The McGill Daily » News http://www.mcgilldaily.com On strike since 1911 Mon, 30 Mar 2015 11:19:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.1 Council demands reopening of women-only hours negotiations http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/03/council-demands-reopening-of-women-only-hours-negotiations/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/03/council-demands-reopening-of-women-only-hours-negotiations/#comments Mon, 30 Mar 2015 10:42:28 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=41741 Equity, accessible education also discussed at six-hour meeting

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The Legislative Council of the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) convened on March 26 for a meeting that lasted more than six hours. Some of the issues addressed included ongoing research into McGill’s equitable hiring practices, SSMU’s stance on the debate over women-only gym hours, anti-austerity mobilization, and opposition to the development of harmful military technology. Council also discussed the results of the recent online referendum on sustainability, and the motion on accessible education that failed to pass at the last General Assembly (GA) due to lack of quorum.

Equitable hiring

Carolin Huang, one of McGill’s researchers on equitable hiring, gave a short and in-depth presentation of both SSMU’s and McGill’s hiring practices, which revealed that minorities are troublingly underrepresented, particularly in certain faculties. McGill adopted an equity policy in 2007, Huang explained, but its implementation has so far been “limited in practice.”

“We overviewed the ways in which employment equity is legislated […] and we came up with recommendations and concerns,” said Huang, explaining that the researchers had heard “many concerns raised by students and faculty around feelings of un-belonging and discrimination on campus.”

When asked by Engineering Representative Anikke Rioux what the practical purpose of this report would be, Huang explained that it should provide an impetus for student advocacy.

“A large problem is that McGill’s administration doesn’t see [employment equity] as a big issue,” she said, “so a lot of people we’ve talked to see students having a huge role in advocating [for this] and putting that public pressure on the administration.”

Women-only gym hours

Also on the table was a motion brought forward by VP University Affairs Claire Stewart-Kanigan concerning the recent proposal to institute women-only hours at the university fitness centre. The motion asked McGill to reopen negotiations on this highly contentious issue, and work toward a compromise.

Arts and Science Senator Chloe Rourke expressed repeated concern that the portion recommending a compromise would alienate the hundreds of students who had strongly opposed the idea of women-only hours. Her concern was echoed by Rioux and a number of other councillors. Eventually, a motion to divide the question passed, and each part was voted on separately. The first clause for re-opening negotiations passed almost unanimously, while the second clause on working toward a compromise passed with four for, three against, and eight abstentions.

Accessible education

At the recent SSMU GA, a motion was brought forward calling on SSMU to support the financial accessibility of education and oppose tuition deregulation. After considerable debate, the majority of students present voted to adopt it; because quorum had been lost, however, the motion was brought to Council for approval. Stewart-Kanigan spoke strongly in favour, as did VP External Amina Moustaqim-Barrette, arguing that commitment to financial accessibility is particularly important in light of recent austerity measures from the provincial government. Rioux and VP Internal Daniel Chaim, meanwhile, expressed opposition on the grounds that this motion opposed deregulation without offering tangible solutions, and its wording could be considered ambiguous. Medicine Senator David Benrimoh advocated leaving the question to a referendum, given its potentially controversial implications. This proposal passed by a significant margin, and a slightly simplified version of the motion will be voted on by SSMU members through an online referendum.

Policies on harmful military research and climate change

In accordance with a motion passed at the Fall 2014 GA, Stewart-Kanigan proposed a policy concerning harmful military research on campus.
“SSMU has had many policies in the past supporting transparency in McGill’s development of harmful military technologies on campus,” she said.

“This is essentially a renewal of past policies we’ve had, while adding an additional dimension of mandating the VP [University Affairs] to work with the university to support research initiatives outside of those tied to harmful military technologies, through seeking to incorporate the needs of students.”
The policy will come before Council for approval at a later date.

As a result of another motion from the Fall GA, Moustaqim-Barrette notified councillors that she had developed a climate change policy for SSMU. This motion, which mandates SSMU to advocate for climate justice and support student-run campaigns with this goal, will also be voted on at a later date.

Other business

Moustaqim-Barrette brought forward a motion mandating SSMU to send out a special listserv to all its members to explain the impact of provincial austerity measures on McGill and the wider community. Having spearheaded the creation of an anti-austerity mobilization committee within SSMU, she expressed concern at the fact that many McGill students remain relatively uninformed about these policies and their problematic social consequences. The motion passed by a relatively close margin, despite strong opposition from Rioux and Chaim.

