Monday, 25 June 2007

On Why Voice-Manila Cannot Be A Student-funded Publication

Second part

Another reason as to why the Voice would have a hard time becoming a student-funded publication is the school administration. Ever since I could remember, the school is not receptive to the idea of having a student-funded publication for fear that it might eventually be critical of the school’s policies. Even the past issues included in the archives of the publication showed little sign of being critical to the school administration, much less to national issues.

It seems that the school administration is afraid of activism and critical thinking taking seed in the student population and as the publication has a large reader base within the campus, it has been a target of constant oppression and censorship.

To monitor the publication, the school administration delegates faculties from the Humanities and Social Sciences Department as advisers to edit articles and supervise the Voice staff. Those delegated are often on the side of the school administration. Thus, certain articles in the newspaper are subjected to censorship or worse, excluded from being published whenever the advisers think that it is critical of the school.

Furthermore, the advisers (an English adviser and a Filipino adviser) have a knack for overruling the decisions of the senior staff. There were times that the senior staff was able to hold their ground and stand for the decision, but most of the time they had to succumb to the whims of the advisers.

Such actions go beyond the duty of an adviser as providing only “technical guidance” as stated in the Campus Journalism Act of 1991 (which by the way is flawed).

When a student becomes a trainee of the publication, he undergoes a series of interviews with the advisers, the head of the Student Personnel Services, the head of Security and the Administrative Officer (the senior staff interviews the student prior to being accepted in the publication). During interviews with school officials, a trainee is often asked regarding his affiliations and inclinations. Such questions are meant to determine if the trainee is affiliated with leftist organizations, is a Leftist, or a sympathizer of the Left.

An upcoming issue’s galley also goes through the office of the Vice-President for Administration and Student Services (VPASS) for editing prior to being delivered to the printing press. Thus an issue’s content gets screened twice: first is through the advisers, and then the VPASS.

In a meeting with the VPASS a couple of months ago (I think it was in January or February), she told us to focus our articles on student achievers, moral values and alumni who have contributed something great as opposed to articles regarding national events and those critical of the national government. That was the time when the publication released an article regarding the Registrar’s Office, which was misinterpreted as defamatory by the said office.

Despite all this, there are still employees who are helpful and sympathetic to the publication. Still, as long as there are members of the top brass who do not want the publication to make a great leap forward, then the chances of the Voice becoming a student-funded newspaper is slim. Very slim.

Friday, 15 June 2007

On Why Voice-Manila Cannot Be A Student-funded Publication

First part

Before the main topic, an introduction is in order.

For starters, the Voice-Manila (hereafter referred to as Voice) is the official school and student publication of the Technological Institute of the Philippines-Manila (TIP-M). Its office is located at the second floor of Building 3 of the Casal campus. Currently, the publication staff numbers to about twenty. The publication’s senior staff is comprised of the editorial board (Editor-in-Chief, Associate Editor, Managing Editor) and the editorial staff (News Editor, Features and Literary Editor, Filipino Editor, Photography Editor and Circulations Manager, Chief Layout Artist). The position of Chief Layout Artist is vacant, as there is no eligible staff for promotion as I was writing this article. There are also two advisers, the English Adviser and Filipino Adviser.

The publication provides scholarships for its staff. There are two scholarships given: first is a 100% discount on tuition fees and the second is no fees except for Development Fee, Computer Fee, Industry Software Fee and ID. A staff only has to pass all of his enrolled subjects in order to avail of the scholarship, aside from performing well in the publication. The editorial board and editorial staff also receive monthly allowance.

The publication releases four regular issues, two in each semester, and a special issue which is commonly a literary folio. The Voice-Manila also holds a competitive examination annually in order to recruit new members.

Now for the main topic. This article will tackle why it seems impossible for the Voice to obtain its independence from the administration of TIP-M. This is a result of my three years of stay inside the publication, throughout which I was able to talk with various persons about the status of the publication, observe the students’ concern – or lack thereof – for the Voice, experience the censorship that the paper undergoes and the publication staff’s lack of fervor in pursuing autonomy, among others.

As a reminder, what follows is my opinion about the topic. I do not speak on behalf of the Voice. Also, I am no longer a member of the publication, as I have already graduated last March.

Now that the formalities have been settled, let’s get on with the topic, shall we?

According to past issues of the Voice, the publication was suspended in 1972 due to Martial Law. It was revived in October 1981 after a student referendum. Back then, the Voice was considered the publication of the student body. Come 1991, it suddenly became known as the school and student publication of TIP and continues to be so.

One of the reasons as to why the publication remains far from being independent is the students. They are resigned to the notion that the Voice is “pro-administration” and as such do not expect any hard-hitting or critical articles from it. This has also contributed to their indifference to the publication. They get the latest issue of the Voice, read and discuss a few articles in it, and wait for the next release. The students are content with being reactive for only a few weeks to the issues tackled by the publication.

I call those students “The Beautiful Ones,” mindful of nothing but their grades, happy inside their respective Ivory Tower. It is a shame that apathy has taken deep root within the students.

There are numerous times I had to explain to classmates and friends why the Voice cannot print articles critical of the school administration. As students, I believe it is their right to know the issues affecting them and the school. Sadly, the Voice can only play the part to a certain degree. To paraphrase a colleague and friend, “Malabong maging malaya ang dyaryo (Voice) dahil ayaw ng mga estudyante. Kailangang manggaling sa kanila ang pagkilos.”

Another reason is the Supreme Student Government (SSG). As the student council, it is their duty to represent the students in talks with the administration and serve as advocate of student rights. However, the council is plagued with indifferent student who mostly border on traditional student politics. Instead of being a true student council, the SSG often chooses to succumb to the school administration, fearful of retaliation if they do something that can be labeled as “activism.”

In the recent consultation regarding tuition and other fee increases (ToFI), the council was not able to play its part, questioning only the various fees collected by the school. They did not even ask the administration for any guarantees that the fees be used accordingly (concerning the 70-20-10 incremental fees set by CHED Memorandum Order No. 14, prior to its suspension). They also “agreed” to the increase in tuition and miscellaneous fees, although I was told that they did not sign any certificate of agreement. I have yet to confirm the report.

The SSG has the power to hold a student referendum. As such, they are vital to attaining the publication’s independence. However, as long as the officers elected into the council are cowardly student “leaders” (read: blind-eyed pro-administration dogs) with no concept of progress and change, the arena of student politics in TIP will remain as gibberish as it is.