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Philosophy students seek independence from AUS

The Philosophy Student’s Association (PSA) will vote for accreditation—which would grant the association organizational independence from the Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS)—between Mar. 11 and 15. Although both the PSA and AUS want to maintain a strong relationship, it is unclear as to what this relationship will look like in the event of accreditation.

PSA President Jonathan Wald explained that the primary motivation for seeking accreditation is financial. Currently, the PSA does not have autonomy over its finances, which is what it hopes to achieve with accreditation.

“[We want] to make sure that we have the freedom to continue to perform our activities, and run our activities at a maximum efficiency,” Wald said. “We see accreditation and incorporation as one of the ways to cut red tape, maximize transparency of the PSA, and grant us maximum autonomy, while being financially responsible.”

The PSA has been working towards incorporation and accreditation since the start of the Fall 2012 semester. On Feb. 19, the PSA became the first academic department association at McGill to be incorporated under the Régie des Entreprises, which gained the association status as a non-profit organization.

The accreditation process is being carried out solely between the PSA and the government of Quebec, who has assigned an accreditation agent to the PSA. This agent will have the final say on the decision following the PSA’s vote. Neither McGill, nor the AUS, nor the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) are involved in the accreditation process.

Wald said that the PSA wants to continue to maintain a relationship with the AUS. In the event of accreditation, he predicts that the PSA’s current practices with the AUS and SSMU would be written into agreements with both organizations.

“We’d like to remain involved in [the] AUS, and I think it’s in the interest of the AUS to keep us involved [in AUS Council],” Wald said.

According to AUS Vice-President Internal Justin Fletcher, the AUS has a similar vision, but has yet to make a final decision about its cooperation with the PSA in the event of PSA accreditation.

“[The relationship between the AUS and the PSA] will be determined based on the results on the vote,” Fletcher said.

Fletcher also added that it was important to remember that all philosophy students are still considered arts students.

“There is a multi-track system in the Faculty of Arts where you need to be in at least two different academic programs, meaning that all philosophy students will still be members of the AUS,” he said.

He did not specify what may happen with students in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, who may study philosophy as their arts component.

In order to attain approval from the government for accreditation, the PSA must secure 25 per cent support from undergraduate philosophy students. Wald believes that gaining ‘yes’ votes from philosophy students will not be an issue.

“The only people who have been critical were people [who] were confused about what accreditation meant,” Wald said. “When I cleared it up, they were actually supportive of it. So as long as people are informed about this, I think our main challenge will be getting people to vote, not getting people to vote ‘yes.’”

Eliyahu Freedman, U3 philosophy, said that he and many of his peers are supportive of the PSA’s move, claiming that the association should disassociate itself from the AUS.

“A lot of people spite the AUS – fairly or unfairly – for its mismanagement of funds, and poor handling of the student strike last year,” Freedman said. “Accreditation will enable the PSA to set its own policies—from financial policies to strike policies.”

While the PSA’s pursuit of accreditation and recent incorporation has received support from many of the department’s constituents thus far, Fletcher and Wald do not believe that  departments smaller than PSA will follow in their footsteps.

“It is a lot of work,” Wald said. “[And] for the smaller student associations, it doesn’t make much sense … [it] isn’t necessarily worth it.”


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