PGSS Legislative Council votes to restructure Health and Wellness Committee

During the Post-Graduate Students’ Society’s (PGSS) virtual Council meeting on Jan. 13, councillors approved the proposed restructuring of the PGSS Health and Wellness Committee and discussed the inclusion of graduate students on departmental faculty hiring committees. 

At the beginning of the meeting, former PGSS Secretary-General Maria Tippler spoke on her resignation to pursue a professional opportunity and fellow councillors exchanged virtual goodbyes. Councillors then passed a motion to accept the resignation and delegate the secretary-general’s portfolio amongst the remaining councillors. 

Next, councillors debated a motion to restructure the PGSS Health and Wellness Committee to better reflect the structure of the Student Wellness Hub. PGSS Health Commissioner Jess Chen explained that the motion would unify the Health Services Advisory Board, Mental Health Advisory Board, and Counselling Services Advisory Board to create the Student Wellness Hub Advisory Board, as well as create positions for two additional PGSS members. 

“From my experience, the Health and Wellness Committee gets quite a few applications from members who want to join and […] I do believe [by] increasing the number [of regular members on the committee], we will be able to fill that number [while allowing] for more engagement from PGSS members,” Chen said.

The motion to restructure the committee was unanimously approved.

As the meeting’s agenda progressed to announcements, Internal Affairs Officer Tina Giordano highlighted a packed calendar of virtual events planned for post-graduate students this month. For upcoming social soirées, starting on Jan. 15,  PGSS will be using Gather, a virtual meeting application that allows participants’ avatars to move around a digital room and enter into smaller rooms based on proximity to one another. Giordano hopes that this technology will mimic the physical spaces these events used to take place in.

“It feels like you’re actually at Thomson House, or at a party,” Giordano said. 

After the announcements, councillors moved to approve the reports. The scheduled question and discussion periods yielded no questions and no proposed discussion topics. 

At the close of the meeting, Charles Brunette, PhD student supervisor in the School of Atmospheric and Ocean Sciences (AOS), presented the progress of including graduate students in the faculty hiring process. Brunette highlighted the benefits and drawbacks of graduate student participation in this process: Namely, that diversifying the voices on hiring committees is important, but that students’ labour will be unpaid. 

A survey of AOS students between Nov. 30 and Dec. 4, 2020 found that while most students agree that graduate students should serve on faculty hiring search committees, few can see themselves actually serving on these committees. 

Brunette reported strong support for graduate student inclusion in this process within AOS.

“We get some very good support from profs,” Brunette said. “Some are a bit hesitant about making it formal [since when] it was difficult to find a student we didn’t want to delay the process [….] But otherwise, profs are generally in favour and some are pushing hard for it [….] I sit on the hiring committee and the help from the students was very much appreciated.”

Councillors then discussed graduate student participation in faculty hiring in their respective Post-Graduate Students’ Associations (PGSAs). The meeting concluded with a reminder of the Feb. 3 deadline for PGSS general election nominations. 

Moment of the meeting: 

The meeting was peppered with minor technical difficulties that reminded the virtual room of the inherent, and often comedic, limitations of virtual communication. Council Speaker Adrienne Tessier reminded attendees to reserve the Zoom chat for business, quipping, “I always say that if we could have a separate memes and snarky comments thread, that would be great.” 

Soundbite:

“The CMA [Committee on Monetary Affairs] decided to add a lot more funding periods to the PGSS Travel Awards [….] Just to be clear, we’re funding only virtual travel […] that is helping cover fees that are associated with attending virtual workshops, virtual conferences, things of that nature [….] We won’t be accepting applications for in-person events because we don’t want to be encouraging travel in that way [….] And we’ve [had] very few applications thus far and therefore, a 100 per cent funding rate.”

—Connie Shen, Financial Affairs Officer, on the addition of new funding periods for the PGSS Travel Awards

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