SSMU End of Year Executive Reviews
The McGill Tribune Editorial Board reviewed the 2016-2017 Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) executives on their performance. Although these summaries intend to review the executives' entire term, not all information received regarding each executive was published due to space constraints in the paper.
In its editorial discussion, the Tribune evaluated each executive based on feedback from student councillors and input from the executive teams. In previous years, the Tribune has given grades to the executives based on feedback from councillors and the discussion of the Editorial Board. Given the extraordinary circumstances facing the SSMU executive team this semester, in which period two of the executives resigned, the Tribune decided that it would be inappropriate to do so this year.
Following the resignation of former president Ben Ger, Vice-President (VP) Student Life Elaine Patterson assumed the role of Acting President. Despite the added workload and this semester's controversies, Patterson has risen to the occasion and is overseeing the groundwork for the SSMU Gendered and Sexualized Violence Policy (GSVP).
Prior to assuming the presidential portfolio, Patterson organized successful Activities Nights in both the Fall and Winter semester despite limitations due to construction on McTavish and the elimination of the student staff Activities Night Coordinator position. With a club moratorium in place for the entirety of her term, Patterson worked to make existing clubs more financially and spatially stable. Despite this effort, transparency about the mandatory transition from club status to independent student group (ISG) status that was applied to certain clubs prior to Patterson’s term was lacking.
Additionally, Patterson did not appear to place enough emphasis on the mental health aspect of her portfolio, especially considering that the McGill Counselling and Mental Health Services (MCMHS) underwent significant changes this year. Although she organized Mental Health Awareness Week and provided institutional support for services, such as the Peer Support Centre, more advocacy could have been done on the students’ behalf, as the changes to MCMHS continue to present challenges for students.
Despite these shortcomings, Patterson has remained approachable and dedicated to building relationships with SSMU members and groups within SSMU. Her unfailing energy and candor has been an asset to the SSMU executive team. By maintaining positive relationships with existing SSMU clubs and services, Patterson has paved the way for more efficient club management in the upcoming year. Despite increased responsibilities, Patterson continued to demonstrate patience and a willingness to hear student concerns.
VP Internal Daniel Lawrie has organized a variety of successful events this year. Some of the highlights of his term include Faculty Olympics, which drew over 800 participants over the course of five days and was very well received. Lawrie also coordinated 4Floors, which was subject to underwhelming turnouts in recent years. Lawrie grew its attendance to around 1,000 attendees and the function mostly received positive feedback.
Moreover, Lawrie promoted Life After Your Degree (Life AYD) events, such as dining etiquette workshops, CV workshops, and LinkedIn Headshot sessions to improve SSMU’s involvement with practical concerns of its membership.
In hopes of better protecting students, Lawrie worked alongside the Office of the Dean of Students to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the administration to have the McGill Code of Conduct apply to events within the VP Internal’s portfolio, such as 4Floors and Frosh. Still, Lawrie insufficiently advocated for the development of non-drinking focused activities while overseeing Frosh plans.
At the end of the 2015-2016 year, the responsibility of managing the First-Year Council (FYC) was moved to the Internal portfolio. While he gained experience in event planning throughout his term, Lawrie struggled to play an advisory role for the FYC. His failure to adequately guide the Council and to fully make use of its budget resulted in the FYC being a largely ineffective body for representing and engaging first-years.
Lawrie attributes the high open rate of the SSMU listerv this year to his inclusion of animated GIFs and catchy titles in emails. However, this method of increasing engagement by reducing the content of listservs has been criticized for being exclusionary.
Lawrie oversaw the SSMU Website Redesign project. The new site, which aims to provide easier access to information regarding student societies, will be launched in the upcoming year.
Much of the VP Finance portfolio occurs largely behind the scenes of SSMU activity and VP Finance Niall Carolan has worked hard to tighten the SSMU budget. Having entered the position facing a $90,000 deficit, Carolan has helped bring SSMU to a surplus that will reach near $400,000 by the end of the 2016-2017 fiscal year. A significant portion of this surplus will be invested in SSMU human resources and departments that will better serve the student body. Additionally, following the resignation of the VP External and President, Carolan assumed several responsibilities from each portfolio, including a position on the McGill Board of Governors (BoG) and negotiations for the 2017-2021 Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) with the university.
A large part of Carolan’s success in bringing SSMU into a financial surplus entailed holding regular meetings with SSMU department managers and operations directors, using weekly sales reports and monthly rollup reports, and seeking external corporate sponsorship for SSMU. Yet, the latter action was controversial, sparking debate among the student body after advertisements were placed around the SSMU Building and used during Activities Night, which critics argued were distracting from the student clubs that were present.
Carolan worked to streamline the funding process for clubs, services, and groups by allowing clubs to apply for multiple funding sources within the same application and purchasing new funding software. Further, Carolan achieved better financial transparency for SSMU by separating staff salaries, executive salaries, and operational staff salaries. He also budgeted a Financial Assistant to the VP Finance for the 2018 operating year and established a Social Responsibility Investment Fund for the upcoming year.
Though Carolan’s time on the SSMU Executive Committee was successful, he was often difficult to reach and unavailable to students and the student media. However, his changes to the budget led to what Carolan reports to be the largest operational surplus on record.
