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PGSS and McGill Athletics’ tensions addressed at Council

At the Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS) Council meeting on Feb. 21, councillors addressed the tenuous relationship between student federations and McGill Athletics and Recreation.  Francois Miller, manager of the McGill Office of Sustainability, also briefly presented the Vision 2020 sustainability strategy.

Following this, Council moved on to reviewing and approving the reports of PGSS financial affairs and member service officers. Finally, new business was briefly discussed, including the approval of a motion to ratify the Innovation Commissioner’s resignation.


Post-graduate involvement in McGill Athletics and Recreation

The McGill Athletics and Recreation Advisory Board (MARAB) is one of several committees advising various student services on campus. Jason Blakeburn, the PGSS representative on MARAB, opened the floor to discussion of what Athletics and Recreation can do to improve its services for the graduate student population. He cited the failure of the Winter 2017 fee levy referendum, which proposed a three per cent increase, raising the fee to $3.63 per term for postgraduates, as an indication of a tenuous relationship between Athletics and Recreation and the student body.

“[McGill Athletics and Recreation] realized last year, after the failed referendum, that there was a lack of trust, or transparency, or just communication going on, so they want to hear from grad students how we can better serve them,” Blakeburn said.

PGSS Financial Affairs Officer Matthew Satterthwaite, a former employee of McGill Athletics, voiced his concerns regarding the department’s organization and unnecessarily large employee costs.

“I would really like to see athletics […] maybe going through a process of really looking at their organizational structure, who’s accountable to who, [and] how many people do you actually need to do the jobs,” Satterthwaite said. “From an organizational standpoint there’s a lot of money wasted.”

Blakeburn closed the conversation with an invitation to PGSS members to reach out to him personally with further concerns.


Discussion concerning the prioritization of QSU over AVEQ continues

At its previous meeting on Jan. 17, PGSS tabled a discussion on affiliating with the Quebec Student Union (QSU) or the Association for the Voice of Education in Quebec (AVEQ), two provincial student federations that represent university student governments at the provincial and federal level. External Affairs Officer Hocine Slimani reopened the issue, standing firm in his position that, after careful review of both organizations, the QSU is better suited to serve the interests of members of the PGSS. Slimani also expressed his desire for PGSS to prioritize QSU affiliation in its upcoming referendum.

“It’s a bad idea to put two options on the ballot because people are not informed enough,” Slimani said. “Referendum questions […] should be yes or no questions. I think it is our job here, all of us as representatives, that we choose the option that will serve the best interests of our constituents.”

Slimani’s assertion that the graduate student populace is uninformed was met with criticism from members of the audience, including Bradley Por, a graduate student in the Faculty of Law. Por questioned Slimani’s impartiality and argued that the most democratic course of action would be to invite both groups to present before the PGSS at its annual general meeting (AGM) on April 11. Jacquie Safieh, a member of the Family Medicine Graduate Student Society (FMGSS), motioned to invite AVEQ to speak at the AGM but it failed to pass.

“My mandate was to prioritize the QSU,” Slimani said. “My frustration is that I am at the end of my mandate [which was] to come up with a referendum question […] and yet we are running in circles [….]”

After nearly 50 minutes of debate on the matter, Satterthwaite motioned to postpone discussion until the next PGSS Council meeting, to be held on March 21.

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