The University of St. Michael’s College (USMC) continues to engage students in the renewal of student government. We offer this report to members of the USMC community as a means to better understand the process now underway. We will update it as work continues.
Context and History
The University of St. Michael’s College is an independent institution federated with the University of Toronto. Under the Federation Framework Agreement, the document that governs the relationship, responsibility for the operation of student services and facilities belongs to USMC. This includes the operation of its various student societies.
The University undertook a careful review of its history and practices working with student societies. There has been a steady evolution in how the administration of the University and the students of St. Michael’s have come to understand the relationship. The 1957 Constitution of the Student Administrative Council of St. Michael’s College emphasizes oversight and control, as Article 11.5 states:
“There shall be a Faculty Advisor, appointed to the Council by the Superior of St. Michael’s College. He may attend any or all meetings of the Council and, while he shall have no vote in its proceedings, may be heard on any or all matters arising from such proceedings and no resolution proposed at any such meeting may be carried if he shall express his opposition thereto in the form of veto.”
While student societies continue to constitute part of the University itself, the focus today is on collaboration, good governance and transparency. The most recent updating and clarification of the role of student societies, is found in the Policy Document for Student Societies at The University of St. Michael’s College, which was accepted by the school’s highest governing body, the Collegium, in September of 2016.
As this document makes clear, the role of advisor is today delegated to the Office of the Dean of Students. Under the direction of the Dean of Students and reporting to senior University leadership, the Assistant Dean of Campus Life (ADCL) acts as a direct liaison for the University with the student societies. The Administrative Advisor is tasked with determining that student funds are being spent appropriately and transparently. This advice is crucial to ensuring that the administration can confidently and responsibly transfer the significant sums levied from students to support the societies. Throughout the year the administration meets regularly with student societies to exchange ideas as well as to address issues of concern facing the community.
Timeline and Way Forward
In the summer of 2016, the University of St. Michael’s College was alerted to the possibility of serious financial mismanagement in the Saint Michael’s College Student Union (SMCSU). As a result, the University’s administration asked SMCSU to engage a forensic auditor to review the recent management of the student union’s funds. The results of the audit are expected in the spring.
Beginning in September 2016, SMCSU participated in public meetings with the University’s administration. These meetings were in addition to the students’ own monthly council meetings, which were attended by the Administrative Advisor. Thanks to close and effective collaboration, including frank discussion of the rationale for and likely direction of the audit, the functions of student government were continued as the audit progressed and as a number of important new approaches to financial management were introduced.
At an extraordinary meeting of the St. Michael’s College Student Union in December 2016, the council voted overwhelmingly to prorogue its activities. In February 2017, members of the prorogued student government met with representatives of the University’s administration to discuss next steps in the process of renewal of student government.
It was agreed that greater student involvement is essential in charting a way forward. Several members of the prorogued council volunteered their time to create a student questionnaire to solicit feedback and ideas. They met three times and developed a set of questions for students to review and respond to. The survey is now complete and all St. Michael’s undergraduate students were sent an email invitation to participate. It was hoped that the questionnaire would also serve as a vehicle for encouraging participation in government by students who have to date not felt themselves included or even welcome in the process. A committee involving participation by various stakeholders in the USMC community was struck to harvest ideas from the survey and plan for the holding of new elections in late March 2017.
On Wednesday March 15, 2017, the Executive Summary Commissioned by SMCSU completed by Williams and Partners Forensic Auditors was released. It was accompanied by a statement from USMC President David Mulroney.
In April of 2017, the results of the student government survey were released along with a student authored follow-up report on Re-imaging Student Government at St. Mike’s. It was informed by the results of the survey and the deliberations of the student committee and recommended new structures for SMCSU moving forward.
The release of this report was followed by a blog piece written by President David Mulroney who announced that he welcomed the results of the report along with the data collected from the survey. He noted however that in the course of interviewing students in the fallout of the financial investigation, that there appeared to be a problem with hazing. He stated that, “… the student union has for some time embraced disrespectful and harmful behaviour, including hazing. This behaviour was common practice at fall and spring SMCSU retreats as a perverse form of initiation, and was concealed through a carefully maintained tradition of secrecy.” The President has requested that elections be delayed until fall 2017 and that a student code of conduct be developed in light of these revelations.
- Policy Document for Student Societies at The University of St. Michael’s College
- University of St. Michael’s College Student Government Survey- Results
- Re-imagining Student Government at St. Mike’s Report
For any questions related to the process surrounding the renewal of student government, please contact USMC’s Director of Communications Stefan Slovak by clicking here.