News | PGSS candidates’ debate points to disengaged electorate

Graduate students elections reflect internal divisions

The Post Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS) executive candidates gathered at Thomson House on Thursday for the third hustings – an event for candidates to debate and give speeches. The sparsely-attended event echoed the disengagement that has characterized this year’s PGSS elections process, with only one contested position out of the executive’s six positions.

After candidates presented their platforms, as well as the committee chairs of the upcoming referenda questions presented, candidates were asked a series of questions, which were previously submitted in writing to Chief Returning Officer (CRO) Colby Briggs.

The question period was most heated in regards to the question: “Budget cuts are coming, how will you ensure that PGSS members still have access to essential services in harsh economic times and how will you ensure the PGSS executive stays united rather than playing a damaging game of thrones?”

PGSS Equity Commissioner Gretchen King, one of the candidates running for VP Internal Affairs Officer and the only candidate hoping to unseat an incumbent executive, stated in regards to the question: “I think that again it shows a disengagement of the members because there is nothing specific [in ‘the game of thrones’]. It seems fictional and it doesn’t speak to the reality of the situation when there are serious grievances being brought by members about collective oppression and harassment.”

“The current executive takes their positions for granted as suggested by the fact that several nomination statements, including that of the Secretary-General, were not even available on the PGSS website until after the April 17 husting,” she added.

At a Council meeting in April, the executive team moved a motion to censure King over her behavior at a previous hustings in February.

Rosalind hampton, one of the few students in attendance, told The Daily that the “current executive has done everything in their power to discourage and discredit King’s candidacy […] and to maintain the status quo.”

“The current executive takes their positions for granted as suggested by the fact that several nomination statements, including that of the Secretary-General, were not even available on the PGSS website until after the April 17 husting,” she added.

King, who is running against incumbent Michael Krause, focused on her plans to organize consultation fairs, workshops, and speaker series – pointing out Krause’s shortcomings this year in fulfilling those tasks.

In regards to the divided nature of the executive team, King also stated that she would ensure “professional development, contracts for executives and commissioners that could outline mandates, grievance procedures, and mechanisms for accountability. And people should receive more equity training so that the issues do not fester.” Conversely, Krause emphasized his accomplishments this year in terms of planning trivia nights, salsa events, and field trips.

Tensions also arose over a question asked in regards to the role of the current Secretary-General Jonathan Mooney, who is running uncontested for re-election. In terms of how he sees his role on McGill’s governing bodies such as Senate, Mooney stated his position is “more like a trustee,” emphasizing that his approach does not focus strictly on being a representative of PGSS. This notion was challenged by King, who pointed out that the Secretary-General is mandated to be a representative and that this was the result of a students’ advocating for such representation.

In regards to the low turnout of the event, the CRO wrote in an email to The Daily that despite efforts to publicize the event, “turnout still only represents a small portion of our member body – this seems to be the nature of graduate students.”

In an email to The Daily, Krause expressed a similar sentiment: “The low turnout is something we do have to work on. The issue is not only apathy, but also the timing of the husting/election. We are very late in the year and many people are having exams, have to grade, or finish up projects over the summer.”

King, who made a point to highlight the fact that she is the only candidate with a campaign blog, Twitter, and Facebook page, stated: “The lack of advertising of this election and the lack of interest by other candidate is a missed opportunity. From my point of view being out campaigning, I’ve had a great opportunity to hear from the members. I think it is a missed opportunity for the incumbents to engage the members […] There is a presence of my campaign on campus… it has peaked people’s interests’ and that’s what the value of a campaign is.”

 


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