On Wednesday, October 19, the Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS) of McGill University met for their monthly council meeting, as well as their biannual General Meeting. Council voted on three motions, one regarding a referendum question for a Midnight Kitchen student levy, another allowing the Macdonald Campus Graduate Student Society to access the Post-Graduate Student Life Fund, and a final one approving Board Committee appointments. Two other motions were tabled.
The General Meeting consisted of a multitude of announcements from graduate students and other McGill officials, as well as executive reports.
Student Life and Learning
The council meeting featured an extensive presentation by the Office of Student Life and Learning (SLL), headed by Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) Ollivier Dyens.
“I come to Council about once or twice a year,” said Dyens, “usually to discuss the student services budget which we will do again this year, a bit later in November […], but the point of this meeting is to show you a bit of what SLL is and what we do, and then […] to answer your questions about some of the things we do, kind of like a meet-and-greet.”
SLL’s presentation began with an introduction to the office’s objectives, including but not limited to “offer[ing] the best, most innovative and healthiest educational experience in North America,” while “[developing] intellectual partnerships [between McGill’s] faculties, students and the entire McGill community.”
The presentation also touched upon the challenges faced by SLL. SLL detailed its work in negotiating Memorandum of Agreements (MoAs) with the University’s student unions, while simultaneously working on policy development within the university as a whole – notably, with policies that pertain to sexual violence, student academic assessment, medical notes, and plagiarism.
Council voted on a motion to approve a referendum question on a Midnight Kitchen student levy. While McGill undergraduate students currently support Midnight Kitchen through a $3.35 per semester per student opt-outable fee, graduate students don’t pay any fees to support the organization.
The referendum question asks graduate students if they would “support a student levy of $0.75 per semester to support the Midnight Kitchen, payable and fully opt-outable on Minerva by members of PGSS,” from Winter 2017 until Fall 2018, at which point it will be brought back to PGSS for renewal.
The motion passed unanimously, with 54 votes in favour.
Debate on MCGSS Funding
An amendment of the budget for Macdonald Campus Graduate Students’ Society (MCGSS) funding was brought to Council. It was sent to committee last Council meeting, but was not approved. The amendment to the budget would result in PGSS taking a total of $2,500, or the equivalent of $5.00 per graduate student at Macdonald campus, from the PGSS grants budget line and allocating it to MCGSS. This would subsequently be added to PGSS’ annual budget.
A motion to amend this was brought forward that would take $2.00 per graduate student, instead of $5.00 for Winter 2017. The motion passed.
Thomas Colburn of the Postgraduate Philosophy Student Association (PPSMUA), asked why the MCGSS wasn’t initially allocated any funds. Secretary General Victor Frankel responded that he “wasn’t part of the decision-making process, but I think that’s the most fair thing to do.”
“Essentially, it’s goods and services that we cannot regularly provide to Mac students because they’re [on the MacDonald campus],” continued Frankel, “so this gives them […] a budget line that allows them to run their own events.”
Former PGSS Financial Affairs Officer Behrang Sharif clarified that “it’s not that we are not giving any money [to MCGSS],” he said. “This was the money that was under another name. We had an agreement with MCGSS that this money is going to go to [Macdonald Campus Students’ Society [MCSS] now they are asking for extra money on top of what we agreed.”
Former PGSS Financial Affairs Officer and current Graduate Students’ Association for Neuroscience (GSAN) council rep Erik Larson spoke against the amendment. “The PGSS grants budget is funded by a referendum question. If we collect this money for the grants project at PGSS, this would be the equivalent of taking money out of the needs-based bursary fund or the library improvements fund – all of which PGSS collects and all of which they remit to the intended recipients of it. […] I don’t think that Council can and should take money from the budget line and give it to another organization.”
The debate centered mostly around what funds PGSS was already sending to MCGSS, and how much this new amendment would contribute to MCGSS’s budget. Eventually, the motion was tabled in light of the information brought up at Council.
New energy management program at McGill
At the general meeting, McGill’s energy manager Jerome Conraud spoke about a new energy program at McGill that might affect students during the winter.
“Essentially, you might know that in Quebec, peak demand for electricity is in the winter […] between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m., and in the afternoon between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m., so to help the utility company, Hydro-Quebec, they have a new incentive program to have customers like [McGill] reduce their power demands during these very cold days [and hours], and that will allow us to not have to purchase electricity at a very high cost from the United States or Ontario.”
Six buildings will be impacted by the energy program: McIntyre Medical Sciences, Penfield 470 (Genome), Wong, and Trottier buildings, and McLennan and Redpath libraries. Conraud assured council members that the heat wouldn’t be turned off completely, but would rather be set at “minimum acceptable levels.” The program will not detrimentally affect labs on campus, but heating will be turned off sequentially in certain areas of the specified buildings to minimize electricity usage.
Conraud acknowledged the disruptive effect this might have on students, but emphasized that the program would assure a $200,000 rebate from Hydro-Quebec by the end of the year, to be invested in energy conservation measures or greenhouse gas reduction measures.