THE OUTGOING Central Student Council (CSC) says it has achieved its seven-point agenda save for the most important thing – the passage of the proposed Magna Carta of Student Rights.

“We were able to cover bases which other administrations before us were not able to attain,” Reyner Aaron Villaseñor, president of the CSC, said. “We already got comments from different administrative and executive offices so that the next term will only have to present the charter to the Academic Senate, the Board of Regents, and the Board of Trustees, followed by a plebiscite.”

Former CSC Central Board speaker Milfen Alvarado had announced in February 2007 that the Magna Carta was close to completion and would reach the Rector before the end of 2007.

But outgoing Central Board deputy speaker Robby Rosales later disclosed that the proposed charter still had to be reviewed by the Office of the Secretary General. He added the charter was also undergoing review by the Central Board, hinting of another delay in its promulgation.

Talks about the Magna Carta had started in September 2004. The final draft was completed some two years later, in December 2006. Yet it was only last August when the “working copy” of the Magna Carta, later renamed as the UST Student Code, was first disseminated.

Former Artlets Student Council speaker Niel Niño Lim expressed dismay over the delays.

“The last I heard of the Magna Carta issue was last 2005-2006,” Lim said. “I disagree with this move to review the Magna Carta without involving the academic student organization heads.”

In an interview with the Varsitarian last June 2007, Rosales explained that the Magna Carta would be first signed by the Rector then given to the student body for a plebiscite. But some student leaders instead recommended that the charter be first submitted to a referendum, to avoid embarrassing the Rector should the student body reject the charter he had signed.

John Carlo Masajo, editor in chief of Hiraya, the student publication of the College of Fine Arts and Design, criticized the CSC for failing to “exhaust the administrative steps to the charter’s realization.”

“The Magna Carta’s implementation keeps on getting delayed because CSC officers have conflicts with some administrators,” he said. “This seems to be a crucial factor because both the students and the administrators play important roles in actualizing the charter.”


Incoming CSC president Angelo Cachero hopes that the charter will be finally approved before his term ends.

“By the first semester, we plan to have a stronger cooperation with the students to finally reach the charter’s finishing point,” he said.

Florentino Hornedo, a Philosophy and Literature professor at the Faculty of Arts and Letters and Graduate School, said that “insecurities” on both sides—the students and the administration—may be hindering the passage of the charter.

“The administration is unable to know what the students have in mind and probably unwilling to open doors,” Hornedo said. “The students, on the other hand, are ignorant or fearful of what the other side might be thinking.”

More open and sincere dialogues between the students and the administration are needed to come up with a “more profound and coherent charter,” he added.

“There should be a high level of knowledge, confidence and mutual respect on both sides for UST to see the Magna Carta as a kind of pedagogical tool to help make the students mature in their academic responsibilities,” Hornedo said.

Other CSC targets

Aside from student rights, the CSC’s seven-point agenda included campus safety and security, financial transparency, student facilities and services, information dissemination, “Thomasian pride advocacy,” and recreational and community development.

The CSC had initially planned to hold the “Council Hour” in partnership with the Thomasian Cable Television to serve as an avenue for addressing student grievances. The event was supposed to be broadcast around the campus.

The project instead turned into a series of dialogues with local councils, minus the broadcast.
“We made the project private because grievances need not be exposed just for publicity’s sake,” Villaseñor said.

The CSC also pushed for the installation of ID swiping stations in all gates to tighten campus security. Then vice-rector for finance, Fr. Clarence Marquez, O.P, reportedly referred the proposal to the Project Management Office (PMO) for review.

But Villaseñor said that the PMO refused to consider the project due to the high cost of swiping machines.

Writers, where art thou?

However, Ma. Ninia Calaca, PMO officer, said that what they got from the CSC was merely “a verbal proposal.”

To make up for the swiping-machine impasse, Villaseñor said the CSC enforced the UST security office protocol which required students to always wear their IDs and for visitors to sign the guard’s logbook before entering the University premises and its buildings.

“The security became very strict to the point that many students got angry because they cannot enter the building without presenting or wearing their IDs first,” Villaseñor said.

But detachment commander Clemente Dingayan explained that it was the UST administration which advised the security office to step up security measures following the P6 million robbery at the Security Bank branch inside the campus last December 10.

“CSC is only one of the members of the crisis management committee,” Dingayan said. “This committee, initiated by the administration, is formed to ensure the safety and security of the students in the University.”

The crisis management committee is headed by Marquez and composed of administrators from the OSA, Office of the Secretary General, and Public Affairs Office. The other members of the committee are Dingayan, Jose Cruz of the Office for Community Development, Dr. Ma. Salve Olalia of the UST Health Service Office and Oliver Gagarin of the Buildings and Grounds Office.

Meanwhile, plans for an independent CSC website took a back seat as there is an existing Student Organization Website (SOW) created by the Educational Technology (Ed-Tech) Center.

“Ed-Tech would not allow us to put up our own website because they want ours to be incorporated with the University’s,” Villaseñor said. “So we just settled for Multiply and Friendster that we regularly update.”

Villaseñor, however, clarified that the CSC does not only rely on the Internet for information dissemination.

“We used elf-trucks that roam around the campus and even reactivated the CSC bulletin boards so that students may be informed about University events,” Villaseñor said.

Aside form this, the CSC spearheaded a transparency campaign by posting its audited expenses on its bulletin boards.

It had also planned to revive its newsletter, Vox Newsletter, but then opted to utilize the money to give financial assistance to local councils.

Stable economic growth needed to ease poverty

“My co-officers and I thought that if we came up with a newsletter, we would only be bragging about our achievements,” Villaseñor said.

Outgoing Central Board speaker Jim Eduard Trinidad said local councils which had financial difficulties in implementing their projects were given financial assistance.

The Faculty of Arts and Letters Student Council was one of the recipients of the financial assistance.

“We used the financial assistance for our community development projects such as the Aplaya Munti and the immersion in the National Penitentiary,” outgoing Artlets president John Christian Valeroso said.

“Since Aplaya Munti is a community of fishermen, we gave boats and other fishing tools for them,” outgoing Artlets vice president Chester Lei Fabian said.

Low student participation

Despite its projects, the CSC, according to former Asian Studies Society president Daniel Mejia, Jr. still suffers from poor visibility.

“Students tend not to bother with activities when they do not feel the consistent presence of their student government,” Mejia said.

UST Singers president Karen Stephanie Arriola agreed.

“CSC’s activities in the campus appear to be good but they lacked good publicity which resulted in less student participation,” Arriola said.

Villaseñor attributed the “inevitably” poor student participation to the conflicting schedules of colleges.

“For instance, the Faculty of Pharmacy has monthly exams and we know how very busy Civil Law and Medicine students are,” Villaseñor said. “We need to undertstand and respect their academic needs.”

In the College of Science, he said CSC room-to-room announcements were very difficult to conduct because some classes had quizzes everyday.

Villaseñor said some UST administrators even barred students from attending the Students’ Rights Welfare (Straw) Week because of conflict with class schedules.

OSA head Cristina Castro-Cabral lamented the low turnout in the Straw Week in a dialogue last December.

Cachero, for his part, pledged to work on increasing student participation in CSC activities.

“In the past, only local student councils participate in the projects. For this coming academic year, we plan to tap local and central organizations through the aid of the Student Organizations Coordinating Council,” Cachero said. Alena Pias P. Bantolo and Jonathan Eli A. Libut


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