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PGSS Council discusses supervision, upcoming referendum

Review of supervision

Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS) Secretary-General Jonathan Mooney announced two major projects that PGSS is currently working on. The first is the improvement of the quality of supervision for students in all departments by clarifying students’ and supervisors’ rights and responsibilities. The second project focuses on ensuring that international students receive tuition waivers—a type of financial aid that reduces or eliminates tuition fees for students who qualify.

“We plan to work with departments and faculties to promote the use of funding that is sent by the central administration to the faculties to support and retain international students on tuition waivers for these students,” Mooney said. “Some of this money, which is tied to the number of international students in a faculty, seems not to be reaching these students.”


Fortier addresses funding, student space

Principal Suzanne Fortier fielded questions from graduate students at Council and outlined future projects. These include reviewing supervision and funding for graduate students. Questions mainly concerned the university’s financial situation and the lack of workspace for graduate students.

PGSS Financial Affairs Officer Erik Larson asked Fortier to explain the financial state of McGill. Fortier said that she places importance on putting money towards attracting talent to the university.

“If we agree that it’s largely about [investing in] people, maybe we’ll have to see other things that aren’t as good as we’d like them to be because while important, they’re not a top priority,” she said.

Economics Councillor, Guillaume Lord. expressed concern about the allotment of workspace for graduate students.

“Space is very uneven across departments,” he said. “A lot of people in our department do not have office space, and it was heartbreaking for me to see this at the beginning of the year. […] Office space is not only a workspace; it’s also a community space.”

Fortier said she had not known this was an issue, but that a solution would not be easy. She mentioned that she would add the issue to future discussions on issues of space at McGill.

“Physical infrastructure is an issue at this university,” Fortier said. “We’re pretty tight on space and we […] don’t have much extension room, and of course there’s the matter of funding.”


Tribune fee referendum

Council approved a PGSS referendum question regarding funding for the McGill Tribune. If the question passes during the November referendum period, graduate students will pay a non-optoutable fee of $0.75 to the Tribune for both the Winter 2014 and Fall 2014 semesters, with a vote on renewal in 2015.

“Right now, our mandate as a newspaper is only towards undergraduate students,” said Carolina Millán Ronchetti, editor-in-chief of the McGill Tribune, at the meeting. “However, we recognize that post-graduate students face unique challenges [ …. ] Membership will help bring more coverage [of] issues that pertain to post-graduates such as supervision and office space.”

Mooney explained that the Tribune ran a similar question last May, which asked graduate students for $1.00 per semester, but that the question did not pass by a small margin.


McGill Writing Centre

Another question Council approved to run in the referendum period is for a fee of $1.50 per term to support graduate use of McGill’s Writing Centre.

However, Council voted against a motion for PGSS to contribute a one-time sum of $3,000 from PGSS’s Special Projects Fund. Without the fund transfer, the Writing Centre will no longer offer tutoring services to graduate students.


Letter opposing Charter of Values

Mooney asked Council for feedback regarding a letter to Parti Québécois (PQ) leader Pauline Marois that he wrote on behalf of the PGSS, which expresses their opposition to the section of the proposed Charter of Values that bans public workers from wearing conspicuous religious symbols.

“Some of our members are technically state personnel [ …. ] and so [the charter] implicates us directly,” Mooney said. “Freedom of expression is particularly important in a university setting.”

Council was supportive of the letter, though upon the suggestion of  Lord, a section of the letter stating that PGSS does not oppose other sections of the Charter was removed.

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