VP Operations Sacha Magder began the year with the Crash Pad program, a successful initiative that provides a safe place in the SSMU Ballroom for commuter students to stay overnight. Magder’s other main accomplishment was improving SSMU MiniCourses. Although Fall 2016 numbers were similar to the numbers in the previous year, in Winter 2017, MiniCourses revenue increased from $6,214 to $15,635. Magder attributes this success to more active marketing and emphasis on professional skills courses, such as a popular new graphic design class.
Both Gerts and Sadie’s have also made financial improvements. Parts of large events, such as Carnival, Science Games, and Engineering Games, were held at Gerts as opposed to off-campus establishments. Further, Sadie’s revenue doubled and this year’s deficit is predicted to be 30 to 50 per cent smaller than last year’s. Yet, Magder’s rebranding efforts for Sadie’s were unimpressive and it is unclear how much of the increase in business was simply the McTavish construction rerouting students through the SSMU Building.
Sustainability objectives were moved to the VP Operations portfolio at the end of the 2015-2016 academic year. With regards to this mandate, Magder brought sustainability representatives from different faculties together in a Cross Campus Sustainability Council. Plans are underway for sustainability checklists, sustainability education, and sustainable Frosh suppliers.
It has taken time for Magder to communicate and implement his ideas, such as the plan to put up Aboriginal artwork in SSMU and the SSMU Courtyard Garden Project. How much of this is the result his portfolio being new and how much can be attributed to recent disruptions within SSMU have yet to be determined, but what is clear is the creativity and energy that Magder puts into his work.
VP University Affairs (UA) Erin Sobat approached the position with a great deal of energy and enthusiasm this year. He delivered on multiple campaign promises, including a successful Know Your Rights campaign, and increased the visibility of the UA portfolio via social media with a new website. Sobat also played an important role in developing and passing the university’s Policy on Sexual Violence in the Fall, building on the wish of his predecessors and working to bring the work of other student groups to bear in negotiations with the administration. In the second semester of his term, however, Sobat was often complicit in the poor handling of SSMU controversies.
Sobat also developed a monthly UA listserv, which provided updates on developments in student advocacy resources, projects, and research. Sobat put a SSMU policy on unpaid internships into motion, pursued a centralized model for academic accommodations administered by faculties instead of individual professors, and made progress on revising tenure guidelines to include a mental health training requirement.
In the equity portion of the UA portfolio, Sobat helped produce guidelines for a formal policy on equitable hiring at McGill, with first training session held at the end of March. Progress on this issue was delayed after SSMU President Ben Ger’s resignation in March, but significant groundwork has been laid for implementing a policy in the future. Work on equitable governance reform was also pushed back with Ger’s resignation. Sobat worked on developing a baseline equity training workshop to accompany the Academic Integrity Tutorial on Minerva, a project that will continue into next year.
Aside from Sobat’s many successes on the student advocacy and equity portions of his portfolio, some of his actions this year betrayed the lack of adequate internal procedures within SSMU for dealing with disclosures regarding executives and SSMU staff. Sobat faced criticism for his support of former Arts Representative Igor Sadikov after his controversial tweet on Feb. 6. Sobat also failed to reveal former VP External David Aird’s weekly “check-ins” in the Fall semester. Sobat acknowledged that he knew about allegations of gendered violence against Ger ahead of time, but did not share them with the other SSMU executives–they were only made public after Ger’s resignation.
The McGill Tribune Editorial Board reviews the 2016-2017 Post-Graduate Students’ Society executives on their performance. Although these summaries intend to review the executives' entire terms, not all information received regarding each executive was published due to space constraints in the paper.
In its editorial discussion, the Tribune evaluated each executive based on feedback from student councillors and input from the executive team itself. In previous years, the Tribune has given grades to the executives based on feedback from councillors and the discussion of the editorial board. Given the extraordinary circumstances facing the SSMU executive team this semester, in which period two of the executives resigned, the Tribune decided that it would be inappropriate to do so this year.
During his tenure as Secretary-General, Victor Frankel worked closely with PGSS commissioners, SSMU, and the Sexual Assault Centre of the McGill Students’ Society (SACOMSS) on the McGill administration’s Policy against Sexual Violence, which was implemented in September of this academic year. Frankel has also been a tireless advocate for environmental justice at McGill, working with McGill’s Office of Sustainability toward the goal of carbon neutrality by 2021. In general, Frankel used his position on the McGill Board of Governors (BoG) to push for his vision for McGill to become a leader in sustainability and to voice the interests of Divest McGill, despite being surrounded by administrators who opposed the group’s mandate.
Frankel’s involvement in projects important to PGSS members is notable. He served as a PGSS consultant during the streamlining of Mental Health services undertaken by McGill. Frankel has also continued to be a vocal and active member at PGSS Council, and has been involved in drafting many of the motions presented. Additionally, Frankel’s colleagues commend his ongoing advocacy for social and climate justice. Concerns have been raised, however, that Frankel has prioritized passion projects to the detriment of other areas of his portfolio. In line with this concern, Frankel has also been criticized for a general lack of organization in managing the other PGSS executives. Still, Frankel has been approachable and supportive as Secretary-General and has shown sincerity in listening to criticism.
As Financial Affairs Officer, Mina Moradi has reportedly been available to discuss financial issues. In comparison to the vague information available on PGSS finances last year, Moradi made the fiscal state of PGSS somewhat clearer. Yet, there is contention regarding how much of that clarity is the result of her work, and how much can be attributed to external events and other executives.
