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PGSS interim secretary-general candidates introduce platforms

Constituents of the Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS) heard the platforms of the two candidates running for the position of interim secretary-general in a debate on Feb. 10. PhD students Yony Bresler and Saturnin Ndandala submitted their candidacy for the position after previous Secretary-General Juan Pinto’s resignation on Jan. 20. The interim secretary-general position will serve from Feb. 24 to May 31, spanning the remainder of the 2014-2015 academic year. 

Bresler was absent from the debate, as he was away from Montreal at a conference, but prepared a letter which was read by PGSS Chief Returning Officer (CRO) Colby Briggs. 

Bresler cited his two and a half years as a PGSS Councillor and his service as Vice-President Social and CRO in the McGill Graduate Association of Physics Students as relevant experience for his candidacy. 

“This year, I also served on the university appeals committee for student discipline,” Bresler said in his letter. “This experience in PGSS and other student government has given me the initiative to assume a more substantial role at PGSS and allow me to develop the qualifications to facilitate such involvement.”

If elected, Bresler stated that his priority would be assisting the rest of the current PGSS executive team in fulfilling their portfolios. 

“My main goal will be to facilitate and assist in the activities of the current executives and officers,” Bresler said. “I believe we have a great team in place, and with the CFS [Canadian Federation of Students] referendum completed, together we can make some great headway into various portfolios.”

Bresler also added that he is aiming to increase transparency at PGSS. 

“One issue I’d like to promote is transparency, whether it be our various governing bodies or to our PGSS members,” he said. “I intend to achieve this goal by improving regulations by introducing strict timelines for existing practices—such as the release of minutes—and looking into various new methods by which to increase transparency of the PGSS.” 

Ndandala introduced himself as a first year PhD student at McGill with extensive political experience at universities he previously attended in Cape Town, Paris, and Toronto. 

“I was the president of the student society of the University of Cape Town,” Ndandala said. “When I was studying in Paris-Sorbonne [University], I participated in […] campaigning for Francois Hollande [….] When I came to Canada […] I was the chairman of the NDP party at the University of Toronto.”

Ndandala said he planned to run for the position of secretary-general for the 2015-2016 mandate as well. He proposed some of his ideas for improvement at PGSS, including increasing transparency in the organization, working on fundraising strategies for PGSS to increase its budget, and increasing communication between international and Canadian students.

“I would also like to […] resolve the problem of sexual harassment on campus,” Ndandala said. “I’m thinking to organize a plan where all new post-graduate students will have a quiz […] for learning about sexual harassment.”

Ndandala also added that he would work towards obtaining minimum funding for all PhD students at McGill. 

“Some students in different departments don’t have the same [opportunities] for funding,” Ndandala said. “My proposal is […] to challenge the leadership at the university to make a minimum [for] funding for all PhD students at the university.”

The voting period for interim secretary-general will run from Feb. 18 to Feb. 24. 

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