Monday, July 15, 2024

Policy prevails

The Weekly Sillimanian | February 16, 2024

A student council’s burden should not be the responsibility of their constituents—especially when the consequences of bearing such could affect their financial status and access to education. The opposite should be true. Student councils should work tirelessly to lighten the load students face daily, no matter their circumstances in life. 

However, instances of students being made to pay council fees and demerit fines before being granted enrollment or clearances contradict this very fact. They also contradict university policy.

A 2016 memorandum from the then Vice President for Finance and Administration stated that, among others, council fees and fines should not be a requirement for admission, promotion, or the issuance of clearances. Despite these clear-cut words, the Silliman University Student Government (SUSG) Student Assembly has drawn flak for publishing the years-old memorandum. 

The Weekly Sillimanian firmly believes that the Student Assembly deserves no criticism for resurfacing the memorandum in question. In fact, they should be commended for clarifying the concerns and publishing at the most crucial time possible: during the council fee collection period and enrollment. We also encourage all colleges to strictly abide by the university policy stated in the memorandum.

It is undeniable, however, that the circumstances councils find themselves in put them in difficult spots. The pressure of properly serving constituents on a tight timeline without sufficient funds along with the expectations of college faculty is extremely daunting.

But while the councils’ concerns are valid, they do not supersede the students’ right to be informed of university policy at the most opportune time and make the necessary informed decisions as a result of learning of such a policy. 

In light of this, it is high time for councils and colleges to reevaluate what the council fees should truly do for the students who pay them. College administrations should also do what they can to help the student council help their members—but not in ways that compromise their rights.

Programs funded by the council fee should prioritize immediate student interest over quantity, publicity, or organizational points. In this way, students can see what they paid for—clearly and concretely. Otherwise, programs that have little student benefit should be slashed. A lower council fee with clear benefits can increase students’ willingness to contribute—especially when some students have additional organizational fees to shoulder.

Similarly, strictly allowing only those who have paid their dues admittance, participation, and benefits to council-organized events can also be used as a more appropriate mechanism to encourage students to pay council fees. It would also prove fairer to fee-paying students that their money only be used for their benefit.

All of this is not to say, however, that students can just stop paying council fees altogether. Even the most apathetic students who skip all council-organized events and programs benefit from their councils’ wholehearted efforts. That is not to mention that student life is, ultimately, quite incomplete without the co-curricular experience, which is community-based in its aspect. 

At a time when economic strain is common, we all have our burdens to shoulder. Students must do what they can to make the most of their education, but give back when they can as well. However where university policy is concerned—and where such policy protects student rights—the lines that distinguish our different responsibilities are clear.

Councils must serve and protect the rights of the students who voted for them by implementing programs—but not at the expense of burdening these same constituents. Throwing that away to fulfill their version of what such service means would be a failure of that duty.

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