By ALYSSA MAE S. RAFAEL and ANA GABRIELLE CEGUERA
THE FACULTY of Arts and Letters (AB), which offers 13 academic degree programs and houses nine interest organizations, is known to be the most diverse faculty in the University.
All 13 academic disciplines, each with its own society, aim to promote values and bring out the potential of the students. AB is built on the foundation of camaraderie and learning beyond the four corners of a classroom.
However, being the melting pot of different majors and organizations, the Faculty faces issues and concerns that need to be addressed.
Newly implemented rules
This academic year, the Faculty administration imposed new rules on all societies and organizations. These included limiting the number of projects and events, restricting the number of students excused for events, and shifting the budgetary process from cash reimbursements to cash advancements.
In a meeting with the dean together with different officials of the Faculty, Assistant Dean Narcisa Tabirara pointed out the need to limit the numerous and overlapping student activities.
“Napakaraming activities ranging from leadership training… there is a leadership training organized by OSA, a leadership training organized by the student council, tapos each organization will also organize its own leadership training,” she said.
Tabirara added that organizations and societies must work under the philosophy “na huwag lang kung ano-ano” in terms of having projects and activities. “Students must really think of really high impact projects that will really benefit the majority of people in the program.”
AB Red Cross Youth Council (AB-RCYC) President Janelle Lorzano pointed out that the issue on overlapping student activities can be addressed with the aid of a Vice President (VP)-Internal who can coordinate with the societies and organizations about their projects.
However, in October, Artlets Student Council (ABSC) VP-Internal Anika Imperial resigned from her post due to medical problems. Only one Artlet, China Vergara, filed a candidacy for the position, but she backed out on Nov. 22 just hours ahead of the scheduled miting de avance.
As of writing, AB is yet to find its new VP-Internal as the AB Commission on Elections gears up for the second reopening of the filing period.
“Sana, we act as one kasi ‘yung VP-Internal ‘yung [nag-uunite] sa aming lahat. So kung wala siya, nagkakanya-kanya kami,” Lorzano said.
Aside from limiting the number of events, the administration also restricts the the number of students allowed to be excused from their classes to attend events.
“The academic organizations as well as the interest groups, nag-o-overlap sila [ng activities] and students are kept away from their classes too many times. It’s also a disadvantage to the students,” Tabirara said.
To address the problem, Literary Society (LitSoc) President Anna Margarita Camua said they schedule their events on dates where more students are available.
Journalism Society President Franchesca Viernes argued that there should be no limitation in excusing students as these events help them achieve their full potential.
“Bawal nang mag-excuse ng klase, which we think is not really supportive para sa amin… Hindi lang naman tayo sa loob ng klase natututo,” she said.
For Lorzano, this is not a problem as AB-RCYC does not want to excuse students who are not really interested to attend a certain event.
Another pressing concern is the shift to cash advancement.
Under this new system, societies and organizations are required to forward their budget proposal to the Dean’s Office a month before an event. They will then receive the fund they requested for in advance.
Society and organization presidents emphasized their concerns regarding inevitable circumstances which prompt them to spend more than what was initially allotted in their budget proposal.
In order to avoid excess spending in every event, Camua said they have to be strict with their budget. Still, there are instances where they go beyond the proposed limit.
“If sumobra ‘yung nagastos namin, I think sa amin na talaga nag-fa-fall, na kukuha kami sa other fund namin kasi very strict kasi sa budget proposal“ she said.
For instance, for AB-RCYC, there were times when they would allot a budget in their proposal for only 100 participants, but then more than the expected number of participants would attend the event. In such cases, they would get cash from their funds in order to meet the needs of all the attendees.
Viernes pointed out that there was no actual change in the system of requesting cash since they still get the funds after an event like in the previous years.
“Hindi ko ‘gets’ bakit kailangang ibahin e gano’n din naman, nakukuha din namin ‘yung pera after ng event. So para rin kaming na-reimburse, mas pinahirapan lang nila ‘yung process,” she said.
Effect of K-12
Aside from these new rules, societies and organizations are also facing internal difficulties.
Members serve as the heart and soul of every society and organization; but the shift to K-12 has led to lesser manpower to help student leaders in implementing activities and projects.
Viernes said manpower is needed for every activity because there must be people who will devote their time and effort and work for the betterment of the society.
The impact of the implementation of the K to 12 program was felt by all the societies and organizations, especially during the transition period. It was one of the hardest challenges they needed to face since most of their officers are seniors.
As part of the preparation for the transition period, the different societies and organizations have been training undergraduate members to work on the specific duties of an officer.
In ABDP, Elardo said they have been preparing their members to build their skill in debating so that they have something to pass on to the next members after they graduate.
“The best thing we can do to train our members through transition is by debating itself because we can’t keep the [organization] alive if there’s no one to teach the basics of debating, if there’s no one to carry over our name,” Elardo said.
In LitSoc, they have developed a partner system in which a senior officer should accompany and train a younger member and work hand-in-hand in order to do the job of a specific position.
“Kailangan this year ma-train na namin sila to become fit enough to stand on their own,” Camua said.
However, Lorzano said she believes that one year is not enough to train members to lead an organization, so they need to double their effort in training new members and prospective officers in AB-RCYC.
Lack of rooms
Adding to their internal problems is the lack of rooms in the St. Raymund de Peñafort building to accommodate all the organizations and societies.
AB has no rooms exclusively for academic organizations and interest groups.
Elardo said that is why the ABDP conducts its trainings in the medicine pavilions. She pointed out that it will be easier to cultivate the critical thinking and argumentation abilities of debaters if only there was an exclusive room for them.
Lorzano also pointed out that they need to have their own organization room to store their equipment and provide better services for Artlets in cases of emergency.
Although the RCYC already has a main organization room in the Tan Yan Kee Student Center (TYK), the space is too small to cater to all the college-based units of Red Cross.
“What if may emergency? Pupunta pa ba kami ng TYK para kumuha ng first aid kit, spine board, [and] wheelchair?” Lozano said.
For Artistang Artlets President Jonas Garcia, the lack of rooms has not been a problem as the administration helps them in reserving rooms. Faculty Secretary Ma. Zenia Rodriguez already signed the list of vacant rooms which they can use to have their rehearsals.
As of now, the administration still has no plan to build rooms exclusively for organizations and societies.
“Maybe that is something you can think about or make a proposal [for] and then I suppose you will find a way eventually on how to go about it,” Tabirara said.
She added that academic organizations and interest groups can hold meetings in rooms where classes are not being held.
No memo, no formal complaints
Although all the newly implemented rules were stated by Dean Michael Anthony Vasco in a meeting with the ABSC and the Board of Majors (BOM) together with different organizations and societies, there is no written document for these rules.
“Kailangan siguro talaga ma-inform lahat ng estudyante na merong dokumento na nagsasabing ganito, na ganyan, para hindi sana more on sa boses lang ‘yung policies,” BOM Speaker John Steven Usero said.
Usero disclosed that the lack of a memorandum caused confusion among the student leaders.
“May mga kapwa din akong leader sa ibang mga organization na tinatanong ko na alam niyo ba na ganito na ‘yung policy, sinasabi nila na hindi. So nagkakaroon ng parang kalituhan doon, kasi ang tingin ng mga tao hindi siya official,” he shared.
However, amid all problems and issues of these organizations and societies, Tabirara said that the administration has not received any formal complaints from students yet.
“They do not write the dean or neither are we really formally informed about the complaints. Maybe they have some issues but never really bring up formally so that they can be addressed properly. So maybe they just grumble among themselves or talk about it,” Tabirara said. F