Following the Quebec Ministère de l’Éducation et de l’Enseignement’s approval of McGill University’s bioengineering undergraduate program in June 2016, students of the department are now campaigning for their own society.
First year bioengineering students Niloufar Serajmehdizadeh and Itai Wine have been elected as representatives to shadow Chemical Engineering Students’ Society (CHESS) and McGill Association of Mechanical Engineers (MAME) respectively, in order learn about the operations of a student group.
By forming an undergraduate society, bioengineering students look to gain access to their own student lounge, establish formal connections with companies in their field, schedule workshops and outings that would help advance students’ careers, and maintain a relationship with department heads.
Engineering Undergraduate Society (EUS) Council President Jean-Louis Shi, U4 Mechanical Engineering, stressed that student representatives should learn how EUS operates before diving into their own projects. Shi intends for a bioengineering society to be established in two years.
“Most of our departments have 400 students on average,” Shi said. “With only 30 students in the department, we tried to make sure that [the bioengineering department] have the right resources, the right tools to create events, and have their own services and initiatives. Within these two years, we’ll build up the leadership of a future bioengineering department […] we want to give them an understanding [of] how to work with the EUS. Unfortunately, a lot of things in our society are not written down. It’s a lot of passed down knowledge of how to organize events.”
Serajmehdizadeh voiced her dissatisfaction with the lack of functions dedicated to bioengineering students.
“We are invited to [other engineering departments’] events but a lot of their events don’t apply to us,” Serajmehdizadeh said. “[CHESS] gets tours for a chemical factory, but it’s not really relevant to [bioengineering] students. This is one of our main arguments for why we want our own student society with our own events. Right now, we’re shadowing these two student societies [CHESS and MAME] because we don’t have [our own society].”
As part of their student fees, bioengineering students contribute to a student society fund. However, due to the small number of students enrolled in the program, this capital amounts to approximately $200. In an email to The Tribune, MAME President Dimitri Calomiris reiterated the impossibility of forming a bioengineering society this year.
“It takes a large amount of planning, knowledge, and funding,” Calomiris wrote. “It is incredibly unfeasible for a brand new department to set up an operational society this year. As such, mechanical took a representative to show the bioengineering students how things are run on our side such that they can follow in our footsteps.”
Serajmehdizadeh insists that there are no strained relations between the bioengineering department, CHESS, and MAME. Even so, she voiced frustration with the EUS.
“Our main tension is with EUS [….] Before reaching out to CHESS, we were reaching out to EUS itself to start a student society, but they weren’t agreeing with it,” Serajmehdizadeh said. ‘They were like you have to wait. You’re not a lot of people. But then Kerry Lawless [President of CHESS] sent me the constitution of the EUS and there is no rule saying that you need to be [a certain] amount of people to start a student society.”
The EUS Council gave voting privileges to a single bioengineering representative present at meeting on Oct 12. Serajmehdizadeh and Wine will therefore take turns voting on EUS Council motions.
“I felt that they still needed a voice,” Shi said. “I decided to pass a motion to give the bioengineering class one vote at council. So, now they at least have representation on council.”
Despite submitting a petition to the EUS, the motion to create a bioengineering student society has been postponed to the following EUS Council meeting on the grounds that the Council speaker was not notified 72 hours prior. However, in an email to The Tribune, Serajmehdizadeh attributed this delay to a misunderstanding between both parties.
“The motion got postponed due to miscommunication on both sides,” Serajmehdizadeh said. “EUS is actually cooperating with us now and [Shi] agreed to have a meeting with all the BUSS (Bioengineering Undergraduate Student Society) execs and discuss the possibility of a student society.”
Shi confirmed that he would meet with both bioengineering representatives on Oct. 24.
“We’re going to meet them and have a chat with the whole society that they created,” Shi said. “We’ll ask them to meet us more regularly if they want to go forward with this. Right now, I’m not sure if they’re aware of the technicalities of how to run events with the EUS. If they don’t want to do the chaperoning [with CHESS and MAME], we have to make sure they have the right learning path because that’s the most crucial aspect of creating a society.”