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PGSS Council continues debate over student federations

The Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS) Council meeting on Oct. 3 focused on Council feedback and student federations.. The meeting began with an introduction by Krista Houser, a representative of the Office of Sustainability, about the Sustainability Projects Fund. External Affairs officer Hocine Slimani later presented his annual observation report about the PGSS’ potential involvement with a student federation. Maria Tippler, Academic Affairs officer, also reminded attendees of an essential skills training taking place on Oct. 15 for all Post Graduate Student Association (PGSA) executives.

After the conclusion of new business the council went on to review and approve the reports of the executive officers and other council members. In their reports, Environment Commissioner Isabella Boushey and Tippler called attention to f upcoming events including a community garden event taking place on Oct. 12 and a thesis information session on Oct. 17.


Addressing concerns regarding council conduct

Secretary General Helena Zakrzewski addressed concerns about the conduct of the prior council meeting and advised councillors on delivering effective feedback.

“I very much want everyone to take something positive from the council experience throughout the upcoming year,” Zakrzewki said. “If someone has a concern, the best way of addressing that concern with respect to providing feedback is to be specific [….Also] consider whether council is the best forum. You are here to represent your PGSA and not to vent your own frustrations.”

To this end, Zakrzewski vocalized the importance of building a safe space in PGSS.

“The only way to have a positive dialogue where you can effectively represent your PGSA and the concerns of your membership is to ensure a safe space whereby every single person feels safe and comfortable standing up,” Zakrzewski said.


PGSS Involvement in the QSU or AVEQ

Following a brief overview of his annual observation report, External Affairs Officer Slimani asked the Council whether or not they believed belonging to a student federation is important for PGSS’ advocacy abilities at the provincial level. A lengthy debate followed about the value of the Quebec Student Union (QSU), Slimani’s recommended federation, versus the Association for the Voice of Education in Quebec (AVEQ). A motion mandating was presented that the executive committee draft a referendum question regarding QSU involvement by Jan. 15. The floor was then opened up for debate.

Bradley Por, a graduate student in the Faculty of Law, spoke in opposition to the QSU.

“My successors have presented it as if the Quebec Student Union is the only viable option,” Por said. “I just don’t think AVEQ has been given a fair shake.”

Por also noted that AVEQ has never been invited to speak before the PGSS despite requests from multiple students at last year’s annual general meeting.

Por’s criticism launched a discussion on whether or not more research on both federations was necessary. Slimani argued against this, saying that resuming research would simply delay progress towards what he believes is a major step forward for the PGSS.

“When this body decides on something, it’s bigger than us,” Slimani said. “When a motion passes, it is bigger than us.”

After further discussion, the motion was amended to include the requirement that an unaffiliated party conduct research on student federations by  prior to the executive committee drafting the referendum question, and the motion passed.

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