SINCE the birth of the Central Student Council (CSC) in the early 80’s, there have been several attempts to form a concrete program for student grievances. In 1996, the incumbent CSC created a grievance committee that was unable to resolve any case brought to them. It eventually died a natural death. Three years later, the defunct committee was revived and the Council of Liaisons was born.

Last year, the council launched the Office of the Student General (OSG), another attempt to address student grievances in the University.

Former CSC president John Voltaire Almeda wanted to convince the central board to adopt a law creating a student general office which will be under the CSC. However, the new CSC executive board decided against it.

“The Office of the Student General is co-terminus with the CSC president, so we decided to scrap it since it did not serve its purpose,” auditor Reyner Villaseñor told the Varsitarian.

Villaseñor said it was the decision of current CSC president Reinald Vincent dela Cruz as well as to the executive board whether the OSG would continue.

Treasurer Elsewhere Rial Perez, the only Aklas’ officer to infiltrate the Lakas-dominated CSC, proposed for the continuation of OSG. However, a 5-1 vote ended the program.

Lawyers of students

“Our main focus was on student’s rights because we noticed that there was no concrete system of structure for the grievances of the students,” former CSC secretary Catherine Iris Pastoral told the Varsitarian.

The former council organized the student general committee, which served as the central grievance office of students. The committee’s main objective was to “protect the interests and rights of the students and represent any student, student organization, or clubs in any litigation, proceeding, investigation, or matters concerning them before any University head or office.”

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The committee is headed by a student general, an appointee of the incumbent CSC president. The student general is “the principal law officer and legal defender of the students concerning student complaints and grievances.” He is also given the authority and responsibility to execute committee decisions, as well as the duties and functions of the OSG. He is assisted by 15 assistant student generals from the different faculties, colleges, and institutes in the University. Every assistant student general is in turn given two solicitors to aid them. The assistant student general and the solicitors are appointed by the CSC president upon the recommendation of the student general. Further, an auxiliary staff is created to facilitate and monitor the operations of the committee.

To file a complaint, a student only needs to go to the CSC office and fill up the standard complaint form. The student general committee submits it to the proper hearing body and follows it up until it is resolved.

Problems encountered

“The reason why OSG did not function well was because it was not tested and was not institutionalized,” said Fatima de Chavez, former OSG committee head. They were not able to complete the recruitment of all 15 assistant student generals and the 30 solicitors.

“Aside from that, the lack of finances hindered the implementation of the Students Rights Awareness Week and the publication of the grievance handbook,” de Chavez said.

Despite set backs, the OSG won a case in the Conservatory of Music involving a student who was “physically, emotionally, and psychologically” harassed by a fellow student. The person accused of the complaint was given individual counseling, consultation with the dean, and the parents have been informed of the student’s conduct.

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The OSG also represented graduating students from the College of Education who were given failing grades by a professor. However, the case ended in favor of the teacher. Other cases did not push through because students themselves decided not to file a complaint despite the OSG’s advice.

Starting Anew

The incumbent CSC officers believe that the OSG not only have the responsibility to defend student’s rights but also to address matters that directly or indirectly affect the students.

“It should act as a student version of the Student’s Welfare and Development Board (SWDB),” said Villaseñor.

Asked whether they have an alternative for OSG, Villaseñor said, “Alternative, none, but a solution, yes.”

The new CSC administration intends to create a “Student’s Rights and Welfare Committee (SRWC),” an independent CSC committee more student-friendly than OSG. Villaseñor then drives to the point: “Will you be approaching a person who is called ‘student general’ to tell your grievances and other special concerns?”

The SRWC plans to coordinate with Civil Law’s Batas Tomasino and UST Civil Law Student Council regarding legal matters of the committee. “They will act as the real ‘student lawyers’ of UST, the real ‘student-generals’,” said acting SRWC coordinator Louis Marvil Abala.

“They shall act as the committee’s legal advisers, consultants and experts. We will forward the heavy cases to these two bodies for action and proper handling. Simple cases, those that can be compromised by both parties would be handled by the committee itself,” Abala said.

The new committee would similarly operate like its predecessor; the only difference is that the scope of their work is not limited to merely filing of complaints and doing follow-ups.

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“We will be open to give advices and options to the students who need our help,” Abala added.

Overall, the committee is headed by a SRWC coordinator. Under him are two deputy coordinators which would each be in charge of nine faculties or colleges. The UST High School, UST Ecclesiastical Faculties, Pharmacy, and Civil Law and the Colleges of Architecture, Fine Arts and Design, Accounting and Science are under the first deputy coordinator. The other deputy coordinator would be in charge of the UST Education High School, Conservatory of Music, Faculties of Arts and Letters, Medicine, and Engineering, Colleges of Education, Rehabilitation Sciences, Nursing, and Commerce.

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