The McGill Tribune Editorial Board reviews the 2015-2016 PGSS executive on its performance. Click on one of the pictures to get started.
Brighita Lungu has held the position of PGSS Member Services Officer for two consecutive years. This year, Lungu has taken on many initiatives including the completion of a “Mental Health in Grad School” video, depicting testimonials of students addressing the stigma of mental health issues—a project initially started by Lungu during the 2014-2015 academic year. Lungu was involved in the hiring of a new family care resource position within the Social Equity and Diversity Education Office (SEDE) and contributed to the memorandum of agreement negotiations with the SSMU Daycare. During council meetings, Lungu was a very vocal contributor to all discussions.
A student fee surplus led to an available $40,000 in the PGSS budget, presented in February. Lungu advocated for the immediate spending of this money, rather than putting it towards the $600,000 deficit that the Special Projects Fund had run, claiming that because the money came from current students, it should go towards directly benefitting them. Lungu was an acceptable Member Services Officer.
Internal Affairs Officer, Mina Anadolu
Anadolu could have improved communication with the Post-Graduate Student Associations in order to facilitate greater collaboration and consultation. Although greater efforts to communicate to the PGSS student body and inform these constituents about the events taking place have been made, Anadolu ultimately achieved her goals of engaging a larger group of students with PGSS. Anadolu has had a successful semester as Internal Affairs Officer, and already has plans in place for how to move forward in the position next year, to host inclusive events, and to promote institutional memory within the position.
Academic Affairs Officer, Devin Mills
Devin Mills, PhD Education, has worked on the thesis progress tracking procedure for graduate students, throughout his tenure as Academic Affairs Officer (AAO). Following an incident where a graduate student was sued for the destruction of his thesis, Mills has worked to incorporate students’ intellectual property rights into formal policy. At McGill’s Senate, Mills has discussed the issue of professors at McGill who receive monetary compensation for their work as consultants or in companies outside of McGill, and the conflict of interest that may ensue between a professor’s responsibility to their outside work, and their responsibility to students they are supervising.
Mills has also organized events where graduate students can discuss their relationship with their supervisor, as well as listen to panel discussions on the topic. Mills performed his duties as AAO adequately throughout the year.
Secretary-General, Danielle Toccalino
As Secretary-General of the Post Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS), Toccalino had to work with a more ambiguous portfolio that required behind-the-scenes work on matters of day-to-day operations. Toccalino focused a lot of her work on improving information accessibility and updating certain policies, some of which were not completed and will have to be resumed by the incoming secretary-general, Victor Frankel. The information policy currently being developed outlines the general public’s rights to access certain documents, such as budgets. The code of conduct and ethics forms were also newly implemented this year. Her changes to certain policies will hopefully be beneficial to future PGSS members’ understanding of the workings of council.
Although she was a visible presence in council, Toccalino should have focused on improving communication with other PGSS staff, by making herself more available. Additionally, more work could have been done to improve transparency for non-PGSS members, as currently, no council documents are available online to be viewed by individuals outside of PGSS, or campus media.
Financial Affairs Officer, Behrang Sharif
Throughout his term, Sharif was a constant presence and should be lauded for his dedication, hard work, and commitment to the Financial Affairs Officer (FAO) portfolio. On issues of transparency and collaboration, however, he has been less successful. For example, during the Feb. 17 PGSS Council meeting, PGSS Members Services Officer Brighita Lunghu and Sharif presented two differing accounts of the society’s financial situation.
Heading into his term as the PGSS’ FAO, Sharif was faced with a deficit of about $300,000 that was directly associated with the society’s years-long legal battle with the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS). Midway through the year, it was reported that the society as a whole faces a deficit greater than $600,000. Given the PGSS’ precarious financial situation, Sharif’s goal was to keep the current year’s finances balanced by implementing fiscal restraint; however, Thomson House continues to run a yearly deficit. Sharif was also responsible for promoting and campaigning a fee levy that addressed the deficit and would have helped reduce the time frame of eliminating the deficit from 15 years to five or six years. This fee did not pass, a clear failure on his part.
External Affairs Officer, Bradley Por
Despite these accomplishments, Bradley failed to lobby at the provincial level, instead focusing on forming alliances with the federations that would lobby on behalf of PGSS in the future. This decision has meant a lack of representation this year for PGSS constituents. Additionally, Por was not as visible and accessible as most External Affairs Officers, leading to a perception of lack of advancement within his portfolio among councillors and constituents.
An earlier version of this article incorrectly did not have feedback for Toccalino. It has been updated with the approriate review. The Tribune regrets this error.