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.
Secretary-General: Victor Frankel
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.
Financial Affairs Officer: Mina Moradi
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.
Internal Affairs Officer: Mina Anadolu
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 four different options for safety, including but not exclusive to the McGill Emergency Response Team (MSERT), DriveSafe, WalkSafe, 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: Jacob Lavigne
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
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.
Academic Affairs Officer: Nicholas Dunn
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.