News | Meet the big kids on campus

The Daily gives you a rundown on the five Post-Graduate Student Society

President John Ashley Burgoyne

Street cred: After collecting a handful of degrees – a BA at Harvard and two Masters – Burgoyne is now chipping away at a PhD in Music Technology. He joined the PGSS after the VP Academic resigned last November, but says his people skills will be better put to use as President, not in closed-door meetings representing the Society. So far he is on good terms with SSMU – let’s hope his skills keep it that way.

Sandbox projects: Burgoyne has plans to make a “more user friendly PGSS” by revamping its web site, filling Thomson House’s social calendar, and encouraging interaction between grad students outside of labs.

Playground verdict: So much for worker solidarity. Burgoyne has steered clear of the Teaching Assistant strike, and doesn’t plan to help TAs with reimbursement projects. Although he established the Graduate Students and Post-Doctorate Employment Committee, which unites TAs, work-study students, post-doc fellows, and research assistants, he has no concrete plans for what they’ll be doing this year.

VP External Adrian Kaats

Street cred: Kaats is on his way to a biomedical PhD, and is jumping headfirst into untangling PGSS’s membership in government lobbying groups.

Sandbox projects: Kaats is fed up with PGSS’s provincial and federal student association, the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) and its Quebec section. When he was elected last May, he was already talking about dissolving the Quebec section and joining another provincial student group. He also intends to campaign for greater prioritization of student demands and for graduate students over 25 years old having access to reduced-fare transit passes.

Playground verdict: We worry that Kaats is biting off more than he can chew because he will need support to make the CFS responsible to its members. He complains that fellow CFS members agree that the body is ineffective and opaque, but few are willing to fight with him for a more democratic body.

VP Academic Alexander DeGuise

Street cred: With three years behind him at McGill and some experience in campus politics – he represented PGSS on the Senate’s Academic Policy Committee – DeGuise feels well qualified to be VP Academic.

Sandbox projects: DeGuise says the privatization of research on campus creates a conflict of interest within the University, and that the use of public funds for corporate research is inappropriate. Yet while DeGuise hopes that students will care about this issue, noting that most graduate students are also research assistants, hope is certainly not enough. And in what will undoubtedly be a massive task, he wants to restructure the inner workings of PGSS to make it more efficient, by revamping everything from committees to Council.

Playground verdict: While we admire DeGuise’s crusade against the corporate presence on campus, we just hope he is able to mobilize the troops – graduate students are notoriously apathetic to campus politics. We also wish him good luck with his restructuring; we’re just glad we don’t have to do it.

VP Finance Eric Pollanen

Street cred: Originally from Ontario, Pollanen worked in a law firm in Montreal until he decided to get a Master’s at McGill. Serving on boards of various organizations, including a non-profit Montreal choir, has given him a drive to reform PGSS.

Sandbox projects: Compared to other executives, Pollanen has a quieter voice on PGSS, but he still wants to improve the controls and standards of the organization’s operations. He also said there is goodwill between PGSS and SSMU in spite of last year’s spat over club funding.

Playground verdict: Pollanen wants to see the reorganization the Board of Governors of PGSS, and to bring in people from outside McGill. While we have seen the negative impact of board reform at McGill – such as the corporatization of McGill’s board – Pollanen says he wants to solicit community organizations, social groups, and volunteers.

VP Internal Rabia Khan

Street cred: Khan has fast-tracked her way to a PhD in human genetics, and though bound to her lab, she’s found the time to pull together an impressive line-up of events.

Sandbox projects: Khan is committed to an event calendar that will keep Thomson House lively: she’s planned monthly DJ, movie, and Nintendo Wii nights. She’s planning apple-picking trips for graduate students with families, and is in the midst of organizing “Gay October” with other campus groups, in which Thomson House will host documentaries and panel discussions about LGBT issues and homosexuality.

Playground verdict: Khan is proud of the variety and volume of events that happen at McGill and she wants postgraduate students to take full advantage of what’s on offer. While there seems to be some clout to her goal – her facelift of PGSS’s online newsfeed included introducing sections for off-campus events – her ideas for how to get overworked grad students to attend events run out after postering and word-of-mouth.

Images by Camille McOuat


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