A Guide to Your SMCSU Candidates (Part 1)
Candidates for President and VP
Aaron Panciera – NEWS EDITOR
Josh Scott – EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
Bardia Besharat – CONTRIBUTOR
Keeping up with your St. Michael’s College Student Union (SMCSU) can often be overwhelming, so we've created the following guide to your 2017-18 candidates. This should give all you University of St. Michael's College (USMC) students a better idea of what we can expect and hope for from each. In part 2, we have your candidates for the other positions that received applications.
First, your candidates for SMCSU President and Vice President.
SMCSU President (2)
Samantha Douek, a third-year USMC student, seems confident that SMCSU’s tarnished past is just that — behind it. “I feel like we’ve accepted [last year’s controversies] and can now move past [them],” Douek said at the SMCSU All-Candidates Forum. The fact that Douek had no involvement in the past SMCSU could help serve to distance her from the student union’s tumultuous past. Douek was a frosh leader for USMC’s 2017 Orientation. You can find her platform posted here. She also has experience serving her community. As she told The Mike, “I’ve organized food drives, toy drives for underprivileged children, served and delivered warm meals on holidays, volunteered as a tutor for children at the elementary school level, volunteered with the Friendship Circle, and have taken part in many fundraisers for hospitals in Montreal.” Her goals for SMCSU seem to reflect her past community involvement, as she cites wanting to collaborate with other colleges for events, creating events for study breaks, and, more personally, forming a volunteer program to connect USMC students and underfunded city schools. Doeuk seems excited for the opportunity to contribute to the USMC community. “My time at St. Mike’s is what motivated me to get involved,” Doeuk said. Some of her plans for SMCSU include monthly updates on SMCSU’s plans and finances, various events that encourage a healthy sense of competition, Monday breakfast and coffee at Brennan, more seasonal/holiday events (like gift exchanges and a Christmas party), reaching out to alumni and having more guest speakers and networking events, a job/volunteer fair in Brennan, and the funding of more student-led projects that exemplify creativity and innovation in the arts. She also hopes to increase mental health awareness through a variety of initiatives and believes that “students should have a say in which causes and organizations USMC supports and raises awareness and money for.”
Jeremy Hernandez-Lum Tong
“The past hurts and we can run from it or learn from it,” Jeremy Hernandez-Lum Tong, a third-year USMC student, said at the SMCSU All-Candidates Forum. This is a key point in Hernandez-Lum Tong’s platform, which is focused more on learning from the mistakes of the previous SMCSU. Hernandez-Lum Tong served as SMCSU’s Religious and Community Affairs Commissioner (RCA) in 2016–17. His platform, which is posted on his official SMCSU campaign Facebook page, has a particular focus on equity, transparency, and reintroducing events at USMC. While Hernandez-Lum Tong’s platform mentions few specifics with regard to how he plans to ensure equity, he acknowledges this, and states, “I can guarantee that we will work to ensure that every student has an equal access to any resource, any event, any opportunity, any USMC privilege offered by SMCSU. I have always said that the only way equity can become a thing is if each member is willing to become a person who sees no distinction among others.” Some of his intended policies include posting budgets on the SMCSU website, eliminating cash transactions, and reintroducing Kelly’s Korner as well as The Grammateion journal. In light of past SMCSU events, most prominently, the Snapchat scandal in which a former SMCSU member appeared to be making fun of Muslims, equity has been an important issue in this campaign. Hernandez-Lum Tong addressed this on his Facebook page by writing, “I can guarantee that we will work to ensure that every student has an equal access to any resource, any event, any opportunity, any USMC privilege offered by SMCSU.” He has already “begun negotiation for pub nights.” He plans for SMCSU to host an End-of-Year Formal, Pancake Days, Kelly’s Korner (monthly), trips to off-campus sites, an academic symposium, and a number of charitable initiatives, among other things.
SMCSU Vice President (2)
Kate Strazds is a third-year USMC student and is currently an executive of two student groups at U of T. She is the active secretary of Spoon, a student-run pop-culture publication, as well as the social media executive of Get REAL, an organization dedicated to preventing bullying and homophobia on campus. Strazds’ involvement in the latter appears to inform one of her main preoccupations: the importance of equity within SMCSU and USMC as a whole. Her focus on equity is reflected in various policies she proposes, such as "mandatory equity training for students in leadership positions" and reaching out to LGBTQ groups on campus to collaborate on SMCSU events. In addition to reintroducing equity and acceptance at USMC, she also strives to create more career opportunities for students through contact with the Young Alumni Committee, in addition to other career services. Strazds also wishes to create a more transparent and stronger USMC community through forums and community events. When asked why she is right for the job of leading SMCSU at the SMCSU All-Candidates Forum, Strazds responded, “Social justice, equitability, and inclusivity are very close to my heart.” Strazds’ stance on equity is firm. Her larger focus is on rebuilding the USMC student community, and she hopes to help create “a safe and positive environment for all students.” To ensure that SMCSU becomes more connected to USMC students, she also wants to create “a forum for students to share feedback about what they want from USMC.
Peter Tao is a fourth-year USMC student. He serves as the communications officer of the U of T First Aid Society and was also involved with USMC’s Orientation. Tao hopes to create change in USMC through his “TEA” campaign. “TEA” stands for: transparency, events, and autonomy. Tao has also been involved with USMC intramural hockey. While Tao doesn’t make guarantees, he promises to “take feedback and fight for the events you want, whether it's a SMCSU Formal, a billiards table in Brennan, or anything else you can imagine.” He wants to ensure that SMCSU is run “in an equitable and inclusive manner for students of all backgrounds and religions,” and that, once again, it becomes “a respected student union.” The Mike asked how he plans to ensure SMCSU's autonomy, and Tao said, “Once I show [the administration] that we, the leaders, are competent, [SMCSU] will regain autonomy gradually,” and later, in a statement to The Mike: “I definitely do not think that complete autonomy from the administration is out of reach.” When asked at the SMCSU All-Candidates Forum why he was right for the job given the student union's recent financial and public image-based controversies, Tao said that he has "a lot of experience not embezzling money,” and, “common sense.”
*Article updated to reflect the fact that Tao's last answer was not to the question of "What makes you qualified to lead SMCSU?" but rather, to "What makes you right for SMCSU given SMCSU's recent financial and public image-based controversies?"
The SMCSU election is currently underway. USMC students can vote online here until Sunday, October 15 at 11 p.m., and in-person today (Friday, October 13) at the following locations:
• Brennan Lounge: 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.
• Kelly Library: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
• Robarts Library: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. (North Portico Table)
• Loretto College: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Official results will be released on Tuesday, October 17, pending ratification by the Election Appeals Board (which consists of Emma Graham, Luke Kyne, and Rebecca Bukovcan). Erin McTague is the election’s chief returning officer (CRO). While it is McTague’s “goal to have [the results] out before 5 p.m.,” she noted that the exact timing of the release of the official results “does depend on the Appeals Board.”