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PGSS executive midterm reviews

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This week, the McGill Tribune conducted midterm reviews of the Post-Graduate Students' Society (PGSS) executives.

Victor Frankel: Secretary-General

As PGSS Secretary-General, Victor Frankel has had a hand in many projects across all the executives’ portfolios and ensured that the team has worked together effectively and efficiently. Participation in the society from graduate students tends to be less than that of undergraduates’ involvement in SSMU activities. To try to reverse this trend, Frankel worked closely with PGSS Internal Affairs Officer Mina Anadolu to expand graduate student orientation week to include more activities to help members familiarize themselves with McGill and Montreal. The week was well attended and feedback from participating students was positive. In addition, PGSS has significantly increased programming for its members this year, with over 120 social events planned across the Fall and Winter semesters, from trivia nights to weekly meditation sessions in Thomson House to snow-globe making workshops.

In the first half of his term, Frankel worked with PGSS commissioners, SSMU, and SACOMSS to consult with students and provide input on the McGill administration’s draft of the Policy against Sexual Violence. On Nov. 23, the McGill Senate unanimously approved the Policy, which will now proceed to the McGill Board of Governors for approval on Dec. 1. This semester, Frankel has worked with Member Services Officer Jenny Ann Pura and PGSS Health Commissioner Andrew Dixon to provide input on the streamlining and restructuring of mental health services at McGill and on how to improve the PGSS Health and Dental Plan.

Frankel, a PhD Candidate in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, has contributed to and will continue to work on various sustainability and climate policy initiatives at McGill toward the eventual goal of reaching carbon neutrality in time for the university’s 200th anniversary in 2021. He has been collaborating with McGill's Office of Sustainability PGSS environment commissioners to increase academic and research activities focused on sustainability and climate change at McGill.

Jacob Lavigne: External Affairs Officer

In his first semester as External Affairs Officer, Lavigne has been kept busy attending meetings for five different provincial student federation bodies. These include the Union Étudiante du Quebec (UÉQ) and the Association for the Voice of Education in Quebec (AVEQ), as PGSS has yet to affiliate to either. Lavigne is also attending meetings of the Quebec Health Professional Students’ Round Table (FRESQue) and serving as secretary of the Board of Directors of the Fédération Étudiante Universitaire du Quebec (FÉUQ) in order to oversee the liquidation of FÉUQ's assets and the dissolve of the organization. FEUQ is scheduled to be fully dissoluted by April 2017. Lavigne has been active in the reformation of the GU 15–a group of graduate student associations from the largest 15 research universities in Canada– into ThinkGrad, which is currently undergoing the incorporation process and recruiting new members.

Lavigne has been active in creating professional development opportunities for PGSS members, especially with the Quartier d’Innovation (QI). PGSS has now established the QInnovator Awards in conjunction with QI, and is in the final stages of planning for handing out the first award. In addition, he has been organizing a seminar series on innovation.

The majority of his time in office has been spent attending conferences and meetings for these groups both in Montreal and across Quebec. PGSS is scheduled to go through a referendum in January or February 2017 to choose a federation to affiliate to. During his campaign, Lavigne ran on a promise to hold a general referendum and give PGSS members the chance to choose between both AVEQ and EUQ. He has since changed this plan after consulting other student associations who have found this form of referendum unsuccessful, and will present both organizations to PGSS Council to choose which to present to constituents in the referendum.

Jenny Ann Pura: Member Services Officer

Pura has successfully coordinated with SSMU, and particularly VP Student Life Elaine Patterson, to bring Study Saturdays—a free service that allows student parents to leave their children with volunteer babysitters during the weekend—into the SSMU Building, which is more accessible given the ongoing construction around Thomson House. Pura will continue to improve the service by increasing the number of volunteers and working to collaborate with Midnight Kitchen, a food service on campus, to provide free food to parents during the study session.

A significant undertaking of Pura’s portfolio is increasing its presence and collaboration with the rest of McGill. To this end she has worked with the Academic Affairs Officer to create a Member Services Committee, which will assist in ensuring that services are represented in other committees throughout the university.

Next semester, Pura will review the PGSS Health and Dental Plan as the renewal referendum will occur in March. In addition, she is working on a networking trip to Ottawa and on providing workshops for international students.

Mina Anadolu: Internal Affairs Officer

As Internal Affairs Officer, Anadolu’s main role is to organize events and workshops for post-graduate students at McGill. Anadolu has diversified the PGSS events portfolio to reflect the interests of a diverse and multicultural community, such as by organizing more health and wellness related events as well as panels on equity and diversity.

Anadolu has also been working on improving communications with PGSS members. PGSS Newswire, a bi-monthly newsletter electronically distributed to all PGSS members, has been redesigned and streamlined in an effort to increase readership.

In response to recent reports of sexual assault and harassment along McTavish Street and Dr. Penfield Avenue, Anadolu has taken steps to ensure the safety of students who attended PGSS’s masquerade ball on Nov. 19 at Thomson House, which included hiring security and working with the McGill Student Emergency Response Team (M-SERT). Anadolu hopes that these measures will ensure that PGSS members feel comfortable attending PGSS events.

Anadolu has also been pushing for the integration of graduate research projects into PGSS functions; however, this initiative has so far received mixed reviews from participants. The Internal Affairs Committee will deliberate whether to change the approach for the Winter semester and is rethinking ways to support graduate research on campus.

Nicholas Dunn: Academic Affairs Officer

As Academic Affairs Officer, Dunn has been focused primarily on graduate student representation on PGSS and university committees. Dunn has made comprehensive lists of open committee positions available to graduate students through a listerv in order to encourage this representation. Additionally, Dunn has organized multiple academic workshops such as “Managing Your Supervisor” and PGSS academic information sessions.

During his ‘Meet the Executive’ interview in September, Dunn mentioned that he was working on the inequity of funding packages distributed to international and out of province Master’s students versus Canadian students. As the funds of the packages don’t reflect the difference in tuition between these two groups of students, Dunn expressed desire to close that gap. This is certainly an important issue to look into; unfortunately, no progress on this front has been reported by Dunn in his monthly council reports.

Mina Moradi: Financial Affairs Officer

Mina Moradi did not provide a comment to the Tribune.

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Jacob Lavigne is the secretary of the FEUQ, when in fact he is the secretary of the Board of Directors of the FEUQ. The Tribune regrets this error. 

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