We are no strangers to the University Student Council (USC) drama, and its all-star cast clad in blue, red and yellow.
The USC, the University of the Philippines’ student government, with its general assemblies lasting until the wee hours of the morning have become online sensations for Iskolars ng Bayan who care to know, especially when juicy bickering and witty banter are included in the package.
But if we care enough to look at the USC and criticize its leadership during the previous year, we can say it has practiced a certain game—a game of numbers. The conflict within the grounds of the USC has been merely reduced to a battle of numbers instead of being a healthy discourse on principle.
Discourse has always been present in all forms of government, yet it is surprising that UP’s USC practices a number game where discourse becomes futile as decisions have been made beforehand by the dominating party.
More often than not, the opinions of the minority members of the council are easily diminished or disregarded, and the party with the most number of members in position prevail when it comes to the council’s projects, advocacies and decisions.
Instead of executing an open-minded exchange of ideas between parties, what should have been fruitful and rational debates have become arenas where political parties engage in low-blow combats where a sure advantage is strength in numbers.
Text messages asking particular party members to adhere by the decisions of their respective political affiliations do not allow members in position to decide for themselves nor to listen and understand what is being said or forwarded by those in opposing parties.
They do not allow critical thought to enter the process of decision-making, as they rely on their personal biases to make the decisions for them, turning a deaf ear to what is being said by another side and a blind eye to the different perception of another group.
This kind of leadership—one that is deaf and blind—is what prevails in a university that ironically encourages its students to question what they know and to act upon it.
This is the student leadership that governs a university that produces students and professionals who ought to be able to challenge the status quo and think for themselves, a university that claims to promote honor and excellence in the service of the Filipino people.
Effective leadership requires going beyond what is necessary—even shying away one’s political color just to arrive at a consensus where everyone will benefit from.
Because of this mandatory adherence of the members to the decisions made by the prominent political party, the fight of the minority during council affairs become a pointless, voiceless battle they wish to carry despite being outnumbered.
The student body, therefore, does not get the adequate representation it demands and deserves from its council, and the struggles of other Iskolars ng Bayan who side with the minority or believe in the minority are easily dismissed due to the lack of effective leadership dynamics.
We have seen the same phenomenon occur in present Philippine society where minority sectors are repressed and neglected by those in power or position.
Hacienda Luisita farmers remain landless after countless agrarian reform programs. The Lumad of Mindanao continue to be ravaged by the military and the paramilitary as they attack their schools and communities, terrorizing the lumads with the brutal and chilling murders of their kin. The culture of impunity persists, and journalists continue to be slain while the masterminds behind the heinous Ampatuan massacre, which claimed the lives of 32 media practitioners, remain free to roam and even run for office. State universities and colleges continue to experience budget cuts with each year’s cut increasing and the state of tertiary education getting worse.
Even the mainstream media cannot escape the guilt from such act of repression as they, too, have frequently drifted towards reporting the trivial or the trending rather than focusing on the unheard voices of society.
With such institutions retaining the same dynamics of power play, those unheard continue to be oppressed and pushed back in the corners of society. Although it is not a unanimous choice among these institutions as there are some who still wish to forward the struggles of the people, the prevalence of neglect towards these repressed sectors reflects their inclination to side with society’s ruthless oppressors. With this year’s student council elections coming up fast, students must call for and vote for a leadership with sufficient and genuine student representation.
The USC must not be a numbers game. Rather, as a council representing the student body, it must push for pro-student rights and seek to include advocacies, decisions and projects that can and would cater to all students, regardless of their political affiliations or personal ideologies.
The USC must be an avenue that reaches out to Iskolar ng Bayan whom they serve and not a battleground for whose political principle must prevail and dominate the campus.
The elected must dare to be different from the leaders seated in the country’s current administration. As those in position, they ought pay attention to the unheard voices of the university and engage them in a discourse that would not only benefit the student body but would also be good for the student government.
It is time to get back the University Student Council we have long lost—a USC that will continuously fight for the rights not only of the students but also those of the greater masses outside the university.