Fortune favoured PGSS finances this year. The costly legal battle with the Canadian Federation of Students of 2010 over the validity of PGSS’s referendum to disaffiliate was resolved in February. Additionally, although McGill’s Fall 2016 decision to reclassify postdoctoral candidates as university employees will mean a loss of about $180,000 in membership fees in the future, postdoctoral candidates still paid fees for the 2016-17 year. It is troubling that Moradi has not, as of yet, implemented adequate solutions for future years.
Moradi is largely at fault for lack of communication. She started the year well with a thorough report to PGSS Council finalizing prices on events and working with the Secretary-General and Student Life Coordinator to allocate funds to Macdonald campus. She did not attend her second report, which was presented by the Secretary-General and largely focused on the financial impact of McTavish construction. Moreover, although Moradi states that one of her responsibilities is keeping the Legislative Council updated on financial realities, much of this burden appears to have fallen on the Secretary-General and the former Financial Affairs Officer, who answered questions instead of Moradi at a Council meeting on Oct.19 2016. She did comment on the motion to create the Innovation Commissioner position, but when asked how PGSS would pay for a new commissioner, Moradi only suggested a referendum to increase membership fees to enable the new commissioner to host events.
In general, there is not much information on what Moradi has accomplished, and that is an issue in itself.
Mina Anadolu has been highly collaborative in her approach to the Internal Affairs position, which has contributed to the substantial success of her portfolio. Her collaboration with over 50 groups and clubs on campus has also improved the graduate student community, as these groups became more visible to the membership. Anadolu successfully organized and promoted a diverse array of successful events—notably Graduate Orientation in Fall 2016—and focused on enhancing accessibility and inclusivity. In addition to planning social events, Anadolu also organized events that assisted graduate students in practical matters, such as through legal information and student rights sessions.
Anadolu developed a system for collecting and utilizing feedback from participants in order to inform event-planning decisions. Further, her emphasis on promoting health and safety at events is a significant step for the Society and improved participation at events. She ensured that each PGSS event had at least three different options for safety, including but not exclusive to the McGill Emergency Response Team (MSERT), DriveSafe, and Security personnel.
Overall, Anadolu demonstrated incredible energy and passion in her portfolio, which has manifested in a more connected graduate student body.
External Affairs Officer and incoming PGSS Secretary-General Jacob Lavigne focused much of his work on representation at inter-university organizations, including the Quebec Student Union (QSU), the Association for the Voice of Education in Quebec (AVEQ), and the soon-to-be-dissolved Fédération Étudiante Universitaire du Québec (FEUQ). Lavigne lobbied the university on multiple issues, including access to medical data in Quebec and advocating for student input in the design of the Royal Victoria Hospital, if McGill acquires it. He also pursued a variety of innovation-related initiatives.
Lavigne served on the Board of Directors (BoD) and, as Secretary of FEUQ, he ensured that the organization’s research findings and funds are distributed to PGSS as it dissolves. He represented PGSS as an observer at both QSU and AVEQ, and participated in the creation of ThinkGRAD, a think tank for graduate research and development with representatives from graduate student associations from across Canada.
Lavigne demonstrated his commitment to issues that he is passionate about by serving as the president of the Quartier de l’Innovation Student Working Group and led its transformation into the now fully student-led Quartier de l’Innovation Students’ Society (QISS). The group aims to raise awareness of and access to the Quartier de l’Innovation (QI). Lavigne was also instrumental in establishing an Innovation Commissioner position and Innovation Committee at PGSS, and sat on the university’s Innovation Steering Committee.
Lavigne’s established contacts and experience working with members of the administration will prove useful as he transitions to the role of Secretary-General at the end of his current term. He is currently producing a report advising PGSS to continue observer status at only one of QSU and AVEQ in the future.
Member Services Officer JennyAnn Pura spent the majority of her term focusing on the renewal of the PGSS Health and Dental plan and working closely with the Health Commissioner. Pura aided in passing two referendum questions concerning an increase in the services provided by the plan. By focusing primarily on becoming familiar with the system, Pura was better able to bring about concrete and achievable suggestions for change.
Additionally, Pura was committed to supporting the families of PGSS members. She made an effort to improve access to higher quality childcare for members with children. To this end, Pura created and managed the Study Saturdays program in collaboration with SSMU VP Student Life Elaine Patterson, and launched a campaign for a holiday gift exchange for student parents.
In addition, Pura created the Member Services Committee, which currently consists of one member. Continuing as Member Services Officer, next year Pura will build on the groundwork she laid in her first term. After gaining familiarity with her position this year, she aims to follow through with the projects that were set in motion. Pura said she wants to focus her efforts on populating the Member Services Committee. In line with her work supporting the families of PGSS members, she has also considered organizing a workshop for students living away from their primary support network.
Over the course of this year, Pura has earned praise for her ability to effectively communicate and negotiate on the Health and Dental plan. With a year of successful initiatives under her belt, her next term as Member Services Officer promises to be a fruitful one.
As Academic Affairs Officer, Nicholas Dunn has done an adequate job of maintaining the responsibilities of his portfolio. Dunn worked on the implementation of the McGill Policy against Sexual Assault by maintaining clear communication with SSMU, the Equity Commission, and PGSS members. He also advanced the Milestones Project, which helps graduate students keep track of the time to completion of their degree, and made progress on this.
