A Guide to Your 2018–19 SMCSU Candidates (Part 1)

A Guide to Your 2018–19 SMCSU Candidates (Part 1)

Part 1: A closer look at your candidates for President, VP, and VP Finance  


Thumbnail: new SMCSU logo. 


Voting for your 2018–19 SMCSU is already well underway. The St. Michael’s College Student Union (SMCSU) is currently holding an election for next year’s council, which will consist of the following nine positions: President, Vice-President (VP), VP Finance, VP Academic Affairs, VP Community Life, VP Communications, VP Athletics, VP Arts, and VP Religious and Community Affairs (RCA).

There are 12 candidates running for 8 positions. There are no longer any candidates for VP Community Life. Sarah Morgan withdrew her candidacy on April 6 because she was hired as a USMC Residence Don — a role that precludes her from running for or holding a position on SMCSU.

The election began last Wednesday, April 4, and will continue until 11:59 p.m. this Saturday, April 14. Eligible USMC students can vote here.

Since keeping up with SMCSU can be overwhelming, we’ve created the following guide to your 2018–19 candidates. With this, we hope to give all of you University of St. Michael’s College (USMC) students a better idea of what you can expect and hope for from each. Check out all your candidates for President, VP, and VP Finance below and make an informed decision. (You can find Part 2, which includes candidates for VP Academic Affairs, Arts, Athletics, Communications, and Religious and Community Affairs (RCA) here.)

Prijanga Ahilan, The Mike’s own Managing Online Editor, is serving as the SMCSU election’s Chief Returning Officer (CRO). For more information about the election itself or its process, students can contact her at [email protected].


President — 2


  • Kate Strazds is a third-year USMC student studying Political Science with minors in Equity Studies and Religion. Strazds was recently elected St. Michael’s College (SMC) Director to the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) for the coming year. She is also SMCSU’s current Vice-President — she says her experience in this role has taught her “which ideas are feasible at USMC and what areas need to be focused on.” Her platform is based on issues from last year that she believes “need to be focused on.” According to Strazds, the USMC club funding and recognition process requires change, and SMCSU needs to host more events that cater to its student community and engage in more religious affairs outreach. If elected as SMCSU President, Strazds plans more specifically to “encourage” each SMCSU member to host four events each per year “that cater to their commission on council.” Such a measure would “allow for continuity” and “hold [SMCSU] council [members] accountable for sufficiently acting in the role on [SMCSU].” Communication-wise, Strazds says she would ensure that communication between SMCSU and all leaders at USMC is accounted for. She would “encourage” each commission “to create a plan for the fall semester before August” and “for the winter semester before December.” She would also like “to collaborate with more student societies on campus with community life events and other academic affairs to gain presence on campus and reach out to USMC students who may not necessarily be around St. Mike’s all the time.” This year, she tried unsuccessfully to create a Vice-President Equity position on SMCSU. Strazds thinks that such a position is something that SMCSU should pursue, in order to best assure that students at USMC feel “that they’re welcome,” hold SMCSU accountable for grievances lodged by USMC students, and ensure SMCSU is aware of any and all issues pertaining to equity at USMC. She would also try to work toward “creating a multi-faith room at St. Mike’s.” Strazds intends to post an updated council budget on SMCSU’s website, and hopes to host a general meeting in each of the fall and winter semesters.


  • Jeremy Hernandez-Lum Tong is a third-year double majoring in Ethics, Society, and Law, and Philosophy. In the past, he has worked on SMCSU as Religious and Community Affairs Commissioner, as well as within Campus Ministry, and, he says, “maintained good relations with the [USMC] administration.” Hernandez-Lum Tong, if elected as SMCSU President, intends to enhance the quality of student opportunities and resources in all SMCSU Commissions. He wants to “advance the vision of a united community of fellowship, all-roundedness, and academic excellence” — one in which all students “genuinely feel inclined to be involved” and “feel welcome” in the realms of both “equity” and “engagement.” In terms of new arts-related programming, he intends to reintroduce The Grammateion (journal of arts and literature) and host at least one new event designed to showcase the work of students in the arts. In terms of sports, he wants to host a charity basketball game and establish a point-based incentive for students who attend intramural games and win USMC merchandise. Career-wise, he hopes to create a career network initiative and to host more practical workshops, (potentially ones involving first aid training, tax help, and/or financial planning). Hernandez-Lum Tong also says that he has “begun negotiation to reintroduce pub nights,” and that, “while club nights will be an impossibility … pub nights will be more manageable,” and thus, a possibility. In terms of residence life, he says he has already “begun negotiation to put in place a new system to replace the EcoTrays,” and is also open to arranging the adjustment of Canada Room hours. In terms of outreach, he wants to establish a proportionately divided system for council members and volunteers to share events online and via postering (so as to ensure that SMCSU has “a consistent and continuous presence [both] on and offline”). In terms of equity, he would continue to host through SMCSU collaborative events with any groups that wish to do so, and hopes to host what he calls “Good to Better” Talks — “events meant to serve as a public conversation with marginalised groups.” He would also “invite all council members to leave their campaign promises public” following the election, “maintain non-cash transactions, and monthly budget postings,” and “uphold a formal complaint system where any concerns … will be addressed in a timely matter.” He values highly the “personal” face-to-face encounter.


