On Jan. 18, the Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS) voted to send the Legal Information Clinic at McGill (LICM) Referendum Question to online ratification, considered an invitation to collaborate on Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS), and discussed Thomson House fees.
Legal Information Clinic Referendum Question
PGSS Council members voted to send the LICM Referendum Question to online ratification. The LICM offers legal counselling from law students to members of the McGill student body and the Montreal community. The LICM asked that their non-opt-outable graduate student fee be raised from $2.00 per semester to $4.50 per semester.
According to the LICM Director of Communications Sunny Yang, the LICM is seeking to raise the fee in order to better serve the McGill community by enabling them to rent more space. Yang said an increase would it to handle heavy demand from students and community members.
“With the additional $60,000 [raised from the fee increase], we’re able to rent out more space so everyone who wants to volunteer in the Faculty of Law can actually volunteer here,” Yang said. “We’d have the ability to not close lines and for faster intake.”
PGSS Internal Affairs Officer Mina Anadolu said she supports increasing funds for the LICM due to their effectiveness at providing legal expertise to graduate students.
“The [LICM] has been a huge help to the Internal Affairs Committee in terms of orientation,” Anadolu said. “For the past two years that I have been in this position, [the LICM has had] an active role in orientation and getting information out to students. Also, [the LICM held] information sessions, here at Thomson House, the most recent being ‘Renting an Apartment in Quebec’ [and] ‘Know Your Rights.’”
BDS Resolution Collaboration
On behalf of the AGSA, Anthropology Masters candidate Jason Hirsch requested to form graduate student groups in support of the BDS movement. AGSA has officially endorsed the BDS movement at McGill University.
“AGSA passed a motion in support of [the BDS] movement,” Hirsch said. “[The AGSA] wanted to come to [PGSS] Council for a proposition that [members] could pass this along to your PGSAs [Post-Graduate Students’ Associations]. We wanted to know if there are other groups that are willing to join us.”
Hirsch said the AGSA supports BDS due to the movement’s anthropological connection to colonialism. Meanwhile, Principal Suzanne Fortier previously sent an email explaining the McGill administration’s opposition to the BDS movement, accusing it of being contrary to McGill values of academic freedom, equity, and inclusiveness.
“We felt the need to go through [passing the motion in AGSA] as anthropologists because in our own discipline we have a colonial legacy,” Hirsch said. “Principal [Suzanne] Fortier made a declaration that McGill is opposed to this movement and we don’t feel that [this stance] properly represents the diversity of opinions of the McGill community.”
Thomson House fees
The allocation and transparency of Thomson House fees was discussed at the PGSS meeting. Although the budget for the operation of Thomson House comes from PGSS student fees, clubs are required to pay a booking fee to use some rooms and other space for events or meetings.
Anadolu said she understands the frustration over booking fees, but that they are necessary in order to compensate maintenance staff.
“As Internal [Affairs], we pay for the events that we organize here,” Anadolu said. “Everytime we use a room there are cleaning fees [and] staff fees. Especially if you book a room like [the Thomson House ballroom], you have to pay for the staffing and the cleanup that comes after. I understand the argument that it is counterproductive to charge PGSAs […,] but there are certain charges associated with large spaces.”
PGSS Health Commissioner J. Andrew Dixon, who served on the PGSS Board of Directors last year, said that transparency is an issue when it comes to determining Thomson House costs.
“There’s been a lot of murky water in terms of a schedule for how much everything costs and for what reason,” Dixon said. “So, I think what is really required here is that we need to sit down with the business [management and staff needed to run the restaurant, bar, and prepare rooms] and hash out the details of how much everything costs and why.”