Additional requirements for the selection of the student representative to the Board of Regents – as stipulated in the new UP Charter- have endangered the representation of students in the highest policy-making body of the country’s premier state university.
BY RONALYN V. OLEA
Since 1987, a lone student representative sits as an official member of the University of the Philippines’ (UP) Board of Regents (BOR). From that year until 1997, the Katipunan ng mga Sangguniang Mag-aaral sa UP (Kasama sa UP or Association of Student Councils in UP), a system-wide alliance of UP student councils, selects the Student Regent from among themselves. In 1997, the General Assembly of Student Councils (GASC) formulated and approved the Codified Rules for the Student Regent Selection (CRSRS). For more than a decade, the CRSRS was used as a guideline in the selection of the SR.
In April 2008, the Republic Act 9500 or the UP Charter was enacted. Section 12 letter g of the Charter states: “One Student Regent, to serve for a term of one (1) year, chosen by the students from their ranks in accordance with rules and qualifications approved in a referendum by the students.”
The referendum for the approval of the CRSRS has been set from January 26 to 31 of this year.
In an interview with the Philippine Collegian, Theodore Te, UP Vice President for Legal Affairs said that for the referendum to take effect, a voter turnout of 50 percent plus one of all bonafide UP students must be reached.
In an interview with Bulatlat, Student Regent Shahana Abdulwahid said Te did not cite any basis for his proposed 50 percent plus one formula. She said that voter turnout for UP student council elections ranges only from 30 to 40 percent. Thus, she said, reaching the required percentage of voter turnout for a referendum to take effect – even before a Student Regent could be selected – would be very difficult.
Besides, she said, the referendum is a ‘logistical nightmare.’
She said that not all of the 55,00 students in the entire UP system know the existence of the SR. “How would you encourage them to vote in the referendum? They must first understand the relevance of having a student representative in the BOR.”
Abdulwahid said that a failure of the referendum is tantamount to losing the lone student representative to the BOR. “There would be no rules to start with,” she said.
Abdulwahid’s term should have ended in December last year. She has been compelled to hold over until a new SR has been selected.
She said further, “In a way, [the referendum] challenges the present rules [governing the selection of SR).”
Abdulwahid said the referendum places the Office of the Student Regent (OSR) in a disadvantageous position.