Published on November 28th, 2011 | by Luke Scicluna1
“We do not treat our students as numbers” – SDM interviewed on Junior College
With the KSJC (Junior College Student Council) election campaign hotting up, Luke Scicluna sat down with the men behind the curtain, Pulse President Glenn Micallef and SDM President James Cassar, and spoke with them about KSJC, recent events, their organisations, and the role they feel they have to play in the Junior College.
The resulting interviews will be published in four parts, two focusing on SDM, and two focused on Pulse. In today’s interview, SDM’s James Cassar talks to us about his organisation’s guiding principles, and his take on the current Student Council.
LS: What are SDM’s principles?
JC: SDM is a Christian Democrat organisation, which is basically democracy keeping in mind Christian principles. It is based on five pillars, but I don’t like to get into that because it is quite complicated. I try to instil more generic skills: leadership and teamwork.
LS: Would you say that they are adhered to by supporters of SDM?
JC: I think that being an organization that caters for such youth of tender age, more than the principles of the organization, it is more about learning to become leaders, how to work in a team, how to work for other students, and be their voice. Even on a national scale, all political parties have their ideologies but they are converging into a middle ideology. So I don’t go into the ancient principles of SDM, we are now living in 2011, and while we respect these principles, we are now applying them to the age as is.
LS: What do you offer JC that you feel others don’t?
JC: This is a matter of opinion but I feel that SDM gives its members a feeling that they are part of something. I would not want to criticize any other organization but we do not treat our students as numbers.
LS: Has the AGM been a success for SDM in past years?
JC: Yes, it is not only about numbers, numbers are only important when the votes are counted at the end of the election. The turn out at the AGM on Wednesday, for me, has no real meaning in terms of numbers, but has a lot of meaning in the terms of expression. And I felt that the students’ way of expressing themselves was more heartfelt from the SDM side. I felt that students from SDM were commenting and asking questions because they genuinely wanted to ask – what they said, they genuinely felt. Furthermore I feel that SDM really gives a chance for students to speak. We are not a militant organization, and we are a fairly democratic, even with the kids. I learn from my students as much as they learn from me, maybe even more.
LS: Do you feel that you are backed by the student population?
JC: Let’s not get into the political issues here. Let’s not say a percentage of a number of votes. I don’t like to classify myself as being backed or not backed by the number of votes. The general feeling is that SDM has gained ground in the past days, especially after the AGM which Pulse showed its true colors with the way it behaved- it was quite arrogant, with all due respect. SDM has been defending the need impartial, for example, in Junior College which was mocked by the fact, not by words but by actions, of the KSJC, which bluntly, very bluntly, once, twice three times if I’m not mistaken from three different KSJC members, attacked SDM and said ‘I am loyal to my organization’. So they declared in front of everyone else that even though they should be impartial, even though they are everyone’s council, deep down, and not so deep down, they are loyal to Pulse. And yes, that is why I say that SDM is backed by the student population; by those students who do not agree, who are not ready to stay under this regime, this oppressive regime, where, bluntly, the KSJC members engage in promotion for Pulse, wearing Pulse t-shirts. This is not acceptable.
LS: What do you think about the current KSJC?
JC: I appreciate that the KSJC has done lots of work. I am not a negative person, I don’t want to just mock everything, and I’m very positive about KSJC. The problem is not KSJC, it is the way KSJC is manipulated by Pulse. That is the thing that bothers me, and that is the reason why I think that the students need to rethink a Pulse KSJC. Individually, I’m sure all seven people who make up KSJC, have a very good work ethic, but the problem is they are completely manipulated.
For example once, while in the Principal’s office, the KSJC president asked, in front of me, the Pulse president to tell him what to answer to a question he had been asked. I am sorry, but I feel that Pulse is too big an influence on KSJC. And I do not like this KSJC simply because it is not the KSJC members who are leading the people, but it is other people behind the scenes who are leading KSJC members, who are in turn leading the rest of the students.
LS: Do you feel that SDM’s beliefs and aims have been applied to JC through the KSJC this year?
JC: Pulse attacked us for not releasing a statement about the budget or about Arriva,, but we’ve been involved much more than they’ve suggested in their attacks – we’ve been involved in KPS, because we do believe in the KPS structure, and we involve ourselves in it. So, in the transport issue, I myself was part of the work on document released by KPS. SDM at University and Junior College is the same thing. SDM is a branch here, and we work together. So what we say at University applies over here. We’ve been working and defending the students from up there, because we feel that that is the channel to go through. It’s useless to make noise. Sometimes Pulse just like to make noise. Sounds. I like to make my point of view heard, which is different.
LS: Do you feel that the needs of the student population have been furthered?
JC: I honestly feel hurt that KSJC have done a couple of good jobs, but why would take credit for work that we know was done by the college administration? Some needs have been furthered, yes, but not by KSJC. I cannot really say if they have put pressure on the administration, but the simple fact is that, for example, e-Sims was not introduced by KSJC. I have heard people saying ‘If it weren’t for Pulse, you wouldn’t have e-Sims.’ I have serious doubts about that.