By ANNE EDNALYN V. DE LA CRUZ
With the hardships and difficulties that The Catalyst, the official student publication of Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) has gone through – such as the resignation of its Editor-in-Chief (EIC), the three years of manually collecting the publication fee from each student in stead of being remitted by the administration, and the endless dialogues with the school administration – its members could have easily given up and turned its back on the publication, but they did not; they took up the challenge and proved their worth in the field of campus journalism.
Manual Publication Fee Collection
It has been three academic years since the PUP administration removed the P20 publication fee from the fees it collects during enrollment. Since then, The Catalyst took the responsibility of manually collecting the publication fee from the students every enrollment.
Manual collection, according to The Catalyst acting Editor-in-Chief Ma. Fatima Villanueva, is very difficult. It consumes their time when they could have spent it researching on campus issues and writing articles for the paper. Also, the removal of the publication fee from the fees being collected by the administration during enrollment has decreased their publication fund because some students fail to pay.
The problem of reduced publication fund is very evident. The number of pages was reduced from an average of 8-12 pages to a four-page newspaper. The publication staff also has to look for other money-generating activities and campaigns like the “Defend Our Catalyst” campaign where they sell shirts, and ask for donations from students both in and outside of the PUP campus.
Issues and Controversies
The administration has been citing the non-submission of liquidation reports and financial statements by the previous editorial board and staff in justifying its refusal to include the publication fee from the fees it collects during enrollment.
However, the current editorial board and staff of The Catalyst insist that they have nothing to do with the problems created by previous boards and staff, especially since all current staff were not yet part of the The Catalyst then. Also, Villanueva explained that they (board members) have expressed their willingness to sign a memorandum of agreement (MOA) to formalize their commitment to submit all financial reports on time.
“We have shown our commitment and capacity to submit financial reports before. In fact, ever since Joyce Llanto our former EIC resigned, we have dutifully submitted the financial reports for the two funds we got from the administration,” Villanueva said in Filipino.
Villanueva shared that they had a crisis when Joyce Llanto suddenly became scarce in January. She returned only in March to file her resignation, citing “personal and academic reasons,” said Villanueva. “From January to February, we had to rely on donations from PUP students, as well as those from other schools,” Villanueva said.
Since they did not have the money to fund the printing of issues, they used those months to focus on the “Defend Our Catalyst” campaign and tried alternative forms such as wall news.
It was only in March, after Llanto’s formal resignation, that The Catalyst was able to withdraw money from the publication fund.
Keeping Their Spirits High
Amid the challenges that they are facing, the editors and staff of The Catalyst remain motivated and dedicated to their work. “Other publications, when faced with financial difficulties, would just fold up. But with The Catalyst, it is different: the editors and staff even strived to improve their writing and illustrations more,” Villanueva said.
She added that what kept them intact is their commitment to serve the students and the whole Philippine society through their publication. The financial and moral support of the students of PUP also helped them a lot.
“We are witness to the warm support of the scholars of the people in PUP, as well as the unity of college publications to defend campus press freedom,” Villanueva said.
Three Sweet Victories
What the editors and staff of The Catalyst have accomplished, despite the financial difficulties they are going through, exemplifies the essence of press freedom: it does not rely solely on money and machineries.
In recognition of their accomplishments, the College Editors Guild of the Philippines, (CEGP) conferred three major awards to The Catalyst during the former’s 70th National Student Press Convention in Negros Occidental. The Catalyst bagged 1st place in Alternative Form (wall news) and Literary Folio categories, and 3rd place in the Tabloid category.
For the Catalyst, of the three awards they have received, the Best Literary Folio recognition has been the most appreciated. “We have not produced a literary folio for a long time already. That was why the writers and students were very excited when it came out,“ Villanueva shared.