he narrates.
With regard to the dynamics between the USG and administration, Dean of Student Affairs Amelia Galang shares that the administration’s relationship with the USG will certainly change after the shift to federalism. “The administration will have to consider policies in a more per-college, per-campus kind of basis, which is good since the issues are now more targeted,”
Implementation and perceptions on the shift
Laqui confirms that although more autonomy will be granted to students, an executive board will still exist, albeit with reduced responsibilities and scope over the colleges.
“The USG has been planning this with the admin for a long time. While the idea is to delegate tasks to colleges, we recognize the need for a central or unifying body to set standards, goals, and limitations,” Laqui explains.
The transitional process will include revisions to the student handbook, as well as the USG Constitution, in order to anticipate and accommodate the technicalities of such a shift. Laqui details that there are currently meetings and Legislative Assembly sessions being held to discuss these matters. A constitutional amendment is also to be scheduled.
“We hope to involve the students as much as possible, so as to make the process democratic,” Laqui explains, “We foresee the need of people to voice out their opinions on certain revisions and changes, especially to the constitution.”
Galang shares that the administration supports the move, as it has been in discussion over the past years. “We discussed the plans for a long time,” she shares. “We consulted the USG, the administration, the faculty. We had numerous meetings and forums. The only concern now is how the student population will take it.”
Otayza shares that the USG plans to conduct a survey on the students’ perception of the shift. “We are currently constructing a survey of how students feel about the shift to a federal structure. From the people we’ve spoken to, and the college presidents, it seems favorable. But we hope to be able to get a representative sample [of the student population] on this view,” she says.