Many of our students are having a hard time in managing their weekly budget. In fact, many of our dormitory students can’t even prepare a healthy meal three times a day. Sadder still, some can only manage to have only one a day. It’s grimacing but it still is true up till now. Yes, many of us are poor, nga’ eh. That’s why we study here because we believe this school can accommodate us even with our financial limitations, being a state university. The reality that most of us don’t have the luxury of money is something that we must struggle with, especially with the demands of many organizations and entities in this university.

What organizations? There are many of them. Topping them all is our Supreme Student Council, who nonetheless governs over us. Then there are the course-related organizations. Plus, there are these interest groups, religious organizations and Greek-lettered organizations. However, the student council and course-related organizations are more notorious in demanding from students because they are more rooted to them academically.

What demands? Money, most of all! Any financial contribution of sorts can be: donations, individual contributions, and fines (ouch!). Most orgs have a good time during sem-ends getting hold of our wallets. In this case, we can’t seem to have any other choice but to pay. There it is: big fat bully is grabbing thin Juan dela Cruz by the pocket. There is just something wrong why they can do it to us and most of us don’t even care.

Fines, I suppose, are the shrewdest way they can collect our dear money. It’s not as candid as asking us a contribution in cold cash, but it’s even more effective than that. It’s subtle. They force you to attend some uninteresting show and if you don’t, then better have your money down.

I can relate the USSC of this. Recently, they sponsored this Battle of the Brains last February 11, 2008, showcasing the wits of ‘brainy’ students from different colleges in contest. It turned out to be boring because of “best mediocrity measures.” It was poorly done and it’s ironic, to think that the people who organized this are the ones we expect to do good. To wit, it’s the ‘best going mediocre’ and it was ‘mediocrity at its best’. Although there were brainy people contending anyway, and there were winners, of course, but the endpoint was it was a boring show. In one way it seemed better to pay any fine than to suffer the bore.

Can there not be fines at all? If you left before the end of the show, you sure missed the checking of attendance, which was taken at the end of it. Well, this is the point of your going to the show anyway. How can they impose that the show be compulsory to all students? Moreover, announcements were just posted the day before the show. This meant the information was less disseminated, and therefore, more fines. Although the student council through one of its officials alleged to have not imposed fines for that particular show, there is no other way to connect the dots of that show being compulsory and having an attendance check than them imposing fines also. Well, maybe not all, but the students under CAS were really made to attend it—thanks to their college prexy. However, imposing fines and compelling students to come are different things. But this has not happened only once.

Consider the show-turned-mess VSU Singing Idol. Compulsory it was—everyone spent 25 pesos! You see, they distributed to each one of us a small yellow ticket worth 25 pesos and forced us to pay whether you like or you like it, and whether you watch it or you watch it.

What can you do with 25 pesos? For a student like me, that would be enough for me to have a decent meal or a heavy snack in-between my meals. That, too, could complete the three-meal course for those who are two-mealers. You could do much with that amount other than wasting that for a yellow slip of paper which entitled you to suck the enjoyment out of one particular night of your life.

What right do they have to impose them to us anyway? It should be minded that a particular organization cannot impose anything such as a fine, a must-see show or a must-pay ticket unless a consensus is reached among its members. That is, no policy, rule, or demand can be implemented without the student being informed and consulted. This is a basic right of students stipulated in the Magna Carta for Filipino Students, a bill still pending in Congress (thanks to our ingenious legislators). Even if it has not been approved yet, this must be observed at all times. However, I can’t find this kind of instance for these two shows as far as I remember and as far as I am concerned. In the University of the Philippines, they practice such rights of students that you don’t compel them to do anything at all. Impose even a ten-peso fine without their permission, and prepare yourself for the biggest scandal of your life. Take note, however, that the UP produces really cool and worthwhile shows. If imposing something is what we’re talking about, then they would have more right to do so than these here in the VSU.

