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PGSS General Meeting sees discussion of Society deficit, proposed women’s gym hours

On Wednesday, March 11, the Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS) General Meeting (GM) discussed the payment of incurred membership fees from the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS), a national union for post-secondary student societies. Additionally, the GM hosted an informal discussion regarding women’s-only hours at the McGill Fitness Centre. 

CFS membership fees

PGSS Financial Affairs Officer Nikki Meadows stated that costs of the recently held CFS referendum, in which PGSS voted against continued membership with the CFS, amounted to $558,740.87. Approximately $333, 810 of the total cost was accrued through the retroactive payment of CFS membership fees dated from 2009 to 2015. According to Meadows, the fees were paid under protest to CFS and were a stipulation of running the referendum. The other costs of the referendum that PGSS incurred were  legal fees.

Meadows explained that the PGSS hopes to be able to reclaim the $333,810 in membership fees in a separate ongoing legal case with CFS, which may end in 2017. She also said that PGSS had been able to absorb about $200,000 out of the total fees accrued in the CFS case because of a surplus in PGSS’s member legal support funds account. She highlighted, however, that PGSS had accrued a deficit of about $300,000 as a result of these payments. To balance this deficit, Meadows stated that $62,000 may be added to the current $78,000 collected through PGSS student fees this semester.

“When you’re talking about paying $330,000 up front and you’re only collecting $78,000 a year [in student fees], that’s a lot of money [deficit] to deal with,” she said. “We’re hoping upon [legal] settlement in 2017, we will get some of these fees back. That’s two years where you have to go on operating and you need money to be able to do the projects and to be able to do the programs that we offer here at PGSS. We can absorb a lot of it, but we can’t absorb everything.”

The PGSS Board of Directors (BoD) also gave a presentation at the GM where they stated that they would like to hold a referendum to raise student fees to alleviate PGSS’s current deficit. 

“Do you agree that, starting in the Autumn of 2015 and continuing until 2020 or such time that another referendum modifies it, PGSS will increase its membership fee […] from the current rate of 32.11 to a new rate of 35.43?” the motion read. “These funds will be used, in part, to offset the costs of leaving the Canadian Federation of Students, as well as increased rent and fees charged by McGill on the PGSS.”

This motion was read at the PGSS Council session that occurred before the GM, but the motion did not. 

Women-only gym hours

The meeting closed with an informal discussion regarding proposed women-only gym hours at the McGill Fitness Centre. This topic incited controversy on campus three weeks ago when two McGill Law students proposed the initiative. Some speakers voiced concern on the topic not being concrete or accommodating towards other marginalized groups. William Gorges, Engineering student, voiced concerns that more thought should be put into the development of the motion and that it could be implemented towards other groups. 

“[The motion should] be extended to LGBTQ hours because of the same stigmatization of working out with these men or anyone in general that they don’t feel comfortable with,” Gorges said. “I think it’s a good idea, but more work has to be done in solidifying how McGill Athletics would implement this.”

Other members noted that there are already women-only swim hours at the McGill Memorial Pool. PGSS External Affairs Officer Julien Ouellet explained that the presence of men at the gym can prevent certain people from attending. 

“[This is] a form of discrimination that is not illegal […] but put women at a disadvantage and prevents them from using a resource,” Oullet said. “They should not have to buy extra membership when they are already paying membership to the McGill gym.”

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