Editorial, Opinion

PGSS executive midterm reviews

Secretary General: Kristi Kouchakji (she/her)

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Kristi Kouchakji is currently serving her second term as Secretary General, a position at the helm of PGSS’s operations. She has found this past semester to be uniquely challenging, with learning to navigate newly-hybrid governance meetings and an abundance of responsibilities, including serving on the Advisory Committee for the Selection of a New Principal and Vice-Chancellor. Despite this, Kouchakji has submitted several governance amendments to help build a more sustainable governance infrastructure and stronger institutional memory, aims she was vocal about throughout her campaign. She continues to strive for more equitable working conditions for PGSS employees and graduate students alike, who she aptly describes as “systematically overworked and underpaid.” Although PGSS executives are only compensated for 12 hours of work per week, Kouchakji detailed working over 80 hours between Oct. 12 and Nov. 12 in a November 2022 report. In the new year, the //Tribune//  hopes that she succeeds in  striking a better balance and delegating responsibilities to make the role more manageable.

External Affairs Officer: Onyeka Dike (he/him)

Onyeka Dike (he/him)

As External Affairs Officer, Onyeka Dike is tasked with representing and advancing the collective interests of McGill’s graduate community both provincially and nationally. Dike’s two-fold priority coming into the role was to strengthen existing connections between PGSS and student associations at McGill and beyond while also fostering new relationships. Dike has taken steps to enhance PGSS’s relationship with SSMU and the Association of Graduate Students Employed at McGill (AGSEM), as demonstrated by their Joint Townhall Meeting on Nov. 11. However, it is less clear how Dike has nurtured the creation of new relationships for PGSS. He has met with la Fédération des associations étudiantes du campus de l’Université de Montréal (FAECUM)’s External Affairs Coordinator to discuss possible collaborations, but no partnership has been formally established. Although Dike seems to have succeeded in nurturing existing relationships to advance the interests of McGill’s graduate students, his efforts to create new relationships to the same end may need to be revisited in the coming semester.

Financial Affairs Officer: Faezeh Pazoki (she/her)

Faezeh Pazoki (she/her)

In her first semester as Financial Affairs Officer, Faezeh Pazoki’s main goal was to rechannel the unused PGSS fees from the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic back into the hands of students. After seeing an increase in applications for travel awards and grant programs, Pazoki set out to redirect the funds by bringing a motion to the Council to use the balance paid by students from 2020-22 to increase the 2022-23 grant program budget by $25,000 and subsidize travel awards. Pazoki drafted a comprehensive budget guide for all PGSS members detailing what each fee is used for and who is responsible for each of the budget’s items. Going forward, Pazoki hopes to transfer funds that are not currently in use to the PGSS Needs Based Bursary, and has pushed PGSS to participate in the McGill Crowdfunding platform to further finance the Bursary. As Chair of the Committee of Monetary Affairs, Pazoki is working to recruit more committee members to help manage the workload of in-person events. Pazoki is also collaborating with PGSS’s Environment Commissioner to make free sustainable menstrual products available to PGSS members. Overall, Pazoki has tackled important projects that place students at the fore and increase aid and transparency. 

Internal Affairs Officer: Adel Ahamadihosseini (he/him)

Adel Ahmadihosseini (he/him)

As Internal Affairs Officer, Adel Ahmadihosseini is responsible for organizing events for PGSS members throughout the year, including the fall and winter Graduate Student Orientations. In his second year of serving in this position, he has organized many social and informative events at Thomson House, such as  group hikes and legal protection information sessions. He continues to ease the transition to fully in-person events and promotes accessibility by providing online options whenever possible. Ahmadihosseini could improve in hosting a greater variety of events which address other barriers that graduate students face, such as events to alleviate mental health and stress. Currently, Ahmadihosseini is planning orientation and seasonal bonding events such as ice skating, tubing, and skiing for the coming semester. 

Member Services Officer: Naga Thovinakere (she/her)

Naga Thovinakere (she/her)

As PGSS Member Services Officer, Thovinakere is responsible for the proper implementation of several student services, such as Keep.meSafe, Dialogue, and the Legal Protection Program. Thovinakere ensured that these services were functioning well and solicited the feedback of graduate students using them. Another important aspect of her portfolio involves insurance coverage for graduate students and graduate student groups. Thovinakere advocated for student interests in meetings with the Quebec Student Union (QSU) but says that it is challenging to balance meeting students’ health and dental insurance needs while also staying within budget. Her transparency reflects an encouraging commitment to her constituents. Finally, Thovanikere helped introduce the new Trans Healthcare Fund, designed to cover costs incurred by trans graduate students seeking gender-affirming care. Next semester, she plans to expand what the fund can cover based on student needs. 

University Affairs Officer: Hossein Poorhemati (he/him)

Hossein Poorhemati (he/him)

As the PGSS University Affairs Officer, Hossein Poorhemati has focused his efforts on supporting and improving multiple campus organizations and committees, such as the PGSS Library Improvement Fund (LIF) Committee and the PGSS Funding Working Group (FWG). His work with the LIF centres on setting up platforms for input from students and faculty on how the LIF should be spent as well as working to implement transparency measures about the fund’s usage. His work with FWG focuses on supporting the Working Group and helping to prepare FWG’s survey on graduate students’ financial health for January 2023. In the Winter 2023 semester, Poorhemati plans to continue his work with the Dean of Students to address inequities in graduate student accommodations, advocate for tangible plans for on-campus study space availability, and increase communication with graduate students to provide them with more services. While his support for multiple committees may not have yet yielded tangible progress, Poorhemati’s commitment to transparency and communication with his constituents seems to indicate that his initiatives and advocacy will lead to substantive results for PGSS members moving forward.

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