Dunn made some effort to include the MacDonald Campus Graduate Students’ Society (MCGSS) in PGSS activities by holding workshops on the MacDonald campus. This was not enough to maintain positive relations with MCGSS, however, as MCGSS members recently voted to express their interest in exploring ceding from PGSS.
His commitment to increasing member involvement in PGSS committees was apparent through Dunn’s consistent outlining of available seats and the purpose of committees. Despite notoriously low student involvement in PGSS governance, PGSS committees were well staffed under Dunn. Dunn also encouraged members to be more involved in university governance by advertising opportunities to engage with members of the administration. Moreover, Dunn successfully coordinated revisions to the Charter of Students’ Rights, which will go to Senate for approval in May.
Although he wishes he would have done so sooner, Dunn was able to schedule consultations with the Dean of Libraries to discuss the future budgeting of the Library Improvement Fund. These consultations, the successful recruitment of committee members, and his continuation of work on long-term increased graduate student funding from the university will be an advantage for the incoming 2017-2018 Academic Affairs Officer.
Carving a new beginning in the face of rejection
According to Guy Winch, author and psychologist, the feeling of rejection is often associated with the feeling of physical pain, as these experiences activate the same areas of our brain. Though this is a time to be optimistic about future plans, denial from jobs, internships, and schools is common and leaves many students feeling discouraged.
Starting university is an incredible new beginning, however, determining which university to attend for undergraduate or graduate studies leaves many students grappling with rejection from their first-choice school. Eliza Snodgrass, U0 Arts, dealt with this before deciding to come to McGill for her undergraduate degree. It was particularly difficult because she became very attached to a school to which she was ultimately not accepted.
“I had fantasized about what I would do once I got [to my first-choice school, the University of Southern California (USC)] and had put so much emphasis on how important it was for me to go there,” Snodgrass said. “I truly felt like I deserved to get in because I worked so hard. I really tried to show them how much I wanted to go there and how much I cared, I mean, I slept in the T-shirt every single night.”
Snodgrass explained that the pain of that the reactions of others were more painful than what she was experiencing herself.
“[My friends and family] kept asking me how I was doing and for some reason everyone kind of expected me to be more upset than I was,” Snodgrass said. “It made sense, but I think people’s reactions were almost harder to deal with than the actual rejection.”
In dealing with the disappointment of not being accepted, it’s important to remember the silver lining in every outcome. In Snodgrass’ case, she is now loving Montreal and has adopted many leadership roles, such as Vice-President (VP) External of McConnell Hall residence council and Student Ambassador at McGill.
Rejections of all kinds are difficult to deal with, but they are always more difficult when they come from a community a person is already involved in that he or she trusts and cares about deeply. This type of rejection is much more personal, as it causes someone to doubt themselves, their abilities, and their circle of friends or colleagues. In the case of Sofia Harrison, a first-year Science student at the University of Toronto, she experienced these feelings after being rejected from a position at her childhood summer camp.
“I had known of many people who had not been asked to return as counsellors, but had never imagined myself to be in that position,” Harrison said. “So after my tenth amazing summer at camp, I was completely bewildered when I received a letter indicating that I was not chosen to follow the only path I had only ever imagined myself taking.”
Both Harrison and Snodgrass’ stories demonstrate how much harder rejection can feel when one is not expecting it. For Harrison, the aspect of jealousy towards those of her friends who got the opportunity she wished to have made dealing with it the hardest.
“One of the hardest parts of the day I got rejected was the buildup,” Harrison said. “All day I had been getting texts and snapchats from my friends getting in and telling me to rush home to open up my letter. We were all sure I would get in. Once I got home and opened the letter only to see I had been rejected, I felt like a failure, and I felt like I would lose all my friends.”
Although Harrison’s experience was jarring and difficult to overcome, it forced her to find her own new beginning. She has spent her past two summers working at an art camp and now can’t wait to return for her third.
“I think it’s important to maintain a good outlook and know that everything happens for a reason,” Harrison said. “[....] I can’t let the fact that I didn’t get a position working there ruin a whole lifetime of memories for me.”
Although rejection can feel heartbreaking, it is a way to break free from what is expected and open ourselves up to new beginnings. Maybe not getting what we’ve planned is meant to remind us that the world is so much more than just one single path. Rejection is a way to gain a new perspective, to reflect on ways to improve, and to eventually grow thicker skin. In this sense, it’s important to remember that people’s defeats do not define who they are as a person, but help them evolve.
Viewpoint: How I Transferred to McGill
Transferring to a new university is not a decision to make on a whim. If you are coming from outside of Canada, as I was, it can be an even bigger challenge, but I am proof that transferring is feasible, and that it can be the best decision of your life.
I applied to McGill on Dec. 1, 2015, only two months after I started studying at the University of Surrey. Surrey was my safety school, as I hadn’t been accepted to any of my top choices in the UK. It’s a smaller university of 15,000 students, located about 30 minutes southwest of London. Overall, Surrey was a great university, but from my first day there were several factors that made me question my choice to spend the next four years of my life there.
