Finally, a fulfilled Constitutionalist

Earlier today Silliman University’s Graduate Students’ Organization approved a revised version of its constitution. From a typically structured organization, with officers elected at large, the GSO made its leadership indirectly elected. There was even a change of titles for the top officers: ‘President,’ ‘Vice President,’ and ‘Secretary’ were changed to ‘Convenor,’ ‘Deputy Convenor,’ and ‘Chancellor.’

Okay, I’m bragging. I drafted most of the revisions to the constitution.

The terminology in the revisions, with heavy influence from archaic British legal parlance, clearly reflects my idiosyncrasies leaking. And I clearly lobbied for the use of ‘Convenor’ and ‘Chancellor’: ‘Convenor’ to hark back to the time a convention had to be called to draft the constitution and act in the leadership vacuum caused by the original structure’s inadequacy; and ‘Chancellor’ to go back to the medieval ‘chancery,’ and also to equate the office holder not with some office coffee maker, which would be undignified, or with a minister, which would be inaccurate, but with a role best exemplified by the Chancellor of Switzerland, although the Chancellor of the GSO is an officer and has voting power.

But I cannot, and dare not, take full credit: Ry Sedrick Bolodo, the appointed Constitutional Convenor, was the key person behind the effort to revise the constitution (he’s been the key person behind the GSO in the leadership vacuum, really) and this is really his success; and Convention Chancellor Kristel Punu has been invaluable with the documentation and printing. Treasurer Alma Bana-bana has also been working hard, even aggravating a medical condition from overwork (she is now recovering from an operation). And of course the representatives from the different Silliman departments with graduate programs – IEMS Rep Jean Utzurrum and Math Rep Rhea Muarip most distinguishably – had been very proactive in breathing in new air to the GSO.

I feel ecstatic. Being a wannabe constitutionalist (I’m the only parliament nerd I know), I feel like a childhood dream has been fulfilled: this is the first time a constitution I helped draft (we literally had to write a huge bulk of the new version) has been ratified (I was also part of the Constitutional Commission for the student body back in my Ateneo de Davao days, but the Student Government at the time botched up the ratification time table so to this day, three commissions later, they still have no ratified constitution).

What makes it even more delightful is that the new structure for the graduate students’ council is practically the Westminster model, an indirectly elected government: the GSO’s Council is practically a parliament. I have long been an advocate of the Westminster model.

The next step is to begin negotiating the acceptance of graduate students to Silliman student organizations, like the school paper, the yearbook, and others. I’ve been tasked with leading these negotiations.

But somehow, I’m still quite ambivalent about being involved in Silliman. This old school is infested with elitists who monopolize student involvement opportunities, who reduce organizations to cliques that make them difficult to enter if you’re not friends with the people already in them, and who languish in mediocrity because they’re self-ascribed elite status makes them feel above the need for improvement already (sadly, Silliman excellence has become calling anything Sillimanian excellent). The elitists here are so comfortable with their position that any change, while not directly challenging their hegemony, will be viewed with automatic hostility. If needed change were to be brought into the system here, powerful interests will be challenged, and enemies will consequently be made.

And I’m tired of making enemies. I am too old for polemics now. The pleasure of bursting over-deflated egos, shaking up false senses of security, feeling the heat of productive tension, all of that is no longer as pleasurable for me now. I am no longer young, naive, and opinionated.

That Silliman needs to improve in so much would have excited me in younger days. It would have made me more involved with the university, and it would have consequently made me love it more. But I am older now, and disillusionment has solidified to apathy (hopefully fermenting to healthy Buddhist detachment).

Maybe I’ve done enough with that approved revised constitution already – far more than the cliquish elitists who come and go like the elect rats in the narrow gutter, I might have more chance of being remembered with my small tangible contribution. The further negotiations are just attempts at added accomplishments, no loss if negotiations fail.

But cynicism-turned-wise-pessimism aside, I need to celebrate. Tomorrow I’m eating hash browns and cake!


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