Vice-President (VP) — 2


  • Shervin Shojaei Baghini is a second-year USMC student majoring in Political Science and Environmental Studies. Baghini has served as Treasurer with the University of Toronto’s Environmental Action, been involved with the Fight for $15 and Fairness, and understands “the pain of virtually never seeing the Kelly Café open.” If elected as SMCSU VP, he hopes to “make SMCSU an inclusive student body,” that is, in particular, “more participatory, representative, and accessible.” He wants to host “regular meet-and-greets” and “SMCSU town halls,” so as to allow council to interact directly with council members more often. He would also “mandate that meeting agendas, minutes, and calendars be posted on SMCSU’s social media” as well as, potentially, a SMCSU “meme page to make outreach more fun and inclusive.” Baghini says that he would “encourage USMC students to directly contact their elected counterparts, be it online or in person,” and qualifies that the opportunities to do so could be spread through social media outreach, the creation of an email list, as well as poster campaigns in high-traffic areas. 


  • Joey Gratkowski is a third-year USMC student majoring in English and minoring in Biology and Anthropology. Gratkowski has participated in Orientation Week for the past two years both as a Leader and a Marshall, is an executive at Pair-a-Dice, and volunteered with SMCSU this past year. He views the priority of the Vice-Presidency as ensuring that “everyone on the council is doing their job.” As much as his “demeanour suggests otherwise,” Gratkowski self-describes as a “very ‘no-nonsense’” person. If elected as SMCSU VP, he would like to “amend [SMCSU’s] constitution to ensure that every person on council is held accountable for the work they do.” He acknowledges that currently, if certain members do not complete the jobs they were elected to do, they face “no repercussions.” He proposes more collaborative events with other colleges, and increasing SMCSU’s presence across campus and “taking [some] events to [USMC] students” who don’t spend a lot of time on USMC campus. Like Strazds, he would like to establish a Vice-President of Equity position dedicated to ensuring that “all USMC students feel welcome [at USMC].” Gratkowski thinks that “having the budget report accessible online is a necessity. If you don’t attend these meetings,” he says, “it’s very hard to find out where students’ money is going. Transparency only works if you are able to be transparent at all times, not just at specific meetings.” He also wants to ensure that SMCSU releases monthly updates.


VP Finance — 2


  • Philip Conforzi is a third-year USMC student studying Life Sciences and Human Biology. His experience in finance includes starting and running his own small home appliance business, for which he has developed experience dealing “various aspects of finance,” including accounting, dealing with banks, legal documentation, assigning cash flow to certain areas so growth is achieved, and more. Conforzi, if elected as VP of Finance, hopes to restore trust between the USMC community and SMCSU through financial transparency and accountability. He plans to achieve this by implementing a system of monthly updates on fund disbursement, communicated online and in Brennan Hall, as well as by reaching out to students through polls, so that they can voice their opinions regarding the financial decisions of SMCSU. Conforzi believes that such a form of direct communication between SMCSU and the students it represents is important in achieving the goals of trust and transparency.


  • Jason Gardner is a second-year USMC student doing a specialist program in Actuarial Science, with a major in Statistics and a minor in Mathematics. Gardner says that his program has taught him “the fundamentals of investment and credit, and the accounting standards needed to direct the daily administration of funds,” and that he also has “a lot of experience preparing and analyzing financial statements,” skills he hopes to utilize if elected as VP Finance. He believes it is important to allocate funds to new and returning clubs as soon as possible so that USMC students can get or stay involved by joining or resuming their memberships in clubs seamlessly following orientation. According to Gardner, starting and funding these clubs early and hosting more events early in the year can better integrate resident and commuter students. He believes that “professionalism and transparency are essential,” and, if elected, hopes to have SMCSU’s financial statements “published and available for all students to see.”


To learn more about your candidates for VP Academic Affairs, Arts, Athletics, Communications, and Religious and Community Affairs (RCA), click here.