On Nov. 2, the McGill Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS) hosted a debate for candidates for the office of Secretary-General at Thomson House. Two days before the start of the voting period, which takes place between Nov. 4 and Nov. 11, the four candidates discussed their platforms and the projects they would hope to implement as Secretary-General. This by-election follows former PGSS Secretary-General Jacob Lavigne’s resignation on Oct. 2 following an accident over the summer.
The debate began with a presentation by each of the candidates on their platforms and qualifications. Candidate and Master of Social Work student Liam Murphy explained that among his strongest assets is his experience working with social justice organizations and student associations like the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA).
“The focus for my campaign is around advocacy because of my experience working on structural social work,” Murphy said. “[I have] experience working on provincial and federal student organisations, specifically Students Nova Scotia and [CASA], both of which advocate for accessible, affordable, and high quality post-secondary education.”
Murphy expressed his hope for PGSS to condemn discriminatory actions, like the recent vote to pass Quebec Bill 62, which ties into his platform of advocacy. Bill 62 bans people from receiving public services if their faces are covered, which Murphy says targets those who wear niqabs.
“Provincially, I would like the PGSS to take a vocal stance against Bill 62, which was recently passed, and is incredibly discriminatory against Muslim women,” Murphy said. “I think it is important that we speak out against injustices regularly.”
PGSS Student Support Commissioner Maria Tipler then spoke about how her current work for the Society qualifies her for the position of Secretary-General. Additionally, Tipler has been a member of the McGill community since 2011, completing her undergraduate degree and commencing her graduate work in 2014 before pursuing her PhD in Neuroscience all at McGill.
“Not only have I had to provide moral support to students, I’ve had to learn about the governing system and how the administration thinks,” Tipler said. “The confidential nature of my job has also given me a great insight of the real, core problems of members here.”
A new face to student governance, M.Sc. candidate in Computer Science Mohammad Amini, then presented his platform points. If elected he intends to reduce the financial burdens that PGSS members face.
“As I’ve talked to [PGSS Financial Affairs Officer] Matthew [Satterthwaite], there’s a sponsorship program that’s about to go on,” Amini said. “Through that, we can find free events and free food without us paying for the PGSS events, and I think that’s something a lot of us could appreciate.”
M.A. candidate in History Nooria Puri concurred with Tipler in prioritizing McGill services. Specifically, Puri hopes to focus on the mental and physical well-being of postgraduate students.
“I’d like to increase the attention to mental and physical health awareness, and support [students] through increased availability of Nightline and peer support systems,” Puri said. “[I’d also like to] work with the fitness center to create and promote active lifestyle programs targeting postgraduate students.”
All four candidates expressed their desires to create a greater sense of community among PGSS members. Puri added that strong networks are important for international students in particular.
“As an international student, who is extremely far from home, PGSS for me represents a community that I could not only learn from, but feels like a home away from home,” Puri said. “Therefore, for me, it is important to revitalize the PGSS community [to be] a strong shared network of support and growth.”