Content warning: Mention of sexual violence
On Nov. 16, the Post-Graduate Student Society (PGSS) held its Fall General Meeting to update members on the upcoming winter referendum, the 2023 executive election, and to discuss current PGSS initiatives. The meeting, however, did not meet its quorum requirement of one per cent of the total graduate membership. The motions presented could therefore not be passed and will instead reappear in the form of referendum questions in March 2023.
Studentcare, which provides opt-outable healthcare coverage to PGSS members, is extending its legal protection program to include consultation and representation for survivors of sexual violence. The goal of the initiative is to expand sexual violence care. The PGSS speaker broached the topic of how to ensure that the care provided would be comprehensive and inclusive to all graduate students.
Vegas Hodgins, a second-year PhD candidate in the Department of Psychology, would like to see Studentcare make sexual violence care accessible to all students, regardless of gender.
“I think that something that will be really important to engage with the Studentcare people [about] is [if] the […] legal representatives they would be referring people to are ready to engage with victims of sexual violence who aren’t cisgender women,” Hodgins said. “When it comes to treating the needs of transgender or even male victims of rape, there isn’t that degree of understanding and it can be retraumatizing to engage with people who are just not understanding you in that way.”
The meeting also addressed a new PGSS initiative to increase access to gender-affirming care, which would help cover the costs of materials, medications, and gender-affirming surgeries for transgender graduate students. Rine Vieth, a PhD candidate in anthropology, suggested that the extra costs incurred that are indirectly tied to health care services should also be covered by the fund. Vieth cited a personal experience in which McGill Human Resources failed to respond to their requests to correspond with the Department of Anthropology, forcing Vieth to teach in person shortly after a mastectomy.
“I would also encourage that fund to go towards not just materials or medication, but things like the fact that people might not be able to work, and working with McGill to figure out ways to secure accommodations,” Vieth said. “I was forced to work [two and a half] weeks after my top surgery because McGill HR told me that I wasn’t eligible to take time off and that if I wasn’t able to do my job immediately after that, I would lose it.”
Many attendees also agreed that other gender-affirming costs, such as facial hair removal, or changing names and gender markers on legal documents, should be covered by the fund. PGSS Member Services Officer Naga Thovinakere assured attendees that these concerns would all be taken into consideration.
“It’s still in preliminary stages and the hope is that we reach out and ask for feedback at every step of the way,” Thovinakere said. “That way, we are setting this up in the most efficient way possible, as well as serving the needs of the people that need it the most.”
Other topics of discussion included health care accessibility issues, the PGSS social media and website presence, and the need to fill available committee positions for graduate students.
Moment of the Meeting:
Prior to the General Meeting, the PGSS Council held a meeting of its own. While the general meeting was supposed to begin at 7:15 p.m, extended voting and discussion within the Council forced it to begin at 8:06 p.m.
“We really need people to serve on committees [….] They sound small, they sound unglamorous, they are certainly not as sexy as writing ‘Senate’ on your CV, but [they are] actually where important decisions that do directly impact people’s day-to-day lives as students happen.”
—PGSS Secretary General Kristi Kouchakji