by Andrea D. Lim
The letter of request for abolishment of mandatory memberships in academic organizations at Silliman University (SU) will be presented to the administration once presidents of various academic and non-academic organizations will affix their signatures.
Nikko Calledo, the vice president of the SU Student Government (SUSG), called Committee on Student Organizations Head Schenitte Tingas, Students’ Rights And Welfare Committee (STRAW) Vice-Chairpersons Almae Dael and Zyrra Dael, Student Organizations and Activities Division and Office of Student Services representatives, and presidents of various academic and non-academic organizations for a meeting regarding the issue last March 5.
The meeting is considered as the next phase after the survey on organization membership conducted by STRAW Committee throughout the USpeak sessions that started last July 27, where students raised their student life concerns.
Out of 677 students who went to USpeak sessions, only 151 answered the survey sheets. Almae Dael said that their intended percentage of students who will answer the survey was 10 percent of the total college population. However, not all attendances of colleges reached 10 percent.
Survey results show that 89 students believe that membership in academic organizations should be voluntary, while 59 students think that membership should be mandatory.
Almae Dael said that there were students who were not able to identify the difference between council and organization fees. Most of the students were also okay with organization and council fees because they were given breakdown of fees.
“On the other hand, there were a number of students from the College of Business Administration who said that their organization fees were quite excessive especially that they are still required to pay the council fee,” Almae Dael said in an interview.
The survey findings were reported to those present in the meeting to open the discussion on possible solutions to the problem.
“We decided na hindi na automatic ang membership. Instead, all students should at least be part of one organization regardless the sector,” Calledo said.
Calledo added that the current SG will ask the next SG administration to give more support in the Org Fair, an event where different organization officers are designated to booths where they could orient and encourage students to join them.
He also said that the abolishing of mandatory membership is “long overdue.”
“Through the years, students have been saying that the [mandatory membership in organizations] is a clear violation of constitutional rights because they are forced to join,” Calledo said.
He said that students have been saying that failure of complying with the “forced requirement” to attend events also means fines. There are also required payments of organization fees.
“[The mandatory membership in academic organizations] is unfair for other non-academic organizations because unlike the latter, they don’t have to recruit and source money from scratch,” Calledo said.
Calledo said that it is unfair on the part of academic organization officers that students can call themselves as organization members without doing anything or earning their membership.
“Students just have to to pay and go to events which is not really how we should solve apathy in school,” Calledo said.
Moreover, he said that based on his observations, only the officers in most organizations are the ones working, attending their own events, and stressing over the tasks. Also, students only go to events for attendance, not because they want to.
“Siguro, part [of the causes of apathy] is that officers lang ang nakakita sa vision and mission ng orgs nila,” Calledo said.
He said that even the SG is having a problem on attracting the students to attend events.
“Problema din namin kung bakit hindi pumupunta ang students to events, unless we force them by letting their organizations require them. Yes, nagkaka-audience ang mga events ng SG and school, but the bigger question is, how many of those who are there are actually there?” he said.
Calledo added that “more than just the students’ presence, organizations need their sincerest participation.”
Given that academic organizations have more manpower and money, they also have more chances of organizing events, according to Calledo.
The concerns raised by some organization presidents regarding the reform are also related to the approaching K-12 implementation where there will be no first year students. According to them, this might lead to fewer students joining academic organizations.
For Gilbert Sedigo, the president of Silliman Junior Business Executives (SJBE), requiring students to join academic organizations is unfair for both officers and students, but making it voluntary may also affect the organizations negatively, especially in terms of funding events.
“Let’s say I’m an apathetic member of SJBE. I don’t care about what’s happening to the organization. Unya naay Portal [Yearbook], naay resume, tapos imong ibutang didto kay member ka when you did nothing for the organization. Unfair ra pud,” Sedigo said.
Sedigo also believes that there should be another meeting regarding the issue and academic organizations are not yet ready if the reform will be implemented next school year.
One of the concerns organization presidents raised is the risk of not having the ideal number of students who want to join respective academic organizations.
However, Calledo said that with the required membership, students are becoming members ‘by name,’ not ‘real’ members.
“We’re giving back to the students their choice… If [organization officers] have the trust and confidence sa leadership nila and what their organization stands for, I think ‘di ‘yan problema,” Calledo said.
Moreover, in the decision-making process, the participating parties in the meeting are considering academic organizations that are also functioning as college or department councils like Kapunungan sa mga Mass Communicators, MedTech Society, and SU College of Nursing Association.
“We’ll help organizations na nagiging council na rin because that’s not right. Kawawa ang [officers] kasi they have to work two jobs at the same time,” he said.
Calledo also explained that in national government, councils serve as local government units.