The University of Surrey states that it guarantees on-campus accommodation to all first year students; however, I wasn’t given this opportunity because I had applied to Surrey at the last minute, and all accommodation was full by then. I ended up living in a hotel for the first month of university, which caused me to miss out on a lot of opportunities to meet people and settle into this next stage of my life. I joined a few societies and the volleyball team, but felt like neither the students nor the university took either of them very seriously. My courses were interesting, but weren’t very challenging, so I found myself wasting my time more and more as the year went on.
After two months of feeling like I was on autopilot, I realized how unhappy I was, and decided I needed a new start. I reapplied to some universities in the UK, and—on a whim—branched out to McGill as well.
I’d be lying if I said that my transfer to McGill was easy once I’d applied. McGill makes it painfully obvious that transfer students are only admitted if there is space left in each faculty, and even then only if you show extremely high academic standards. When transferring, most places ask for both your high school and university grades, so maintaining a good GPA is vital to be able to be accepted elsewhere.
Another problem I faced was the timing of my application. My final exams at Surrey were in June, but by mid-May I still hadn’t heard back from McGill and needed to know whether to withdraw from Surrey or register for next year’s courses. At that point, I called Service Point, academic advisors, and any other relevant numbers I could get hold of almost every day. My persistence eventually paid off, and I believe it helped me stand out among other potential transfer students.
My parents were extremely supportive throughout the process. When I told them about my negative experience at Surrey, they were sympathetic, but wouldn’t let me drop out for the rest of the year and apply somewhere else, which was my initial plan. Instead, they suggested I apply to transfer and use my time at Surrey to boost my transfer application. Dropping out without a good reason isn’t reflected well in university applications, whether you are a transfer student or not.
Motivations for transferring vary case-to-case. Some students may thrive in a quieter environment with fewer people and less academic stress. Others may feel that they aren’t being challenged enough and are frequently bored. Social settings are also worth considering: How easy has it been to make friends or feel comfortable at your current school? The best thing to do is pinpoint why you are unhappy where you are currently, and decide whether uprooting your life to start again will be worth it. It is a huge decision to make, and you have to be confident that you have more to lose by staying at your current university than by moving to someplace new.
I’m much happier at McGill than I was at Surrey. I prefer the busy city life to the quiet British countryside, my courses are more demanding, and I am never bored with the wide variety of extracurricular activities available on campus.
If I had to give one piece of advice to students looking to transfer—either to or from McGill—it would be to follow your instincts. I knew that deciding to transfer would be the biggest decision of my life up to that point; there were plenty of obstacles in the way, such as application timing and moving to a new continent, that could have easily stopped me. Despite everything, I persevered. In the end, you are the only person who truly understands the situation you are in. If you are unhappy, you owe it to yourself to change your life.
The Mysterious World Beyond Roddick Gates: Apprehension in the face of New Beginnings
As the end of the year approaches, many McGill students will venture out of the world of undergraduate studies. Yet even after convocation, many choose to return to university, this time for graduate school. While going to grad school can be a fun and rewarding experience, social pressure to earn post-graduate degrees and the burden of adulthood leave many students feeling apprehensive about this decision.
One such voyager into the land of graduate studies is Claire Motyer, U3 Music. She has recently been accepted to a Master’s program in Performance Science across the pond at the Royal College of Music in London, England. While this is an exciting new prospect, Motyer worries if she can both financially afford and emotionally handle more schooling.
“[The fact that I have] already been in school for four years and doing another degree right away is what is holding me back a bit,” Motyer said. “It can be draining for me not to take some time off. I’m not worried about the program I would be in, I think the program I chose is a good fit for me and I’m excited about that. It’s more aspects like living in London, overseas and far away, and the financial [aspects].”
Melanie Greenwald, U3 Arts and Science, is also ready to graduate this semester and head into more schooling. Though her post-grad arrangements are not quite set in stone, she plans to return to her hometown on Long Island and study at a graduate school near her parents’ home to save money. For Greenwald, the deflating value of an undergraduate degree is pushing her to attend grad school; however, she worries that finishing a Master’s degree will still not be enough to help her find stable employment.
“I’m worried about not finding a job with just a bachelor’s degree,” Greenwald said. “Or even with a Master’s degree, which is what I’m going for. It’s asking yourself, ‘How am I going to find a job?’ [....] I feel that in the 60s, [since] everyone got a high school degree, [people were] like, ‘Now we have to go to college [to compete….]’ It’s really bad for people who can’t afford that [because] university is expensive.”
There’s a lot to worry about when getting a Master’s degree in modern society. On top of the fatigue of completing more schooling comes the fact that in North America a bachelor’s degree is perceived similarly to how high school diplomas were once viewed—a basic necessity. According to a 2014 article in the National Post, 51 per cent of Canadian adults have at least a bachelor’s degree, but many post-secondary graduates earn less than the national median. This is because the saturation of degree-holders have forced many employers to increase their qualifications. Low-paying jobs that used to only require a high school diploma now require a bachelor’s degree or more. Yet, according to the same article, a Master’s degree earned immediately after university can make job applicants seem overqualified, despite having no job experience. This leads to many Master’s graduates who are either unemployed or underemployed, making it difficult to pay off even the $27,000 average debt owed by bachelor’s graduates. These realities can cause a lot of apprehension for those pursuing even higher education.
