On Dec. 6, the Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS) Council held its last meeting of 2017, beginning with a discussion regarding translating PGSS emails, which are currently only written in English, into French. Councillors next debated a motion to prioritize PGSS engagement with the Quebec Student Union (QSU) over the Association for the Voice of Education in Quebec (AVEQ).
Council also approved applications by the Appointments Board Committee for various positions, including those of Bruno Belzile for the Council of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies and Stephanie Mok for the Environment Affairs Committee. Member Services Officer Jenny Ann Pura discussed the launch of EmpowerMe, a 24/7 accessible counselling service for PGSS members. Council then ratified the resignation of former equity commissioner Emil Briones, who is stepping down due to health reasons.
Possibility of translating further PGSS communications into French
Magdalena Kogut, a first year Master’s student representing the French Language and Literature Department (DLLF), opened the discussion on the lack of French versions of PGSS communications.
“We realize that our department is tiny in the scheme of McGill departments, but it nonetheless a certain population of McGill students who are being excluded from important PGSS information,” Kogut said. “And we believe that every student has the right to liberty of information and to be able to judge information for themselves rather than through interpretation.”
PGSS Internal Affairs Officer Mansha Imtiyaz stated that Council was looking into options to resolve the issue, and added that the PGSS executives planned to discuss it at their next meeting. However, Pura noted that standard prices for translation services cost from 15 to 20 cents per word, with a single email estimated to cost up to $94, based on the length of emails the PGSS has sent in the past.
“We understand that it’s really important to invest in this, but we also understand our financial limitations,” Pura said. “So we are trying to negotiate with other translators, trying to see who McGill uses, and trying to see if we can contract that out as well.”
Council voted to table the agenda item.
Discussion concerning the continued prioritization of QSU over AVEQ
After establishing by a raising of hands that the majority of Councillors were aware of the AVEQ provincial student union, External Affairs Officer Hocine Slimani shared his confidence that a Council decision to prioritize the QSU was sufficiently informed. Slimani’s predecessor and former PGSS secretary-general Jacob Lavigne also preferred QSU over AVEQ, after observing both. Chris Erl, a second year Geography PhD student, motioned to table the agenda item.
“This is an incredibly important decision,” Erl said. “They both seem to be organizations that require a little more analysis by this body. Every student association has partisan affiliation. They have their own decisions. They have their own mandates. They have their own directives, and we need to do our research before we can actually make an executive decision.”
The motion to table the discussion passed.
Endorsement of open letter on Bill 151
Council also voted on whether to endorse the Students’ Society of McGill University, Our Turn, and AVEQ’s joint open letter on Bill 151. The letter shares these parties’ concerns that Bill 151 is not well-positioned to protect students or survivors of campus sexual violence.
Slimani introduced the item.
“Although I personally think that the letter is written in a very aggressive manner, I think that the message is good,” Slimani said.
Briones believes the open letter effectively highlights the bill’s inadequacies, and is a powerful advocacy tool.
“We all know that the sexual violence advocacy and support and educational infrastructure at McGill is still very inadequate, so there have been very questionable standards that this bill outlines,” Briones said.
The majority approved signing the letter and voted to adopt the motion. Bill 151 was then adopted by the provincial government on Dec. 8.