Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS) Secretary-General Juan Camilo Pinto submitted a letter of resignation on Jan. 20 to the PGSS Board of Directors (BoD). If Pinto’s resignation is approved by the next PGSS Council on Feb. 3, he will step down from his position on Feb. 16. A nomination period for an interim secretary-general will run until Feb. 9. The voting period for a subsequent special election will run from Feb. 18 to 24.
“I regret to inform you that I am resigning from my position as secretary-general of the PGSS for personal reasons.” Pinto’s resignation reads. “Although it sadness [sic] me to leave, I deeply appreciate the assistance and support you provided me during my tenure.”
The PGSS BoD placed a motion of censure on Pinto on Nov. 13, stripping him of his human resources (HR) responsibilities. According to the report of PGSS Council Director Régine Debrosse at the Dec. 3 Council meeting, the BoD’s decision was motivated by several complaints about Pinto’s behaviour from PGSS staff members, including a complaint regarding Pinto’s conduct towards staff at the PGSS Halloween party.
According to PGSS Financial Affairs Officer Nikki Meadows, the censure motion was not solely a result of the incident at the PGSS Halloween party.
“The censure was based on conduct unbecoming of that member,” Meadows said. “There were also issues with staff. The Halloween issue was one staff member, but there were also other complaints from staff members about treatment and behaviour and how things were going, so it wasn’t simply a one incident thing that led to that censure.”
On Dec. 10, the PGSS executive team voted “No” during a vote of confidence regarding Pinto’s capabilities as Secretary-General. According to Meadows, The vote of confidence aimed to express the executives’ sentiment regarding Pinto after he had been given time to improve following his censure.
“Our bylaws don’t have a prescription for what happens for a vote of confidence,” she explained. “It’s something that the Board of Directors felt was necessary, so they asked us to take it. I think the board wanted to see where the executive committee was after giving the secretary-general some time to try to fix some of the issues that had been brought forward.”
Pinto states that his resignation was not motivated by the vote of no-confidence or the censure.
“When the censure passed, I accepted my responsibility [for] the things that I was responsible for [and] I continued my work—proof of that is the CFS referendum,” he said, referring to the recent PGSS referendum that passed with a majority vote to disaffiliate from the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS). “The reality is that my research as a whole was suffering [….] It’s in rare cases that you have someone managing a research team plus being the president of an association, plus doing a PhD, plus doing sports. It’s a big combination that I had, so I had to pick something [to drop], and sadly it was PGSS.”
Meadows cited communication difficulties as a main issue for the PGSS executives during Pinto’s term as secretary-general.
“If you read our bylaws, you see that one of the main hubs of communication is the secretary-general,” she said. “When that role is not functioning at optimum level, there’s going to be communication issues.”
Pinto explained that he initially had a different conception of the secretary-general’s responsibilities.
“[In Colombia…] we approach things very directly,” he said. “It took me a long time to realize that I’m in a position where the [secretary-general] is not technically president—it’s a person who’s in charge of communicating [….] It was for me a new thing to try and figure that out.”
Going forward, Meadows stated that she is confident that the PGSS executive team will be able to continue their work as usual.
“I’m hopeful; I think we have a team that can work with anyone,” Meadows said. “I think that with [the] uncertainty lifted [on] what’s going to happen with our internal conflicts […] in some ways it makes it easier for everybody [….] We’re still making achievements on our portfolios, we’re still holding lots of events and doing lots of things, so in the end, the work still continues.”
Pinto stated that he feels he is leaving his position on a positive note.
“I’m very happy I had the opportunity to do this, I made an impact on the graduate committee, which was my purpose when I ran for secretary-general,” he said. “I leave on a happy note, I really like my job […] and I wish I could do it more.”
He explained that he hopes future members of the PGSS executive will prepare thoroughly before running for office.
“Institutions like this, they not only need leaders, they need good people,” Pinto said. “They need people who are willing to follow the rules […] who are thinking about the institution and not thinking about themselves [….] I will also say that a part of it is very taxing and people should study before doing this […] I would advise people […to] read the bylaws, and [to] understand the job very well.”