Despite the many factors that can make one hesitant about attending grad school, the Washington Post found that a Master’s graduate who acquires a job earns more than a bachelor’s graduate on average in the U.S. There’s also the fact that for some, going into a field one is passionate about gives excitement and hope about what lies beyond the bounds of Strathcona or Burnside.
“I really find it very appealing going to London since it’s a new environment, [...] so I’m really excited about the abroad aspect, experiencing a different city and being able to travel around there,” Motyer said. “I’m hopeful about expanding my network and meeting new people. Also, I’m really happy that I’m doing this [program because] it’s something I really like and am passionate about.”
Ultimately, the apprehensions of going to grad school are rooted in the pressure to be successful and live a stable life.
“[In the end], I just want to be stable, financially stable, living in harmony, and being happy,” Greenwald said “Maybe in a romantic relationship, maybe having a family. That’s too far in the future. Definitely, I want to be financially stable and in a house where I don’t have to depend on my parents and I’m happy working and doing what I’m doing for a living.”
From Second Cup to Milton B
In February 2017, the 24-hour Second Cup on rue Milton and Avenue du Parc boarded its walls and announced its permanent closure. For 12 years, it served as more than just a coffee shop. With a high percentage of McGill students living in the Milton-Parc community, the cafe was a cozy study space during exam season, wheree students flooded tables with notes and laptops during late hours.
McGill students were shocked by the closing of Second Cup, with many voicing concerns on social media. Their primary worry was about losing a late night study space, as the Second Cup was one of the few coffee shops open for 24 hours.
“Wow that was an institution,” commented Reddit user holistic_water_bottl. “Where am I gonna go now when I need to finish a term paper the night before[?]”
According to Jack Ahmed, former owner of the Second Cup, the main reason that the store closed down was due to issues with licensing.
“There were disagreements [with corporate] that didn’t have anything to do with this location,” Ahmed said. “I used to own several Second Cups. [Basically], they gave me a high bill for renovations, which was not agreed upon [....] So, I said, ‘I can’t do this,’ [....] One by one, my [Second Cups] came up for renewal, and they didn’t renew me. [The Milton-Parc one] was the last Second Cup [left], and they didn’t renew me.”
In the end, however, Ahmed is much happier. He believes he now has the freedom to pursue a business model that aligns with his interests. Shortly after hearing the news from corporate, he decided to open a new store in the place of the old Second Cup, a self-described ‘urban cafeteria’ named Milton B.
“I’ve been in business for the last 30 years,” Ahmed said. “Now, I can go ahead and do what I’ve always been dreaming about, creating my own brand.”
Since Ahmed has been running the Second Cup on Milton for the last 12 years, he cites his familiarity with the Milton-Parc community in helping him develop his idea for the 24 hour café. For Ahmed, his interests in ecology and sustainability are shaping Milton B’s business model and brand.
“I’m trying to cater to the community [and also express my love for the environment],” he said. “What better way to represent the [neighbourhood] than the actual name? [.…] The ‘B’ in Milton B stands for the bumble bee, [which are] incredibly important [in terms of the environment].”
Basing his model on sustainability practices, Ahmed plans to buy local food. Rather than buying milk from Natrel or Quebon, both of which are large conglomerates, Ahmed says he intends to purchase milk from small dairy farms in the Eastern Townships. Additionally, Ahmed now has the opportunity to expand his menu options and give customers a space to grab a coffee or study while providing fresh, locally sourced food.
“The food from Second Cup was coming in packaged from outside,” he explained. “We are going to prepare everything on hand, [although] not from scratch. [I] call [Milton B] an ‘urban cafeteria’ because [there will be] a lot more food options.”
Though Ahmed admits that he would have kept the Second Cup had the corporation renewed his franchising license, he is still incredibly happy with the work he has done on Milton B.
“A franchise model is very rigid,” Ahmed said. “There’s no flexibility in what you can do. But [closing down and starting again] has allowed me to use my creativity and express myself.
Science & Technology
New ideas in new beginnings: McGill Alumnus develops one-handed surgical knot-tying
McGill alumnus Farah Na’el Musharbash has created a new method to tie surgical knots that only requires the use of one hand, which can be greatly advantageous to a surgeon. After attending McGill University from 2012 to 2015, Musharbash began medical school at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. He worked closely with the Dean of Medical Education Dr. Michael Awad in developing this technique.
An article and a video of the new method was published online and in the medical journal, The Annals of the Royal College of Surgeons of England.
“It’s a new one-handed method for tying surgical knots, where one hand is completely free, except at the end to help tighten the throw,” Musharbash explained.
The majority of suture ties require the use of two hands, and one-handed surgical knots can offer a higher degree of flexibility for a surgeon. This technique allows the other hand to perform a task away from the surgical site, such as maintaining pressure on an organ, which is especially useful in situations when a surgeon may not have an assistant.
While there were one-handed knot variations that existed prior to Musharbash’s method, he found that in practice they actually required both hands. This prompted him to look closely into different knot tying techniques and it took a couple of months before his method was created and finalized.
Although the knot is actually quite straightforward, Musharbash believes that its simplicity is what makes it special and innovative.
“As students, sometimes we don’t have the resources for a big lab,” Musharbash said. “[But] you have these simple ideas, and [most] of them are not going to end up giving you anything, but if you follow through [on] enough of them, you’ll come up with one or two things that are new.”
