Editorial Note: The open letter is a joint statement from incumbent AITSC Chairperson JC Danganan, START-AIT, and KAISA.
Let us give credit where credit is due.
It is that time of the year where the political climate in the university gets warmed up by various talks, opinions and differing views particularly related to student council leadership. The practice of the liberty to speak and express one’s views and opinions is rooted in democracy. The discourse that has been brought out necessitates START to join in the matter.
Myth No. 1: START and its supposed “monopoly”:
Now that Student Action for Responsive Leadership in Tourism (START-AIT) is on its third consecutive year to run without competitors, the word ‘monopoly’ became the word to describe such scenario. This word, as talked about, is an affront to the greater causes we have been forwarding since 2006. A retrospect would help illustrate this point.
AIT used to be an arena for various political parties contending for the student council position. It was in 2006 when START-AIT was formed bearing the cause of a new form of leadership in the context of an incumbent student council which was hounded by grave issues on its inefficiency, ineffectiveness and lack of transparency.
It took a student named Carl Francis Castro to form a new political party to heed the call for inclusive leadership. Hence, the birth of START and its affiliation with KAISA on January 31, 2006. On its first year of fielding candidates, only one out of ten positions was won by START. Other parties edged START. The year after, START began capturing the majority of seats.
From that time in 2006, START has consistently fielded candidates for the student council positions – with the last two years (2010 and 2011) unopposed. 2006 and 2007 saw four political parties contending in a college comprising of 300-400 students. A thru-the-years look of student organized political parties in AIT can be observed in this table:
START and KAISA have always been grounded on the principle of inclusive activism. This is the primordial reason why START, in its 6-year of existence, has been able to capture the vote of AIT students. START cannot be faulted for trumping the competition. We were the one choice of AIT students. We were the one voice for AIT students. It is not our burden to ask for competition. Rather, it is our duty to make AIT students embrace what we started in 2006. To uphold START principles is to continue the tradition of the brand of leadership that is accountable, transparent, and effective.
Further, START and KAISA have never been complacent during the campaign period, and even during the council’s term. To cite a glaring example, Shaina Santiago’s win as AIT Rep only had 17 abstentions while Jc Danganan only had 19 abstentions. We have proved, over and over again, that even without opponents, the result shows more votes as support than an abstention. An abstain vote is after all a no choice vote.
Myth No. 2: A ‘clique’ SC
START in AIT-SC is accused of being a clique. This observation is more apparent than real. It is not a clique SC; it is an SC recognizing the mandate of all students who expects us to work together. Perhaps those who critic this “cliqueish council” should compare ineffective leaders who waste time politicking and quarrelling over issues.
Our appearance of closeness does NOT mean we exclude others. Our training and principles push us to extend our hand, to move beyond ourselves, to include and be participatory. Ever since, the council office has always been open to everyone. SC members have always been approachable. Conscious and active enough to include others, START consults.
While we have our General Program of Action (GPOA), we have provided feedback mechanisms to better our projects, activities, and services. It is a fallacy to say that the council’s projects are only intended for a certain group. The truth is these are intended for everyone. Ultimately, the strength of the student council is manifested in the support of the students, which fortunately, majority of AIT students have been able to manifest.
During the elections, year in and year out, START has always strived to include representatives of ALL AIT organizations and even those that are not affiliated in the slate. The process of choosing the next slate already begins in START’s representation of ALL interests, regardless of affiliation. This is reflected every year in our GPOA.
Myth No. 3: Land of Broken Promises?
To say that we failed to deliver what has been promised is greatly appalling. It is an insult to the students who voted for us based on our General Program of Action (GPOA). Our premise has always been that AIT students vote based on platform, based on principles.
Our campaign line in 2011 was to ‘GO LARGE,’ an innovative package of improved student services aiming for a more participative AIT. And this campaign line, encapsulated in our GPOA, was captured by the students in an overwhelming resounding vote. This didn’t end here as the turnout of participation in SC activities is a testament of the active participation of AIT students.
We enjoin everyone to look into our working accomplishment report framed by the GPOA we presented at the onset of our tenure as your student council. After gaining the mandate from a 65% voter turnout, we were set and stalwart to fulfill these promises. Promises believed in by our public. Promises we did not break.
If we were complacent student leaders who campaigned with empty rhetoric and with mere promises, we would not have strived to mount these activities.
We would not have attempted to increase student participation through these avenues.
We would not have aimed to make students more critical and aware of the many issues confronting our institute and our university.
We would not have made it a point to strike and maintain good relationships with the organization heads.
We would not have fostered constant communication with the administration. We would not have released financial statements for accountability.
We would not have marched when it necessitated us in the spirit of representation.
We would not have been victors in the annual lantern parade of the university.
We would not have continued to fulfill our mandate despite the dilemma of dwindling student participation even on the most relevant activity we staged; and we would not have sustained our term guided by principles.
The fact remains: we promised, we accomplished, we delivered.
Our Call – Myth No. 4 Debunked
We appreciate the criticisms that have been thrown against us. START-KAISA looks at it as a challenge. It goes to show one myth debunked: the myth of an apathetic AIT. It is now our turn to challenge all AIT students.
While an esteemed professor have raised her fair share of criticisms, we wonder why no student has come forward to voice such oppositions. If they are afraid, we will improve our feedback mechanisms. If they are intimidated, we will recalibrate our appearance. But rest assured that our idea of an AIT-SC, START in AIT-SC, remains the same: we are always biased to perform in favor of the students here in AIT and in favor of the marginalized and defenseless in Philippine society as a whole. We need critiques to improve our services for the better.
No matter how meaningful, how emphatic, or how inclusive the projects, activities and services of the SC, they would never be successful without the support of the greater majority. The members of the student council can only do enough. For without the help of the students, AIT-SC will fail.
We criticize because we know there’s something wrong. But we can only criticize if in the first place, we did our part. For former US President Theodore Roosevelt once said:
“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”
For the love of student service, we will always be.
Juan Carlo Danganan, AIT-SC Chairperson 2011–2012
Christine Joy Boller, START–AIT President 2011–2012
Ramon Jericho Santos, KAISA Chairperson 2011–2012