Introducing your 2018–19 SMCSU executives
Aaron Panciera NEWS EDITOR
Thumbnail: new SMCSU logo.
The results of the St. Michael’s College Student Union (SMCSU) election for the 2018–19 academic year were announced on April 16. The elections were held for all nine executive positions on the council, with only Vice-President Community Life still unoccupied.
306 of approximately 5,000 eligible University of St. Michael’s College (USMC) student voters participated during the April 4–14 voting period. Kate Strazds was elected SMCSU President with 171 votes, Joey Gratkowski was elected Vice-President (VP) with 185 votes, Nicholas Pagano was elected VP Academic Affairs with 246 votes, Samuel Gearing was elected VP Religious and Community Affairs (RCA) with 133 votes, John Russell was elected VP Athletics with 243 votes, Seijoong Chu was elected VP Communications with 238 votes, Jason Gardner was elected VP Finance with 149 votes, and Aisling Baroey was elected VP Arts with 239 votes.
The presidential race was a close one, with candidate Jeremy Hernandez-Lum Tong as runner-up. Hernandez-Lum Tong offered an optimistic view of the future, but one with a warning.
“I think the newly elected members are certainly capable persons regarding the programming and other things which are part of SMCSU’s portfolio,” Hernandez-Lum Tong said. “However, I do not think these things can reach their full potential unless there is a community to begin with and, more emphatically, a unified one.”
Pagano, Russell, Chu, and Baroey all ran unopposed for their respective positions. VP Community Life has yet to be filled, as sole candidate Sarah Morgan withdrew upon being hired as a USMC Residence Don.
The council has much work to do after a foundation-building year for the council following SMCSU’s prorogation during the 2016–17 academic year. Primary among the work needing to be done is ensuring that the club funding and recognition process begins earlier and acts more efficiently than this academic year. For example, this school year club funding and recognition information was not released until November, with USMC Clubs Conference held as late as November 25. This is due in part to the fact that elections for the 2017–18 council were held in October. However, the thought among many in the newly elected council is that earlier club recognition will lead to more interest in being involved in the USMC community.
“A large barrier that SMCSU faced this year was how late we started this year,” Strazds told The Mike. “By having the summer to plan deadlines for student clubs at St. Mike’s, SMCSU can ensure that the process is more efficient.”
Along with this, Strazds proposes hosting a clubs fair during orientation week so that incoming students can “witness and join clubs that cater to their interests.”
A common issue among all candidates that ran in the recent SMCSU elections was accountability. This is especially relevant in light of SMCSU-related scandals up until 2016–17, including, but not limited to, severe financial corruption, and claims of Islamophobia (after Snapchat videos were leaked of a former SMCSU Councillor singing “would you be my Muslim boy” to the tune of “American Boy” in 2016).
However, accountability goes further than preventing scandal, as it also entails ensuring that every council member is being diligent in doing the jobs assigned to their positions. As of now, according to Gratkowski, councillors that do not do their jobs face “no repercussions.”
“One of the major problems of last year’s SMCSU, I believe, was a general lack of work done,” Gratkowski elaborated. “I hope to implement a mandatory requirement of work done during the year. Each position will have their own requirements to meet, but the result for not meeting them will be the same: loss of CCR or impeachment. I believe if you don’t do your job, you shouldn’t get the rewards.”
Beyond these broader issues, each member of the executive has their own issues they would like to tackle as part of SMCSU. For example, as VP Finance, Gardner plans to increase transparency by having SMCSU’s financial statements “published and available for all students to see.”
Further proposals include Gearing’s to implement volunteer programs to assist the less fortunate, Baroey’s to advertise Brennan and The Coop as an LGBTQ+ safe space, and Russell’s to grow the existing USMC Athletics Facebook page.
According to Strazds, the new council has already made plans to hit the ground running by the beginning of the next academic year.
“There will be a transition meeting that will take place in a few weeks for the current council and new council,” Strazds said. “Current SMCSU council members will write a report on what they personally believed went well versus what should be improved on next year.”
While it is too early to judge how successful the new council will be, it appears that the groundwork for a smooth transition is currently being set. What is also certain is that since the election of last year’s SMCSU took place in October, next year’s team will have a huge advantage on the predecessors time-wise and preparation-wise heading into the coming academic year.