As a physiology major at McGill, Musharbash was involved extensively in research. He worked in a biomedical engineering lab with Professor David Juncker and in mathematical research with Faculty Lecturer Sidney Trudeau.
“Getting involved in research gave me the right building blocks and way of thinking […] to succeed in med school,” Musharbash said.
While Musharbash believes that it was his research experience at McGill that helped adequately prepare him to face the challenges in medical school, taking leadership roles also helped him develop essential skills in communication, organizing, and turning his ideas into reality. Musharbash is a co-founder of the non-profit organization Heart4Heart at McGill, which aims to provide heart surgeries for children in developing countries.
“It’s not just about how well you do in the books, but rather, how well you communicate, how well you’re organized, and if you can make things happen,” Musharbash said.
As for advice for prospective medical students in undergraduate programs, Musharbash recommends having a realistic balance between academics and extracurriculars, as students often try to do everything at once.
“Never lose sight of your priorities,” Musharbash said. “[….] And the number one priority [should be] your studies. Have that taken care of before you delve into lots of other things.”
New study reveals how magnets can improve memory
Desperately looking for new ways to cram for upcoming exams? Researchers at the Montreal Neurological Institute (MNI) of McGill University have discovered a way to improve sound memory performance in the brain using magnetic pulses.
The researchers of the study, published on March 23 in Neuron, asked study participants to perform auditory memory tasks while their brain activity was monitored. Participants listened to pairs of short melodies, which were either the same or had slight pitch changes, and had to identify a change in the pattern.
It was previously known that a network of neurons in a region of the brain called the parietal stream played a role in auditory memory. However, prior to this study, the role of theta waves in this brain region had not been understood.
By using two types of brain scanners called magnetoencephalography (MEG) and electroencephalography (EEG), the MNI researchers were able to detect pulses of theta waves in the parietal stream when the study participants performed auditory tasks.
“We identified that in this very region there was a certain rhythm of theta waves that was strong when the task required the involvement of working memory,” Dr. Sylvain Baillet, a co-senior author of the study and Professor in the Department of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Biomedical Engineering, explained.
To further explore the relationship between theta waves and auditory memory, the study proceeded to expose the theta waves to transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) while performing the same set of tasks.
The researchers predicted that TMS would stimulate and enhance the theta waves in the parietal stream, which in turn would improve working memory.
Before the stimulation began, the researchers programmed the TMS exposure to correspond to the rhythm of the theta oscillations. While being induced with TMS, the participants performed the same memory tasks, but this time with increased improvement.
Interestingly, the theta activity in the brain predicted the participants’ performance, according to Philippe Albouy, the study’s lead author.
“This means that the more theta waves the brain is generating, the better the participants are at their tasks,” Albouy said.
It was also crucial that the TMS pulses were in sync with the theta oscillations.
“The benefits in terms of performance [were] observed mainly for the rhythmic stimulation only,” Albouy clarified. “This makes a link between ongoing theta oscillations and [the potential] to modify the rhythm of those oscillations to boost participants’ performance on a given task.”
To verify their theory, the researchers repeated the experiment, but this time with non-rhythmic magnetic pulses. This did not result in any improvement in memory, highlighting the fact that the rhythmic magnetic pulses were key.
Interestingly enough, the TMS machine itself produces a certain sound when activated. This led some researchers to believe that it may be possible that the sound itself improved memory; however, this was quickly disproved.
The implications of this study may lead to more research on the benefits of TMS on not only auditory memory performance, but vision, perception, and learning, as well. Additionally, it may even have clinical applications, such as aiding Alzheimer’s—a disease that damages neurons and memory in the brain.
However, Albouy and Baillet temper speculations of future TMS treatments and insist further research must be done. This study only proved the effects of TMS on short-term auditory memory. The next step for the researchers is to test the long-term effects of stimulation to determine if plasticity in the brain tissue can be altered to improve memory in the long run.
Arts & Entertainment
From the Viewpoint: Digital Spring at the McCord Museum
I’ve only just walked into “After Hours Fashion Tech,” an exposition on fashion technology at the McCord Museum, when an usher slaps a futuristic white watch on my wrist and a bartender thrusts an almond-lavender gin cocktail into my hand. I’m equipped, buzzed, and ready to maneuver this dense crowd mingling underneath similarly mobile spinning geometric neon lights while DJs pump steady bass heartbeats into the cavernous showspace. Some artist in their underwear is twisting into yoga poses in front of a mirror under muted red lamps. This is the future of fashion, bitches.
The McCord Museum of Social History presented “After Hours Fashion Tech” last Thursday night. The exposition was a one-night-only technological extravaganza highlighting the beginning of the “Printemps Numérique” (Montreal Digital Spring), Montreal’s 2017 theme for the city’s annual slew of summer festivals. Scanning the showspace, I notice that I can get holographically fitted for a bra or, for men, a full suit, which seems slightly incomparable, but whatever. A knee-high shelf in the centre of the room displays half a dozen impossibly high heels designed to look like surf-caught seashells and sparkling cliffs. Some have feminist mantras etched into the heels’ wedges. I immediately wish I had worn heels of my own so that I could easily see over the crowd, to where people are getting fancy mini-burgers.
