It’s that time of the year again when the Silliman Spirit, that “atmosphere of personal closeness, warmth, friendship and concern” among Sillimanians, can almost be felt in the campus. Sadly, not all students see the annual Founders Week celebration as a time to unite with the rest of the Silliman community. In fact, student apathy is such a problem that fines are imposed by the various organizations and student councils on student-members who do not participate in official school activities.
But are fines the solution to this problem? Before the opening of classes, the university issued a memorandum stating that “non-payment of fees that are not listed in the official list of university payments is not an excuse for a student’s clearance not to be signed at the end of the semester.” This was in response to a complaint by a parent who had to pay a huge amount for the fines of his child. Notice that it was not the student who complained but his parent. This shows that the impact of the fines imposed by student councils cannot be felt fully by the students, almost all of whom are not spending for their education. It is easy for students whose parents can afford to pay the fines to think they can pay their way out of a responsibility. In the real world, they are likely to behave as though money can buy everything. For students, on the other hand, whose parents are struggling to make the monthly tuition payments, the fines only add to their heavy financial burden.
There are student councils however which instead of merely imposing fines have also provided alternatives such as community service. This is rendered by the student himself, not his parent, and thus is more effective than fines. Activities like coastal clean-up can teach a student the value of preserving and protecting the environment. The fines provide “sustenance for the existence of an organization”, as pointed out by Abe Cadeliña, head of the Student Organizations and Activities Division, but community service will benefit more people.
The Weekly Sillimanian believes that the voice of an organization or student council’s constituents on this issue needs to be heard. According to Mark Raygan Garcia, director of the Office of Information and Publications, the decision as to what sanction will be imposed in the event that a student misses activities “has to be agreed upon by the council, its membership, and the dean.” Matters can be settled through a dialogue by the student councils and organizations with their respective constituents to explain their respective fines as well as to gather feedback and suggestions before reaching an agreement regarding the sanction. During this dialogue, the leaders can encourage students to participate wholeheartedly in official school activities throughout the school year.
Unless this problem of student apathy is solved, the Silliman Spirit will not be felt in the campus, not even during the Founders Week celebration.