Editorial, Opinion

Post-Graduate Students’ Society of McGill University Executive Midterm Reviews 2021-2022

Kristi Kouchakji, Secretary-General

Kristi Kouchakji inherited a fraught portfolio––the Secretary-General position was vacant for a period of transition for the better part of last academic year, leaving Kouchakji with lots to catch up on. One of her objectives was to change the workplace culture within the Society by hiring more contractors, encouraging a healthy work-life balance for executives and commissioners, and asking executives to track their hours worked in order to evaluate whether the workload is sustainable. While ongoing, this project appears to be successful thus far. This term, she has also been supporting the BIPOC Grad Network Coordinator and working to increase Society engagement. Recently, she released the PGSS statement on academic freedom––though the full extent of her current undertakings are too lengthy to discuss in full here. Overall, Kouchakji shows a clear desire to reinvigorate her portfolio, and her work so far has been very promising.

Babatunde Alli, External Affairs Officer

Babatunde Alli, who also served in his position last year, aimed to establish stronger ties with other student associations in Montreal and across Canada. This year’s initiatives included communicating closely with the Quebec Student Union (QSU)—attending the QSU caucus and organized one-on-one meetings with the QSU officers to discuss PGSS interests. Alli also worked with other Montreal student associations to reaffirm and add to the demands of the Coalition régionale étudiante de Montréal (CREM) municipal election platform. The platform calls for affordable non-profit student housing, reduced BIXI fares for students, and more. Although PGSS joined CREM in 2017, there has yet to be any progress with Montreal fulfilling their demands. He plans to continue following up with the municipal council to push those demands forward. Alli has also been working to start a federal coalition of Canadian graduate student associations, with their first drafted Memorandum of Understanding being considered at the PGSS executive level.

Adel Ahmadihosseini, Internal Affairs Officer

In his first term as Internal Affairs Officer, Adel Ahmadihosseini’s main goal was to make the transition from virtual to in-person events safe, accessible, and inclusive. PGSS Orientation week offered students a mix of information and social events, and throughout the semester, Ahmadihosseini has successfully coordinated multiple events with hybrid formats, most of which saw high attendance numbers. He has facilitated several initiatives including weekly international language café meetings, various day-trips to national parks, and academic-related workshops. While Ahmadihosseini has delivered many successful social events, he can improve on facilitating events that address pertinent issues graduate students face, such as mental health. Ahmadihosseini is currently working on Winter orientation, Thomson Cup, and events that build community among the different post-graduate departmental student associations.

Dakota Rogers, Member Services Officer

Dakota Rogers was responsible for ensuring the successful rollout of the projects such as Keep.meSAFE, a mental health service at McGill accessible to all students, established as a collaboration between the student societies, and Dialogue, a virtual healthcare platform introduced to address the challenges of accessing health care in Montreal and Canada. The Legal Protection Plan was also put into action to facilitate easier access to lawyers and legal advice for PGSS members. Rogers has also been involved in a handful of other initiatives, including establishing a SSMU daycare fee, ensuring the needs of students are being met after recent changes to the PGSS Health and Dental Insurance Plan, reopening Thomson House according to COVID-19 protocols, and continuing the ongoing Thomson House wheelchair accessibility renovations that are now in McGill’s renovation queue. This year, Rogers successfully achieved his goal of ensuring the rollout of the projects he was involved in and made significant progress on other important initiatives.

Sophie Osiecki, Financial Affairs Officer

Sophie Osiecki’s main focus this semester has been supporting the PGSS needs-based bursary. In collaboration with the Member Services Officer, Osiecki also put a stop to the fee collection for the legal support fund—a fund which has been collecting $1 per student per term—but that according to Osiecki, is rarely if ever used. The fee will stop being collected as of September 2022. Although the question of how to redistribute the fund’s accrued $125,000 is ultimately up to the vote of the PGSS Council, Osiecki hopes to push for part of it to be injected into the needs-based bursary endowment. Osiecki will also spearhead the Seeds of Change initiative next term, a fundraising event that supports the bursary fund. Another project that Osiecki hopes to wrap up before March is passing a motion through the council that would put part of Travel Awards money toward carbon offsets. Sophie Osiecki has made good progress as the Financial Affairs Officer this year, and hopefully all of her projects slated for next semester come to fruition.

Hossein Poorhemati, University Affairs Officer

The role of the University Affairs (UA) Officer is to represent the interests of graduate students to the McGill administration. This semester, Hossein Poorhemati prioritized a smooth transition back to in-person learning by keeping an open line of communication with graduate students through weekly Zoom office hours and regular meetings with the administration. Another aspect of the UA portfolio is recruitment within PGSS, which Poorhemati has helped improve this semester by ensuring adequate volunteer recruitment and holding monthly meetings to keep track of unfilled positions. Additionally, Poorhemati has had a strong commitment to equity initiatives, notably advocating for international students facing financial barriers to research. He also hopes to develop an Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion 101 course that would be mandatory for all students and staff. Poorhemati chaired the PGSS Library Improvement Fund Committee and helped develop a list of recommendations to address the needs of graduate students. Next semester, Poorhemati hopes to continue increasing student involvement in PGSS and to work on improving the work-life balance for his constituents.

A previous version of this article incorrectly spelt Babatunde Alli’s name as “Babatunde Ali.” The Tribune regrets this error.

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