In Visca, the student council is not the only one who does this what we call a malpractice. Take into account the College of Education’s singing contest ‘The Voice’ where the Ed’s had to pay ten pesos. Think also about the HRTM students contributing at least a hundred pesos for their HRTM week for compulsory ‘tickets’ to three shows and some other contributions. Even DeCSo is not exempt from this. In Jjamppong, a variety show the DevCom produced, all DevCom students were given at least 5 tickets, which were fifty pesos worth all in all, good as sold. It was quite a struggle for DevCom students to sell it to others so they can’t pay those five ten-peso tickets out of their own pockets. See, now everyone’s a culprit.

We must not take this for granted because we know it’s wrong. You know, compelling you to do something without your permission. That is, matters especially on money should be decided upon reaching a consensus. This means it should be agreed by all before it is implemented. However, there are many instances where organizations impose fines without the consent of most members. But we must take note that fines are not the problem—it’s how they are imposed.

Why do they do all these anyway? Like making up shows and imposing fines for non-attendance? Fund raising daw. Here’s the catch: Does the USSC organize ‘VSU Singing Idol’, collect from us 25 pesos each, raise at least a hundred thousand pesos and call it fund raising? O, c’mon.

Fund raising is not sweating out our pockets. Its definition goes far beyond compelling us to do this or pay that. Realize that fund raising is sweating out what we can do to gain something for the organization’s pocket—not sweating out our pockets! Any organization can raise funds aside from making clumsy productions or holding unexciting contests. How about a big organization here in VSU asking old clothes or other articles that students don’t use anymore (no matter how many, just out of free will) and holding a huge rummage sale or something out there selling all that they have collected? This is what real fund raising is!

See? Then why do we let all these dry programs and money-demands flood us and leave them to come to pass?

It is because many of our students don’t even realize the seriousness of what is happening. They don’t care about how mediocre the program was, or they won’t even mind about why they need to pay such fine. Yes, ten pesos is not a big deal in some instances, especially when you’re going gaga na over finishing your clearance, but it’s not about the amount that matters here, it’s standing for what is right and shunning what is wrong. Sometimes, we bend our convictions when we’re in pressure. We sometimes just bow to that treasurer saying, “Bayad ka ug bente pesos,” and just sigh an “Amen” to it.

Let’s fight student apathy. These matters are not matters to be taken for granted but to be stood up against. Don’t you care? You should. While some just don’t care, others know about it but just don’t bother to voice it out. You know, these are crucial points where our liberty can win over subtle invasions over our student rights. When you’re being compelled to do something or pay a fine without the consent of the majority, like in your course-related organization, voice it out. Never try to let the wrong happen.

Which brings us to the matter about course-related organizations…It has become a common misunderstanding that when you’re enrolled in a particular course, you’re automatically part of its course-related organization. No—you join that organization by your own choice, your own free will. That’s why you need to sign a waiver submitting yourself to the ideals and goals of the organization. Then, the org can impose to you what it wants, but of course with limitations in favor of your rights as a student. However, you are also given the option not to join that particular course-related organization. This is a liberty that each of us must be aware about.

It all boils down to how involved we are with the organizations we are in. Better than ranting over boring programs, we should be more willing to help officers in order to produce good shows. Rather than allowing ourselves to be caught unaware with monetary penalties, we should make an effort to attend meetings or planning sessions. Most of the time, shows flunk and fines brim because we practically relinquish all the work to the leaders of the organization. While there are choices that are either too trivial or too important to call for the consensus of most members, decisions that would entail monetary responsibilities to members should not be left to the officers alone.

This is not just about our money. It’s for our own safety and protection against ‘grim money reapers’ who put our money down the drain. That, too, would help boost the morale of the organization if they avoid fabricating shows and imposing fines out of the blue.

Should our organizations become poor because of lack of income? Well, they would be poor if they lack the ingenuity to do some real cool shows or projects that generate income appropriately. Here, creativity would be put to the test. Of course, the orgs need finances to run smoothly, but this is where leadership skills and involvement of the members will stand out.

Here’s a novel nonsensical question: “We’re talking here about money, money, money…Do we really need money?” What a question—of course we do! Although money is not the endpoint and essence of it all, we still need money anyway. (Naunsa ba.) So next time they compel you to attend a dull show or impose you fines, do what it costs so it won’t cost you. Here, we talk about money, money, money…and we need it!

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