Reclaiming the rights of student organizations in UP

At the height of the Marcos dictatorship, the Iskolars ng Bayan were able to force, through collective yet militant struggle, the re-establishment of student councils, publications, and organizations in UP. Among the rights won in the aftermath of the students’ successful campaign included the beneficial use and possession of fully-functional tambayans and offices, the free use of university facilities and equipment, and the relaxation of the procedural restraints in org recognition. The university, then, encouraged all types of student organizations to re-eastablish their presence and engaging all the others to form their organizations based on their own interests and advocacies. This is in the presumption that student activities play a vital role in the learning process and training of UP students as future leaders of our nation.

However, the centennial year of UP is marked by the dismal state of student formations, despite the token pronouncements by the UP Administration of its the importance. In UPLB, there had been no student council elections due to the forcible insistence of UPLB Chancellor Velasco to impose a UPLB USC constitution which betrays the principle of autonomy of student institutions. Publications also experienced administrative interventions in the past, from handling of funds to the appointment of its editor-in-chief. Equally disadvantaged are student organizations in the university.

In UP Diliman, only about sixty tambayans are currently occupied by university-based organizations, leaving a larger number of organization without tambayans. Those fortunate enough to acquire tambayans do not have lighting, have leaking roofs, poor ventilation, and continue to face threats of eviction. Aside from these, they also face the issue of exorbitant rental fees in the use of university facilities and equipment that hampers their different activities. Another is the issue of rigorous and taxing recognition process of student organizations due to requirement of member quota per department of college, stringent application process, and the unreasonable banning on the basis of their political nature.

We assert that tambayans are integral in the operations of student organizations, in the same manner that student councils and publications need their offices for their various activities. It is therefore imperative for the UP administration provide all student organizations fully-functional tambayans. We believe that university policy on the extra-curricular student use of facilities and equipment is misplaced, as it unnecessarily precludes student organizations from fulfilling their organizational goals and objectives. We assert that while student organizations essentially engage in extra-curricular activities, these activities are fully subsumed in the holistic learning process that the university seeks to impart on its students, especially its student leaders. While we concede that these definitely constitute a cost to the university, this must be viewed as beneficial costs in pursuit of the holistic academic development of its students. We therefore demand that the University administration remove rental rates for the use of all its facilities and equipment not only to student councils and publications, but to student organizations as well.

Recent happenings show that the organization recognition process by the University administration in its different UP units are being used to curtail the students constitutional right to self-organization by fully controlling the process itself and even determining unilaterally which organizations deserve recognition by the university. We assert for the right to self-organization, where anyone cannot dictate the classes of student organizations that may be recognized by the University, in the presumption that organizations all engage in lawful and noble activities with lofty goals and objectives for the university and the country as well.

As with the systemwide campaign for the rollback of tuition, the fight to reclaim the rights of student organization shall also have a systemwide character, as the problems confronted by the organizations are practically the same in all UP units. It is clear that amongst the most tacit yet insidious effects of these student orgs policies would be the pacification of critical and collective dissent of students in the University, not only on UP issues such as the tuition and laboratory fee increases, but also in national affairs such as the present economic crisis felt by Filipinos today. By precluding student organizations from using facilities that shall strengthen their existence and from being recognized, their existence as trailblazers of change and reforms are ultimately stunted by an interventionist administration.

In the ultimate analysis, the only way for students to decisively win this struggle is by uniting with each other in principle and in action. We refer back to the story of UP students in the late 70s and early 80s, when the darkest days of the dictatorship, they stood up and struggled united in re-establishing the student councils, publications, and organizations and afforded all these institutions indispensible rights and privileges that are now being systematically reversed by the UP administration. It is time to stand up today. In the UP’s centennial year, there is no better time to act that today.

Students Rights & Welfare Committee
University Student Council

UMAKSYON Ugnayan ng Mag-aaral Laban sa Komersyalisasyon

The demands herein declared were supported through a manifesto signed by the heads and representatives of 111 student organizations, fraternities and sororities, and was given to the Board of Regents (BOR) on their July 31, 2008 meeting in UP Manila. UP President Emerlinda Roman, in immediate response to the demands, remanded the petition’s fate to the Chancellors’ jurisdiction and discretion.

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