Re-imagining faith in SMCSU
Over the past few years, considerable political turmoil has plagued students at St. Michael’s College; hopes for resolving this disorder lie in the election of a revised student union. The re-creation of St. Michael’s College Student Union (SMCSU) is underway with the conclusion of their elections—the voting period took place from Wednesday, October 11th to Sunday, October 15th. Following a nine-month suspension of the student union, the St. Michael’s College administration is planning to internally reconstruct the union with a focus on reduced independence and alterations to the structure of union funds.
The controversy of the previous SMCSU involved a 2016 incident of Islamophobic content in a Snapchat video. This controversy incited the resignations of SMCSU Vice President Kevin Vando and President Zachary Nixon, despite the latter not appearing in the video. In addition to this controversial video, financial corruption surfaced after an audit in July 2016 exposed forged invoices, bribes, and extraneous expenses. These events provoked the administration to initiate restructuring and to eradicate misconduct in the union.
To resolve apparent corruption in SMCSU, a “reimagining committee” was appointed by the administration. This committee, comprised of six students, contributed suggestions and drafted a new Student Society Leadership Policy demanding that leaders “accept their ethical obligation to act in accordance to USMC’s mission as a Catholic university.”
SMC President David Mulroney’s attempts at reform include a reestablishment of Catholic identity and a careful dissection of student finances. Mulroney announced plans to retire in June 2018, one year earlier than scheduled. Before ending his term, he hopes to conclude his work with the reimagining committee and to see through the student union elections.
Because of the rapid dissolution of SMCSU, the process of remodeling the union has been predominantly operated by the St. Michael’s College administration. Efforts to include student representatives, such as the re-imagining committee, have faced retaliation from students who feel that their attendance matters more to the administration than their voices. Some have raised concerns about administrative infringement on the student union’s independence.
Damian Dibiase, former UTSU Representative to SMCSU, expressed advice for the future of the student union: “A healthy relationship between the union and administration will only result in strengthening the union’s ability to achieve its purpose—to serve the SMC student population.”
Structural changes to the student union were outlined by the re-imagining committee in April. Past SMCSU voting members consisted of a President, Vice President, and eight commissions led by Commissioners. These eight commissions were: Double Blue Commission (event management), Athletics Commission, Communications Commission, Education & Government Commission, Community Life Commission, Arts Commission, and Finance Commission. In the outline for the new SMCSU, nine voting members will structure the union; this includes the President, Vice President, VP Academic Affairs, VP Arts, VP Athletics, VP Communications, VP Community Life, VP Finance, and VP Religious and Community Affairs.
Former President of the St. Mike’s Residence Council, Erin McTague, will take on the task of structuring the union as Chief Returning Officer. This structure of the new union also invites the University of St. Michael’s College Administrative Advisor to sit in on scheduled meetings without voting rights.
The results of this election and the future of SMCSU will impact the 5,000 students that it represents. Dibiase stresses that “given the past events concerning SMCSU, I would wish for the future to not be a replication of the past. I hope that the new student union reflects on the mistakes made by past unions, learns from them, and takes the proper steps to ensure no duplicate offences.”
Election results will be posted on October 17th.
Photo | Hana Nikčević