PGSS General Assembly passes bylaw reform package, opposes austerity

At the Post-Graduate Students’ Society’s (PGSS) General Assembly (GA), held on Oct. 22, students participating in the meeting voted on a reform package of PGSS bylaws, the ratification of the appointment of directors, and discussed the possibility of participating in a protest against provincial austerity measures.

Bylaw reform package

The bylaw reform package was presented by Secretary-General Juan Pinto to the GA.

“This reform package seeks to redress critical issues arising from the composition and jurisdiction of the current Appeals Board,” reads the bylaw package. Other modifications to the package include changes to the number of members of the Internal Affairs Committee and creation of a Vice-Chair position for the Executive Committee.

Karim Bouayad-Gervais of Psychology voiced his concern over a change to bylaw, which stated that a judge would be nominated by the Graduate Law Students’ Association for the Appeals Board.

“I don’t think this is a good solution for the root problem we have,” Bouayad-Gervais said. “What we’re doing here is giving a preference for a student association to nominate one member on that committee. If you deem that students from the Law Students Association are more competent because of training to be on this committee, then they should apply like any other members of the Graduate Student Association (GSA) and be selected based [on] competence and not based on what part of the GSA they are coming from.”

In response, Pinto said the reality is the majority of students with legal training will be from the Law Students Association, and stressed that the procedure would not appoint the student to the Appeals Board directly, the procedure would simply result in a nomination.

“We’re not giving the power to one GSA just because we think they fit the criteria better or not. The reality is if you want to find someone who has legal training, who can explain the procedural rules, you will find that the decisions that are being rendered are being rendered in a better way,” Pinto said. “By having a lawyer or having someone with legal training, the procedural matters that are coming forward are easily solvable because in this procedure, the judges are not going to be appointed […] only nominated [….] The Appointments Board reviews the C.V. and decides, and then Council approves it.”

PGSS members voiced concern over certain changes to the bylaws, including sections and, as well as sections 9.16 and 9.17, which required consultation by the Chief Justice for most legal actions taken by the PGSS. Motions to vote on those sections separately were not passed, however, and the General Assembly decided to vote on the package as a whole. It was approved by a two-thirds majority.

Austerity measures

The Assembly also passed a motion to oppose the austerity measures imposed by the provincial government on universities and public services and undertake actions in the spirit of the motion.

Andrea Palmer, a graduate student in the School of Social Work, presented the motion to the GA, asking members to vote for PGSS participating in a strike against the budget cuts on Oct. 31.

“Be it resolved that the PGSS oppose the budgetary compressions imposed on universities throughout Quebec, notably McGill as well as on public and social services in general,” she quoted from the motion. “Be it resolved that the PGSS endorse and participate in the Oct. 31 protest against the Liberal budget cuts [… and hold] a one day strike on that day and that PGSS support the strike by disseminating information and encouraging PGSS members at large to take part in it.”

The stikes will be organized by student groups and unions. Palmer emphasized the importance of austerity measures on society.

“I’m a social worker, so I know how these cuts can affect our most vulnerable population, including students; our future generation where education is a right [….]” she said.

External Affairs Officer Julien Ouellet expressed concern at the implications of committing PGSS to a strike, and whether the rally was in line with the society’s image and values.

“I don’t know much about this particular rally, and rallies in Quebec have [a tendency] to get out of hand,” Ouellet said.

The Assembly voted to strike two clauses from the motion that encouraged PGSS members at large to take part in the motion and mandated PGSS to participate in the Oct. 31 protests. A clause stating that the external affairs committee should be encouraged to organize actions in the spirit of the motion was also added. The revised motion was ultimately passed.

Board of Directors

The General Assembly also ratified the appointment of three new Board members to the Board of Directors: Marc Lemieux, Regine Debrosse, and Karim Bouayad-Gervais.

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