The St. Michael’s College Student Union (SMCSU) elections are over, with the polls having closed on October 15. Successful candidates will be the first members of the new ‘re-imagined SMSCU,’ whose guidelines were founded based on the conclusions of a special advisory committee over the past few months.
Nominations for Vice-Presidents of Communications, Community Life, and Arts included only one candidate each, while VP Finance, VP Athletics, and VP Religious and Community Affairs had no candidates despite an extended nomination period.
According to Erin McTague, the Chief Returning Officer of the elections, “It will be the decision of the elected union members to decide the process for filling the vacant positions,” and uncontested candidates will take on their roles after the Election Appeals Board has ratified the election results.
“The St. Michael’s community has worked together to create a fair and effective electoral process for a new student government,” said Stefan Slovak, SMC’s Director of Communications, Events, and Outreach in an email to The Varsity. “All those involved approached it with good will. We are confident that, with students working collaboratively with the University, a new era in student government is about to begin.”
Samantha Douek and Jeremy Hernandez-Lum Tong are both running for SMCSU President.
Douek said that she was motivated to run for president because she saw students around her lose “interest in [SMCSU] and community life.”
“If everyone is thinking the same things, and I have these ideas [for SMCSU]… then I might as well take the first step,” said Douek.
“I think the main thing I would love to work on is to embrace St. Mike’s traditions,” Douek stated. She believes that the Catholic values of SMC are “part of the identity that separates us from other colleges.”
Douek also added, “I think [it] would be nice to have connections between current students and [alumni] from an experience standpoint, because they have gone on and done a lot of interesting things.” She continued by noting that speaking with alumni would be helpful to students still figuring out their future, both at the university and beyond.
Hernandez-Lum Tong has previously been involved with SMCSU as the Religious & Community Affairs Commissioner. On Facebook, he presented a platform that detailed his plans for numerous areas of campus life. Notably, he discussed the issues of financial transparency, community life, and equity.
If elected, Hernandez-Lum Tong plans to periodically post the SMCSU budgets online “in order that a greater transparency and trust may be rightfully regained.” Moreover, he plans to continue with no-cash transactions to better manage the accounts and ensure accountability.
Hernandez-Lum Tong has supposedly “begun negotiation to reintroduce pub nights.” He claims that it’s an “impossibility” for club nights to come back, but “pub nights are more manageable.
Hernandez-Lum Tong acknowledged a “growing distrust among students” concerning their status at SMC. “I can guarantee that we will work to ensure that every student has an equal access to any resource, any event, any opportunity, [and] any SMC privilege offered by SMCSU,” he wrote in the Facebook post.
He continued to say, “While there may not be a specific portfolio on SMCSU for matters of equity, 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.”
On October 10, an all-candidates forum was held. Candidates discussed questions regarding communication with the administration, the recent SMCSU controversies, and questions about equity from the audience.
Peter Tao, a vice-presidential candidate, and Hiromitsu Higashi, the VP Communications candidate, both stated that they would set aside time for some form of face-to-face communication with students. Tao said he would hold office hours.
Rida Hasan, a VP Academic Affairs candidate, stated that as a second-year student, she “has a fresh outlook on everything.” She claimed that her open personality will allow her “to gain a lot of students’ trust.”
Vice-presidential candidate Kate Strazds emphasized that “social justice, equity, and inclusivity are all things that very dear to [her] heart.” She stated that a student union and its leaders should promote equity. “I believe that mandatory equity training for leaders should be implemented,” said Strazds.
During the audience Q&A period, SMC and SMCSU alumna Julia Ursini asked about dealing with the multi-faith diversity at SMC. She directed her question to the presidential candidates, asking them how they planned to create “a more inclusive SMC that accommodates this [multi-faith] diversity.”
Ursini cited an incident in 2016 where students expressed desire for a multi-faith space, to which SMC President David Mulroney had replied that if they wanted a safe space, they could go to the other side of campus. Ursini clarified that the statement was not a direct quotation. Slovak later said Ursini’s comment on Mulroney was “inaccurate.”
Hernandez stated that creative problem-solving would be required to overcome any barriers to equity. He further added that having open resources and receiving feedback would be crucial to the process.
Douek noted that she was not Christian and was surprised that such a comment could be made by Mulroney. She emphasized her desire to create an inclusive environment where diversity is supported.