At the Post-Graduate Students’ Society of McGill University (PGSS) meeting on Nov. 21, councillors discussed the McGill-PGSS Library Improvement Fund (LIF) contract and voted to endorse changing the Redmen name. Despite the setback of missing documentation, Sara Allan, PGSS Library Improvement Fund coordinator, presented on the LIF and the Council voted to support it.
Motion for McGill-PGSS Library Improvement Fund Contract
The PGSS Library Improvement Fund (LIF) of $3.00 per student has existed since 2009 to fund projects and proposals that improve the McGill library environment for graduate students.
Although the LIF expired last semester, PGSS currently has a total of $400,000 in funds generated by the fee, held in a bank account managed by the McGill Library services. Allan believes that the LIF should be continued, referencing the results from the recent PGSS graduate library-use survey.
“Over 100 students were surveyed and over half of them use the library weekly or daily,” Allan said. “There are [also] a substantial [number of graduate students who] use the library electronically. That was more than I expected, so that is a really good argument to continue this fund.”
Allan disclosed to the Council that the contract governing the management of the LIF and documentation of past projects, which were entrusted to the McGill Library for safekeeping, are missing.
“The major issue is that we are facing at the moment is [that] our memorandum of agreement is missing,” Allan said. “As of now, we are in the position of wondering what to do. We need to find the memorandum agreement […or], if we cannot find the document, we will write a new contract.”
Allan explained that a referendum to renew the LIF cannot take place until the contract is either found or replaced. She presented some ideas of future projects that the LIF can fund once a new contract is drawn up to prepare for a referendum.
“[Graduates have requested] lockers at individual desks so people can lock their laptops up and go to the bathroom, and a tech lending [system] of chargers, laptops, and other tech devices,” Allan said. “Library planning as of last week said that they were actually willing to support this and do the cataloging and care of these items if we do our half of the work.”
PGSS Secretary-General Helena Zakrzewski urged the adoption of the motion and claimed that a legally binding contract will avert future problems by establishing expectations for both McGill Libraries and PGSS.
“With the creation of a contract, we are able to hold both parties, ourselves included, [accountable],” Zakrzewski said.
The motion, which called for the development of a new contract before a referendum to renew the fee in the future, passed with a majority voting in favour.
Motion for endorsing ‘Change the Redmen Name’
The name ‘Redmen’, used by men’s varsity teams, has recently drawn attention for its use as a racial slur against indigenous peoples. PGSS Member Services Officer Jeremy Goh and PGSS Equity Commissioner Harmehr Sekhon motioned to sign both an open letter and a petition spearheaded by varsity athlete Tomas Jirousek, calling for the immediate renaming of the men’s varsity teams. During the question period, Patricia Goerner-Potvin, Vice President communication of the Human Genetics Student Society and former athlete on the varsity rowing team, explained the origins of the Redmen name.
“‘Redmen’ originally [started] from the Redcoats and the [Scottish] history of McGill, so that was the main argument for why it was not racist,” Goerner-Potvin said. “In the ‘80s and other times, [however], various different sports teams have turned it into a racial slur by associating [the term] ‘Squaw’ with some of the women’s teams and ‘Mohawk’ to some of the men’s [teams] to reference it as being Redmen from native people.”
The motion passed by an overwhelming majority.