On Oct. 2, the Post-graduate Students’ Society (PGSS) announced the resignation of PGSS secretary-general Jacob Lavigne by email and Facebook. According to PGSS Financial Affairs Officer Matthew Satterthwaite, Lavigne was forced to step down due to extenuating consequences of an accident he was in over the summer. The executives regret Lavigne’s departure but there is no animosity between the parties.
In September, Lavigne took a 30-day leave that is allotted to every PGSS officer with hopes of eventually returning to his position, leaving his duties to be divided among the other five PGSS executives. Now following his official resignation, the PGSS’ Society Activities Manual mandates that a Chief Returning Officer (CRO) must commence nominations for a new Officer in a by-election within 10 days of the vacancy. The election must also take place within the next five weeks. Satterthwaite confirmed that the procedure for electing a new Secretary-General will continue along these lines, with an election tentatively scheduled to be completed by early November.
Lavigne’s priorities, as he expressed in his election platform, included advocating for graduate student space on campus, promoting problem-solving and innovation within the student body through events like hackathons, and enforcing adherence to by-laws such as the requirement that PGSS documents be made publicly available. According to Satterthwaite, PGSS executives have already advanced with several of these objectives in Lavigne’s absence.
“We’ve made some good progress in the human resources department,” Satterthwaite said. “We had a number of key positions to fill in the office this summer [….] Another priority that [Lavigne] had identified was reviewing our governing documents, which was something we have not had the chance to do yet just because we’ve had this unfortunate incident but it’s something that we’re going to try to get back to in the near future.”
Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Vice-President University Affairs Isabelle Oke often works with PGSS to convey student needs and concerns to the McGill administration. From her external perspective, she reported that the other PGSS executives were handling Lavigne’s absence well.
“It seems like they have a pretty strong team and had coordinated different people taking up [Lavigne’s] responsibilities,” Oke said. “There wasn’t any negative consequence [for PGSS and SSMU’s] relationship. As teams, we’re pretty open with each other, and he obviously had to do what he had to do. I don’t think anyone’s holding that against him.”
Lavigne also played a major role in founding the McGill Additive Manufacturing Students’ Society (MAMSS), a group which consolidated all of the 3D printing resources available at McGill into a centralized, accessible system. According to Thomas Feribault-Ménard, who is on the MAMSS Board of Directors, Lavigne’s determination contributed to his success both in MAMSS and PGSS.
“In MAMSS he was the president, a great leader,” Feribault-Ménard said. “He would just start to do things nobody thought was possible. You would think ‘oh, that’s such a big mountain to climb,’ but he would do it.”
Satterthwaite also expressed his sorrow about Lavigne’s absence from the PGSS executive team.
“It’s really an unfortunate situation,” Satterthwaite said. “[Lavigne] was a great person to have at the PGSS and we’re definitely going to miss him. It’s really too bad that he was not able to complete his term because I think he would have been able to do some great things at the PGSS and we’re sorry to see him go.”