Also discussed were the results of a recent referendum on sustainability, during which the majority of undergraduates expressed support for the hiring of a full-time Sustainability Coordinator for SSMU. Councillors debated the relative merits of hiring a coordinator and creating a new executive position of VP Sustainability. In support of the latter, some argued that an elected executive would be more in touch with the needs and ideas of students. No decision was reached, although according to a straw poll taken at the end of the discussion, the majority of councillors supported the idea of a full-time coordinator.

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SSMU launches survey on quality of life at McGill http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/03/ssmu-launches-survey-on-quality-of-life-at-mcgill/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/03/ssmu-launches-survey-on-quality-of-life-at-mcgill/#comments Mon, 30 Mar 2015 10:26:10 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=41735 BRIEF

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On March 23, the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) launched a comprehensive online survey intended to gather data from students about their experiences at McGill. Topics include academics, mental health, social life, student societies, and student priorities.

SSMU VP Clubs & Services Stefan Fong told The Daily, “One of SSMU’s main criticisms is that [it] doesn’t listen, and [it] isn’t relevant […] we want to combat that and address that.”

The survey is also meant to provide the administration with clear numbers and trends regarding student discontent, and provide stronger supporting arguments for SSMU when pushing for student initiatives and defending community concerns.

“There are some hard truths that will come out of the survey, clear trends are already emerging,” Fong added.

“There are some hard truths that will come out of the survey, clear trends are already emerging.” 

The survey, which takes about 15 to 20 minutes to complete, is incentivized: the first 500 users to complete the survey were awarded a coupon for a free slice of pizza from Pizza Navona. In addition to this, Fong testified that increased student participation would “unlock prizes,” hinting that once the threshold of 1,000 surveys has been met, more prizes will become available. Additionally, all who complete the survey will be entered in a raffle for prizes that are unknown as of print.

Inspiration for the survey was taken from similar projects on other Canadian campuses, according to Fong. He cited a survey done at the University of British Columbia (UBC) that found that students in the faculty of science were the only ones consistently dissatisfied with student services, leading UBC to restructure science advising.

“We’re not afraid of getting shit on, ourselves,” Fong told The Daily. “That’s what we want to know – what people have to say.”

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Unsuccessful VP Internal candidate seeks election invalidation http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/03/unsuccessful-vp-internal-candidate-seeks-election-invalidation/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/03/unsuccessful-vp-internal-candidate-seeks-election-invalidation/#comments Mon, 30 Mar 2015 10:24:50 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=41706 Johanna Nikoletos appeals Elections SSMU’s decision to J-Board

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On March 27, unsuccessful Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) VP Internal candidate Johanna Nikoletos submitted a petition to the SSMU Judicial Board (J-Board) against Elections SSMU, claiming that it failed to “uphold the electoral bylaws and ensure a fair election,” according to an email from Nikoletos.

The petition was filed the day after Elections SSMU Chief Electoral Officer Rachelle Bastarache announced that an electoral review committee had met to discuss allegations of infractions committed by VP Internal-elect Lola Baraldi. The committee “found that there was insufficient grounds to invalidate the election,” Bastarache wrote in her email to the press.

In a report sent by email to the student body on March 27, Bastarache informed students that while the election had not been invalidated, Baraldi’s campaign expenses would not be reimbursed, and that the email constituted a public censure.

Nikoletos will be appealing the decision of Elections SSMU to J-Board. “We will be asking the Judicial Board to either invalidate the election and call for a re-vote, or to disqualify Lola entirely for the extent of her actions,” Nikoletos told The Daily in an email.

“I am filing this petition to fight for my right to a fair elections process in this endeavour,” she wrote.

“I am filing this petition to fight for my right to a fair elections process in this endeavour.”

The alleged infractions that Nikoletos highlighted centre around events that occurred at New Residence Hall. On March 14, Baraldi was at Lou Lou’s, a cafe located in the lobby of New Residence, helping her friend Louise Smith, who works there. Nikoletos noted that a campaign poster of Baraldi’s had been set out on the counter, and alleged that this was an infraction of campaigning guidelines, which forbid campaigning within cafeterias.

