Following their election by the Student Representative Assembly on April 7 and 8, Scott Robinson, Kristina Epifano and Stephanie Bertolo were installed as McMaster Students Union vice presidents on May 1, joining the Board of Directors with MSU president Ikram Farah.
What the incoming vice presidents have in common is a high degree of experience and knowledge about the MSU, something reflected in the leaders’ confidence in the feasibility of their platforms.
“I’m looking forward to focusing on the entirety of my platform. I wouldn’t have put projects on there that I didn’t think were achievable in the year,” said Robinson, vice president (Finance), who plans to modernize the MSU’s communications strategy, make additions to services such as Compass and the Underground and develop partnerships with local businesses.
When it comes to TwelvEighty, Robinson seeks to advocate for a menu redesign and possibly expand seating at The Grind into the TwelvEighty event centre. He also has plans to use The Grind as an after-hours event space for clubs and increase the number of products offered.
Robinson’s experiences as associate vice president (Finance), SRA caucus leader (Commerce) and chair of the finance committee for the Student Activity Building Space, allocation committee, sponsorship and donations committee and the programming advisory committee have prepared him for the financial nuances of his role.
“I am looking forward to engaging students in the Student Life Enhancement Fund, focusing heavily on the design and construction of the Student Activity Building and Fitness Expansion, and redesigning the idea submission and voting process and timelines for the Student Life Enhancement Fund to engage more students in the 100k fund,” he said.
Two of Robinson’s goals for the near future include introducing “Rep Support,” a project aimed at supplying Welcome Week reps with subsidized meals, food, water and sunscreen and renovating the MSU clubs storage system to add usable storage space.
Epifano is also armed with MSU experience, having served as both a customer service representative and Internal Coordinator at Compass, leadership developer for Creating Leadership Amongst Youth and associate vice president (Services) during her undergrad at the university.
“This really helped me better understand what it was like to be a manager in the students union. I got to meet and work with a lot of the full-time staff which allowed me to come into this role feeling more comfortable, as I already had a working relationship with many people in the office,” she said.
In her new role, Epifano plans to improve volunteer training and ensure that peer support services are knowledgeable about supporting intersectional identities, reform training to focus on small group rotational sessions, incorporate full-time staff in training and create a how-to guide for SRA and part-time managers to access during the term.
“I created my platform in a way that was achievable but still made a difference. Rather than coming in with big new ideas, I decided it was more important to focus on strengthening the foundations and improving what we currently do,” said Epifano, who wants to standardize hiring practices over the summer by having the hiring board meet prior to reading cover letters and resumes, work to revise the campus-wide crisis protocol and work with Farah and Robinson to ensure that GO bus hours are extended during Welcome Week.
“The areas of my platform that I really want to focus on this year is enhancing our peer support department and the administrative aspects of the role,” said Epifano.
In addition to Robinson and Epifano, Bertolo, vice president (Education), held a number of roles within the MSU, serving as associate vice president (Municipal Affairs), community engagement coordinator for the education team and as a delegate for the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance.
“I believe my involvement in the education team and some of our services has provided me with a strong background to understand the context of a lot of the issues that will come up throughout the year,” said Bertolo. “The relationships I developed in these roles will allow me to continue to work well with partners on shared priorities.”
With a focus on improving the accessibility of education, Bertolo aspires to make a number of additions to the university’s policies and services, spearhead new advocacy initiatives at the municipal, provincial and federal level and improve MSU services, particularly the education department.
Some platform plans include advocating for a reduction in schedule conflicts during exams, the adoption of Open Educational Resources, a No-Sick Note Policy, OHIP for international students and more funding for race-based initiatives with the President’s Advisory Committee On Building an Inclusive Community.
When asked which platform points she wishes to focus on, Bertolo expressed interest in advocating for increased post-secondary affordability through base-funding for universities, pushing for safer student housing and ensuring that OSAP considers the higher costs of education for students in professional programs.
During the next few months, the vice presidents will be meeting with key stakeholders, solidifying their year-plans and laying the groundwork for a productive upcoming term.
Photo: Haley Greene