The ultra-modern aspects of the exhibition stand in sharp contrast to the newest temporary exhibition, the Expo 67 (running until October 2017)—a collection of hostess dresses and other colourful outfits hailing from the year 1967. It’s somewhat unclear how much the interactive elements of tonight are meant to work with the Expo display, but patrons tired of the loud DJ hide deep in the maze of pastel suits, swirling their cocktails. While the exhibit is itself visually lush, to my chagrin, nothing about it is interactive besides a spacesuit-clad mannequin that flushes with LEDs when someone walks in front of a hidden camera in the lapel. I ask for a demonstration, but the museum employee informs me that it’s broken at the moment; remarkably poor timing, considering it’s not a permanent part of the Expo.
Some woman in a virtual reality (VR) headset is stumbling around a cleared semi-circle, using her arms to paint a 3-D dress. I try the headset after her, marvelling at the level of detail in my vaguely dress-like creation. Two minutes later, however, I have to step back to make space for the next Picasso fashionista. Again, I wish that this were a permanent part of the Expo 67 collection, since this Cinderella-esque single night of stylistic innovation would serve a as a greater inspiration for the masses if it could stay.
It seems the primary purpose of this event is networking, given the clusters of tightly packed people clinking glasses and wearing glowing watches, but the friend who accompanied me tells me the usher accidentally registered my synchronized watch under another person named Virginia. I will take time now to apologize to that Virginia for using my watch’s insta-contact-swapping powers to swiftly maneuver an awkward dude in a suit trying to flirt with me. I cut him off—one press of the watch’s single button, and both of our watches light up in apparent synchronization, allowing me to politely leave the conversation. What an unexpectedly awesome side benefit. Please ignore that automatic email from a certain clingy “Claude,” Virginia.
Ultimately, it’s unfortunate that this exposition will not last beyond tonight, as it would be an excellent addition to Expo 67 and no doubt the VR experience would draw visitors. But if this display of technological innovation in fashion is a mere example of what to expect for the festival scene this summer, then the coming months are bound to be exciting and explosively colourful.
Redmen Baseball was dominant from start to finish this season, posting a 15-1 regular season record and cruising through the postseason to clinch the team’s third-straight CCBA national championship. In the first round of the CCBA playoffs, the Redmen conquered the Montreal Carabins to advance, claiming the first and third games of the best-of-three series. In round two, they swept the Concordia Stingers to win the CCBA North conference. Then, they broke out at the national championship, scoring 37 runs while allowing just 11 in the five-game tournament.
In the final game, starting pitcher Simon Brisebois was lights-out for the Montreal Carabins, but, tied 2-2 with two outs in the bottom of the seventh, first-year catcher Christopher Stanford took a 1-0 fastball over the left-centre field wall to walk-off with the championship. Head Coach Jason Starr deserves a lot of credit for the squad’s success and for never letting them rest on their laurels throughout the year.
This 300-pound monster established himself as not only the best rookie, but the best defensive tackle in the RSEQ. Freshmen Andre Seinet-Spaulding’s penchant for pushing the pile rewarded him with 29 total tackles and 3.5 sacks.
Seinet-Spaulding’s space-eating presence netted him the RSEQ Defensive Rookie of the Year award. At the McGill Football Awards Gala on March 25, he was given the Students’ Society Trophy for McGill Team MVP, the Friends of McGill Football Trophy for Best Defensive Player, and the Charlie Baillie Trophy for most outstanding team player. He is only the third freshmen in McGill history to be awarded the Students’ Society Trophy.
Seinet-Spaulding’s continued dominance on the field bodes well for a McGill team that finished the season 4-4—Redmen football’s best record since 2006. Head Coach Ronald Hilaire has the team moving in the right direction and having a game-breaking young talent like Seinet-Spaulding makes his job that much simpler.
Redmen lacrosse attacker Spencer Bromley continued his streak of excellence this season. He led the CUFLA East Division in goals scored and was third in overall points. His efforts helped secure first place for McGill going into nationals.
The senior captain was announced as a CUFLA All-Canadian, along with teammates midfielder Emile Sassone-Lawless and defender Bradley Hofmann. Bromley is no stranger to superhuman feats, scoring six goals in a game on two separate occasions. The first occurred on Oct. 16 during a 15-8 smackdown of the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees, with the second coming the following week against the Queen’s Gaels.
As a sign of his continued success, Bromley was the first McGill athlete ever drafted by the National Lacrosse League (NLL). He was selected 48th overall in the fifth round by the Saskatchewan Rush—a fitting end to the university career of the best lacrosse player in McGill history.
In his seventh season with the Redmen, Head Coach David DeAveiro led his squad to their fifth consecutive first-place finish in the RSEQ regular season. With a roster full of veteran talent, the squad cruised through the conference playoffs, beating the Laval Rouge et Or before clinching gold with an 82-65 beatdown over the UQÀM Citadins.
Despite losing their starting point guard Kendrick Jolin to an upper-body injury late in the season, the Redmen managed to remain hot, heading into the U Sports National Tournament as the third seed. After a heartbreaking 72-69 loss last year in the first round against the University of Calgary Dinos, McGill was determined to exorcise their first-round demons and advance. Against a strong Manitoba Bison squad, the Redmen jumped ahead early and never looked back, downing the Bison 63-53. Though the squad lost in the second round to the eventual national-champion Carleton Ravens, the team’s fourth-place finish ties McGill’s best finish in 40 years.