In its report, Elections SSMU stated that it did not consider the New Residence cafe to be a cafeteria.

In an email to The Daily, Baraldi said that the poster was placed on the counter of the kiosk by an employee, and that she took it down as soon as she noticed it.

In addition, Nikoletos claimed that the fact that Baraldi was seen giving out free food would constitute an infraction, especially since she was in the presence of one of her campaign posters. She also asserted that the fact that Smith was reportedly campaigning for Baraldi, telling people who came up to her kiosk to vote for Lola, is also not allowed by the electoral bylaws because Smith is not a SSMU member, nor a member of Baraldi’s campaign team.

Baraldi noted that she did give out several free cookies, but only “when instructed to by the worker, and with no reference or correlations to me or my campaign.” Baraldi also claimed that she did not know that Smith had been telling students to vote for Baraldi, and asked Smith to stop as soon as she became aware.

According to the report released by Elections SSMU, Baraldi was indeed in violation of article 3.3 of the regulations for campaigning in residences (incorrectly identified in the report as a bylaw) by allowing her poster to be on the counter for around three hours. Smith was also in violation of article 14.5 of By-law Book I by placing the poster there. According to the report, “testimony reveals that around 12 p.m., Lola overheard Louise telling people to vote for her and intervened directly, and at this time she also took the poster down.”

The committee also concluded that Baraldi was not promoting her campaign in giving away the “one or two” food items that she did.

Nikoletos further alleged that New Residence floor fellows “were using their influence and access to first-year students in order to garner votes for Baraldi.”

Baraldi denied that she was actively campaigning in the New Residence lobby or using floor fellows to campaign for her, saying that while two floor fellows were on her campaign team, they did not campaign in residence.

The report from Elections SSMU contained no reference to the claim that Baraldi had had floor fellows campaigning for her in New Residence Hall.

“I am fully confident that it was a clean campaign and the allegations held against me more than anything result from a frustration with the close margin of votes,” said Baraldi.

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SSMU executive year-end review http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/03/ssmu-executive-year-end-review/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/03/ssmu-executive-year-end-review/#comments Mon, 30 Mar 2015 10:20:07 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=41981 The Daily looks back at the performance of the 2014-15 councillors

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This year’s executive, currently entering the final days of its time leading the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU), has demonstrated leadership in areas such as austerity mobilization and support for student-run services, often going above and beyond to advocate for the University to make student voices a priority when making decisions in these areas.

SSMU made a big effort at its general assembly, which was much more organized that the Fall GA, revised the Equity policy in response to issues raised by students, and hosted many teaching events and forums, thus showing an increased push for student consultation this year. However, there definitely remains room for SSMU to improve in this area. Overall, despite bumps along the way, this was a much better year for SSMU compared to previous years.

Click on a position to see its end-year review.


President — Courtney Ayukawa

For many students, the SSMU General Assembly (GA) is the most visible part of the President’s portfolio. Similar to last semester, the Winter 2015 GA was one of the central events of Ayukawa’s term. Indeed, it was very well-organized compared to the fall — while also the site of multiple controversial motions and with an initial turnout of over 500 students, it did not see the same time and security delays present at the Fall GA, and went much more smoothly. However, like the Fall GA, attendance dropped significantly after the first motion on Palestine solidarity, and quorum was lost for the last motion.

Ayukawa was also behind a number of small sustainability initiatives this year, including the introduction of a SSMU composting program and the broadening of the Green Events Coordinator and Green Buildings Coordinator job descriptions. Ayukawa also plans to do interviews with the incoming SSMU executive for the 2014-15 Sustainability Assessment, which will take place in May.

Additionally, Ayukawa has shown initiative in her negotiations with the administration, as she made an attempt to open Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) negotiations with the University one year early. This attempt, however, was unsuccessful due to a lack of cooperation from the administration. She has also been one of the less vocal members of the student Senate caucus this semester. While the bulk of the Presidential portfolio concerns Human Resources and is thus oftentimes less visible, it is important for the head of a student society such as SSMU to have a visible leadership presence, which has ultimately been inconsistent throughout Ayukawa’s term.


VP External — Amina Moustaqim-Barrette

As the member of the executive charged with representing SSMU’s interests outside of McGill, VP External Amina Moustaqim-Barrette has motivated a variety of initiatives this year. Aided by her previous involvement with Divest McGill, Moustaqim-Barrette helped organize SSMU’s involvement with the People’s Climate March, and also initiated SSMU’s affiliation with anti-pipeline group Étudiant(e)s contre les oléoducs (ÉCO), which now represents over 100,000 students across Quebec.

