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PGSS explains Special Projects budget deficit

McGill’s graduate students will soon have an official policy outlining affiliation and disaffiliation procedures from student federations, as the result of a motion passed at the most recent Post Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS) Council meeting this past Wednesday. Council also discussed the cause of current budgetary imbalances.

Academic initiatives

Provost and Vice-Principal (VP) Academic,  Christopher Manfredi, presented two new academic programs: A potential School of Public Policy and an Indigenous Studies minor in the Faculty of Arts. The minor, while already established, asks for some improvements for coordination and being vocal about its achievements.

The School of Public Policy is a part of McGill’s strategic academic plan and would be a graduate level school, explained Manfredi.

“We have support from [a] leading Canadian foundation, which has a long history of engagement with McGill University, and that is going to allow us to launch the school, we hope, by Fall 2017,” he said.

The school would be implemented following approval from the university’s internal governance, as well as from the Quebec government.

McTavish Promenade Project

Member Services Officer Brighita Lungu discussed the city’s efforts to consult the public regarding the McTavish Promenade project, which will construct a promenade along the length of Rue McTavish, from Mont Royal to the Saint Lawrence river.

Lungu addressed language and information issues, stating that the city’s consultation was for the most part in French, with very few images made available.

“We did complain about this consultation not being advertised in both languages,” she said. “And we asked for the city, or the company that is going to make the project on McTavish, to come to council and actually give a better idea of what the project is.”

PGSS members in attendance of the public consultation also made demands for the eventual project.

“We asked for, specifically the portion being in our campus, more seating spaces for students outdoors who want to just read, rather than just walk by,” said Lungu. “We made a very clear point about keeping as many possible bike racks […] but I do not think the city of Montreal has that in their plan, so that is a concern for us.”

The promenade project, which aims to commemorate the 375th anniversary of Montreal, is planned to be completed in 2017.

PGSS budget

Financial Affairs Officer Behrang Sharif addressed issues of over-expenditures in the PGSS budget.

“The total revenue that we actually could foresee for this year was more than $200,000 less than was in the budget that I received,” Sharif said.

According to Sharif, the gaps in the budget mainly arose from the Special Projects section and a misinterpretation of the revenues coming from the membership fee.  

“The budget that I have inherited had zero budget for [the special projects] and as you see here we have already spent […] $8,092,” he said. “We are going to have $538,000 on the membership fee, but the actual that we received last year was less than $500 000. That is $40,000 less income [.…] Because the accounting system was not very clear, we never actually understood that we were digging into some of these lines more than we actually had money.”

In order to get the budget balanced this year, Sharif explained that he had to solve problems that had been ongoing over the past few years.

“We have to […] deal with […] everything that has not been dealt with over the last decade, I would say,” Sharif explained. “But fortunately it is moving forward, and hopefully, […] this year we’ll have a balanced budget.”

Policy on procedures for affiliation or disaffiliation from a student federation

Council ended with a discussion on the adoption of a policy on procedures for affiliation or disaffiliation from a student federation. Secretary-General Danielle Toccalino explained the necessity of such a policy.

“In this policy, the disaffiliation process means that we want whatever [federation] we join [to agree] that we have internal procedures for our affiliation and disaffiliation and that they respect the fact that we have those things and do not impose affiliation or disaffiliation methods on us,” she said.

According to Sharif, the new policy was drafted in light of the ongoing legal battle between PGSS and the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS), which began in 2009.

Toccalino explained that PGSS had incurred significant legal costs in attempting to disaffiliate with the CFS.

It did not actually cost us any money to leave, the problem is that we had a referendum to leave,” said Toccalino. “[CFS] said that referendum did not count, and then we sued them for it, so the costs are all for the legal battle that ensued.”

PGSS members voted in favour of the policy.

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