The Post Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS) hosted its Annual General Meeting (AGM) in the Thompson House Ballroom last Wednesday evening with students, McGill staff, and PGSS members in attendance. Six motions were passed before the meeting lost quorum.
Before the AGM began, PGSS held a Council meeting to vote on the appointment of Colby Briggs to the position of Chief Returning Officer (CRO) on PGSS Council.
“I did run elections at Concordia for their Arts and Science Federation of Associations,” Briggs, a Concordia graduate and former Concordia Community Assistant, said. “I know they faced many of the issues that I’ve heard go on here, so I think I’ll be more than able to bring my experience there to the McGill environment.”
The room voted in favour of his appointment.
Motion to censure removed
PGSS Member Services Officer Elizabeth Cawley began the AGM by motioning to remove an item from the agenda that called for the censure of Academic Affairs Officer Adam Bouchard and Secretary-General Jonathan Mooney.
The motion to censure arose due to Bouchard and Mooney’s alleged failure to comply with a request passed down to them from last year’s AGM last March, which asked them to contract an independent company to audit McGill’s securitization of campus. Cawley argued that, despite Bouchard and Mooney’s alleged lack of compliance, censuring them was unnecessary.
“These executives have conducted themselves in accordance with regulations, diligently worked to complete their project, and a motion of censure is completely reprehensible,” Cawley said.
Cawley’s motion passed, and the motion to censure was struck from the agenda.
Differential Fee Waivers
Differential fees—the tuition supplements for international students—were addressed in the third motion of the evening, which called upon McGill to advocate for Differential Fee Waivers (DFW) based on graduate students’ financial needs.
Mooney mentioned that the dean of Graduate Studies continues to pay 70 per cent of the differential fees of each international PhD student the department admits, but the dean of each faculty has discretion over whether they allocate this money towards the students’ differential fee or not.
“It’s this weird system where you’re getting money based on how many international students you attract, but sometimes you don’t use it to actually make the experience good for them,” Mooney said.
After some debate, the motion passed with a strong majority.
The fourth motion on the agenda addressed the lack of gender parity on PGSS’ Board of Directors, and called upon the Board to have female candidates fill at least 50 per cent of positions.
Most participants agreed with the spirit of the motion, but some expressed the opinion that it needed further refinement.
“Overall, it’s good to diversify the Board, but why are we only talking about women?” PGSS Internal Affairs Officer Michael Krause asked. “[I agree that] we should actively reach out to more women and [to] more diverse members … but I think as the motion stands now, it is not feasible and not fully encompassing what the PGSS should do.”
Cora-Lee Conway, a doctoral student at McGill and a mover of the motion, emphasized that it seeks to diversification the Board.
“My motivation was to bring this motion forward as an entry point to discussion about the values we have here at the PGSS about representation,” Conway said. “[PGSS] Council … has over 50 per cent female membership, [yet our] Board, up until today, did not have any female representation.”
The motion passed after it was amended to encourage increased diversity rather than exclusively female representation on the Board.
Oil Sands investments
A motion for PGSS to lobby McGill to cut off its investments in Canada’s Oil Sands industry passed after some issues were addressed, including concern over the feasibility of persuading McGill to divest from these companies, and whether the tax revenues from these companies benefit students.
Divest McGill Spokesperson Lily Schwarzbaum spoke to PGSS, insisting that divestment from Oil Sands interests is a feasible and necessary step for the university to undertake.
“Divestment is a concrete target to symbolically make the statement [against supporting fossil fuels] along with other universities in North America,” said Schwarzbaum.
After it lost quorum, the AGM adjourned amidst debate on the seventh motion, which concerned tuition indexation. It was decided that PGSS will use their in-house researcher to further look into the issue of tuition indexation.