While environmental initiatives at SSMU have quieted down this semester, anti-austerity organizing has picked up. Initiatives such as the recent anti-austerity activities night, actions of the mobilization committee, and the hiring of a mobilization officer are commendable attempts to increase engagement with ongoing issues in Montreal and Quebec. However, the mobilization of McGill students has not been particularly successful — this lack of student interest in the VP External portfolio was highlighted by the fact that no one ran for the position in the first round of SSMU executive elections last week. Although two candidates are now running in by-elections, dwindling student engagement in external issues is a problem that both the current and future VP External should seek to improve.

One of Moustaqim-Barrette’s recent projects has been to explore the possibility of starting a new student federation. In light of SSMU’s disaffiliation from the Table de concertation étudiante du Québec (TaCEQ) last year, and the possible dissolution of the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec (FEUQ), this move to maintain and improve McGill’s connection with other Quebec universities is a necessary step forward.


VP Finance and Operations — Kathleen Bradley

Kathleen Bradley has done well as this year’s SSMU VP Finance and Operations. She succeeded in bringing a more clearly presented budget to Council. A huge change from last year was Bradley’s outreach to the media concerning this year’s budget: when the budget first came out at the beginning of the year, Bradley sat down with campus media and explained it to them in full, demonstrating a clear dedication to transparency and willingness to communicate with students. However, further initiatives to increase the visibility of SSMU’s budget among the student body as a whole, and to make students more aware of where their fees are going, would have been beneficial.

Bradley told The Daily she was glad to help SSMU break even on its budget and see sales rise at student-run cafe The Nest. She said that the continued expansion of student-run operations is one thing she hopes will be continued by next year’s executive as well. At SSMU Council meetings, Bradley has asserted that she expects the Nest to break even next year.

Bradley has done a great deal of work this year to promote student-run operations beyond the explicit demands of her portfolio, and we commend Bradley on her involvement with the Food Coalition and for leading SSMU in its support of student-run services, which have been under constant attack from the administration this year. A minor criticism of Bradley, however, is that throughout the year she has been reluctant to give as much time to campus media inquiries as compared to other members of this year’s executive and past holders of Bradley’s current position.


VP Clubs & Services — Stefan Fong

During his second year as VP Clubs & Services, Stefan Fong has endeavoured to make clubs more accessible to students and to increase student consultation. Fong told The Daily that he hopes that the Club Hub, a club management portal Fong has been developing since his first year in office, will finally be implemented under next year’s VP Clubs & Services, as the research and consultative phases have been completed.

In working toward achieving the Club Hub, Fong obtained constitutions from clubs that he identified as being active this year, thereby updating the list of functioning clubs. Additionally, Fong told The Daily that he wants to see the development of a co-curricular activities record, wherein participation in SSMU clubs would be recorded on a student’s transcript. While this is a worthwhile endeavor, it is still in developmental phases and is unlikely to be implemented this year.

Fong also showed initiative by rewriting the bylaw book for clubs and services. Overall, Fong has been an active member of Council, taking one of the executive positions often perceived as more mundane and very much making it his own. However, Fong has also faced criticism from various clubs and services for failing to consult with them before SSMU imposed clubs regulations. While this is a near-inevitable side effect of improving the organization of the Clubs & Services portfolio, the future VP Clubs & Services should seek to maintain and improve SSMU’s relationship with its clubs to help facilitate future cooperation.


VP Internal — Daniel Chaim

Daniel Chaim has prided himself on amassing larger amounts of revenue than last year’s executive in every social event that he has run as VP Internal, including 4Floors. Although some of the events still ran a deficit, Frosh almost broke even, missing the mark by a margin of only 0.35 per cent.

He also assisted in the restructuring of the Students’ Society Programming Network (SSPN), which increased overall volunteer involvement by delegating more responsibilities to volunteers and giving them more experience with event planning. Chaim noted that he had worked closely with SSPN this year and said that the committee played an integral role in the running of SSMU’s social events.

