PGSS Council approves upcoming referendum questions

The Post Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS) Council convened on Feb. 5 to discuss questions for the upcoming referendum and the creation of the position of Macdonald Campus Commissioner. Many significant referendum questions were approved during the meeting, including the approval of the use of the keep.meSAFE mental health support system, making revisions to the PGSS Health and Dental Plan, the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Daycare, and the Library Improvement Fund.

Currently, there is no dedicated point of contact between PGSS and the Macdonald Campus Graduate Students’ Society (MCGSS). External Affairs Officer Esteban Gongora Bernoske expressed that he had been serving as an ad hoc bridge between PGSS and MCGSS, facilitating communications during orientation events on both campuses. This was due in part to his prior experiences as a Macdonald Campus student. 

“Someone like me who knows both organizations will not always be around, so in that case, there [would be] no strong link between the two,” Bernoske said. 

A common theme of the proposed referendum questions was healthcare. The proposal to add a referendum question to replace the current telecom mental health provider, empowerME, with keep.meSAFE passed. Not attached to the Wellness Hub, keep.meSAFE will be funded through McGill student services and a $2.75 per semester student fee. In addition to on-campus mental health resources, keep.meSAFE would have no cap on student use. PGSS also noted that the website would provide more options for coverage, including in person services. 

Similarly, a motion to increase coverage offered by the PGSS Health and Dental Plan passed. Secretary General Dakota Rogers noted that the current plan has many faults that lead to unfair servicing.

“An addition to [the plan] is capping how much dentists can charge our insurance plan on scaling [….]” Rogers said. “For example, dentists will commonly charge [students for 90 minutes] of scaling [….] No one sits in a chair for an hour and a half. But they can do it because it’s not a verifiable service.”

The new plan would have stricter caps on specific services, as well as more payment options for students. 

All but two of the proposed referendum questions were approved to be added to the ballot. The Council voted to reject a student-submitted question on joining the Quebec Students’ Union (QSU) and a vote on the creation of a committee to consider the health insurance plan unification. Founded in 2015, the QSU currently represents eight student unions across Quebec, and is the sole remaining provincial federation that advocates for student union interests at a government level. However, members of PGSS expressed concern over the practicality of joining the QSU.

“It’s true that lobbying work is important,” Bradley Alexander, member of the Graduate Law Students’ Association (GLSA), said. “But what I think we should be doing is having a conversation about what PGSS should be doing [for] the student movement. For years, we’ve been having this depoliticized conversation about whether or not we should join QSU [….] But, what we should be doing is talking about how we want to be involved in the student movement.”

Moment of the meeting: 

The last question to be approved for the referendum was a proposed $300 to install an industrial shredder in the McLennan-Redpath Library. Following heated discussions on accessibility and healthcare, this trivial addition to the ballot drew laughs from the tense room. 

Sound bite: 

“This is a political decision and […] the QSU has politics and talks with the government. So that’s my problem with this. We’re looking forward to joining a political organization that’s going to go to a very problematic provincial government [and] we should be discussing how we want to relate to them.” — Bradley Alexander, GLSA member, expressing opposition to PGSS joining QSU.

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