The Ateneo Law Student Council held the first ever ALS Town Hall last May 18, 2018 in the Ateneo Professional Schools’ Amphitheatre, in an effort to bring together the school administration and the student body. Former Dean Sedfrey Candelaria and current Dean Jose Maria “Joey” Hofileña graced the event in behalf of the administration to discuss with the students the pressing issues in the law school community.
The Town Hall, a flagship project of the current student council, was held to “Encourage dialogue between [the administration] and the students… [Since] the students expressed a lack of forum with the administration to really voice out their concerns,” SC President Rob Escalante shared.
Prior to the event, an online survey was launched to gather the concerns of the students. Escalante, who also served as the moderator, relayed these grievances through a Question and Answer format participated by both Dean Candelaria and Dean Hofileña. The first half of the two-hour event tackled questions about school facilities, while the latter half focused on the academic concerns of the law students.
On the discussion of school facilities, Dean Candelaria addressed the recurring issue on the air-conditioning system of the classrooms. While the administration admitted that the solution to this problem will be a major expenditure on the budget, he guaranteed that it will finally be resolved. “Those [old] chillers will be out. There will be a new set of air-conditioning facility here very soon. Probably in one and a half years or so, but it’s a major change,” the Dean assured.
Dean Candelaria also explained the reason behind the recently added subjects in the curriculum, as students expressed their grievance on how these subjects made the academic load heavier for every semester. He said, “We had to deal with the latest development of the Legal Education Board… Within the year, they asked us to incorporate new subjects. That one, for us, was an imposed requirement.” These subjects include Environmental Law and Agrarian Reform and Social Legislation for the sophomores, and Human Rights Law and Special Issues on International Law for the juniors.
Aside from these grievances, the Town Hall touched on a wide array of topics, some of which involved the request of extended library hours, the allocation of a parking area for bicycles, the supply of tissue in the restrooms, and the possibility to have a clinic inside the campus, while inquiries on academic concerns included the schedule and duration of examination weeks, the five year plan, the fulfilment of internship and thesis requirements in the Juris Doctor program, and further assistance which could be extended to irregular students.
Despite the low turnout of students during the event, the SC remained optimistic of the outcome.
“It was initially difficult to get students to bring to the open their grievances, but with the proper questions, we were able to capture at least a portion of them. I believe that the event was a good start for the purpose for which it was created,” said Escalante. “The concerns of those not present were still raised and were also recorded for viewing.”
Dean Hofileña also believed that the event was instrumental in his transition to the job.
“Looking after students’ concerns is one very important aspect of this job,” he acknowledged. “I appreciated the fact that we held that when we did. It helped in giving me either new information or confirmation on the type of things that we need to address as faculty or as administrators.”
“Being told what the lay of the land is, what the state of affairs are, what the conditions are as you enter, is always helpful, rather than discovering it along the way… I will still discover things along the way, but it is a big advantage to start knowing what sort of issues there are that bother the students, and therefore detract them from studying,” he continued.
The newly-appointed Dean then emphasized his open-door policy to hear out the students and their grievances.
“They can expect that we will certainly listen,” he assured. “Our treatment is that this is a community. We should be free to raise concerns with each other both ways.”
“We are all adults here. There are perspectives that differ. There is a perspective from the students that differs from the perspective of the administrators,” explained the Dean. “But in order to make the community thrive, we have to be able to talk to each other as mature individuals with a common concern — which is the institution — the law school.”
SC intends to formalize the concerns raised in the Town Hall through the filing of petitions addressed to the administration “to start the process of getting at solutions or changes.”
Aside from plans to transcribe the ALS Town Hall for everyone in the community to read, the SC still considers to host events of similar nature in the future. “It was a first step towards many others,” the incoming junior admitted.
“We believe that it is important to have a relationship with the administration for them to be able to truly know what the students are going through — and not just to learn about it from the representatives in the student council, but to hear it from the students themselves,” Escalante explained.