Chaim has not had many visible accomplishments this year outside of the standard organizing of these events; his proposed publications fee, for example, has as of yet failed to materialize. He has done little to go beyond the minimum requirements mandated by his portfolio; for example, he has failed to use the listserv as a tool to promote political engagement. This lack of drive to do more than the basic requirements of his portfolio was the most concerning aspect of Chaim’s performance this year.


VP University Affairs — Claire Stewart-Kanigan

Claire Stewart-Kanigan has been exceptionally active in student advocacy as VP University Affairs in many ways. On the policy front, she has been heavily involved in the continued development of a sexual assault policy for McGill, has helped update SSMU’s Equity Policy to allow for consultation with relevant student groups, and has worked on formalizing SSMU’s stance in opposition to harmful military research on campus. Stewart-Kanigan has also been central to the successful launch of SSMU’s mental health department.

Stewart-Kanigan has continued work on decolonization by seeking to bring a territory acknowledgement to Senate by the end of the year. Student researchers under her portfolio have also been very active, notably investigating equitable hiring practices at McGill. At Senate, Stewart-Kanigan has continued to provide a strong presence, and has acted as an effective leader for the SSMU Senate caucus.

Student consultation and collaboration have been a priority for Stewart-Kanigan. She has held forums and informational sessions, and has been receptive to concerns brought forward by students such as the women-only gym hours. Overall, Stewart-Kanigan has fulfilled her mandate exceptionally well, and has had a lasting impact on the university.


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Quebec students on strike: a timeline http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/03/quebec-students-on-strike-a-timeline/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/03/quebec-students-on-strike-a-timeline/#comments Mon, 30 Mar 2015 10:17:12 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=41825 Looking back at a first week of mobilization

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Escalating the pressure against the provincial Liberal government‘s austerity measures and cuts to education, healthcare, and public services, nearly 50,000 students across Quebec, including McGill‘s French Language and Literature students, were on strike last week. Many of them will be on strike until at least April 2, and some have already renewed strike mandates that extend even further. Students and supporters have participated in daily protest actions, some of which were met with heavy police repression — especially in Montreal and in Quebec City.


March 21
Braving the snowy weather, Montreal students kick off the strike with a 5,000-strong demonstration.
March 23

At Université Laval, anti-strike students hoping to access their first classes of the week call the police, who arrive on the scene but do not attempt to break the picket lines.

A demonstration in Montreal sees police involvement, and ends in several injuries and 24 arrests.

March 24

Le Devoir reports that, in an unprecedented move, the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) has moved to expel nine students who have participated in strikes and demonstrations over the past two years, prompting a solidarity petition from the student body and an outraged letter from the professors‘ union.

In the early afternoon, police violently attack a demonstration of about 200 in downtown Montreal.

A night demonstration in Montreal against austerity and for accessible education draws thousands of people, and continues for over two hours despite clashes with police.

In Quebec City, police swiftly and brutally repress a protest of about 500, making 274 arrests. Two people are bitten by police dogs.

March 26

Demonstrators gather by the Parliament building in Quebec City to protest the presentation of the Liberal government‘s budget. Riot police are deployed, and one demonstrator is shot in the face point-blank with a tear gas grenade.

March 27

Thousands of Montrealers take to the streets once more for a night protest. Demonstrators march for over an hour, but are dispersed with sound grenades, and at least 81 people receive fines.

Planned actions in Montreal

March 31

Feminist night demonstration protesting recent instances of anti-feminist intimidation toward activists and austerity‘s disproportionate effect on women, as well as the proposed implementation of Bill 20, which could threaten free and open access to abortion.

April 2

The Association pour une solidarité syndicale Étudiante (ASSÉ)‘s province-wide demonstration, which the student federation has framed as an ‘ultimatum’ to the Quebec government, warning of further escalation.

McGill’s student associations and strike votes
Student association Strike information
Upcoming strike votes

Law Students’ Association (LSA)

Campaign period: March 28 to 30, including an open forum at some point. The strike vote will be determined through online ratification.

Voting through referendum. Law students will be given the choice of going on strike for one day on April 2, or going on a strike that would be renewable after two weeks on the first business day after the referendum results are released.

Women’s and Sexual Diversity Studies Student Association (WSSA)

General Assembly (GA): Tuesday, March 31 at 6 p.m. in the AUS lounge.

Planned motions for the General Assembly (GA) include one to set quorum for a strike vote to 40 members, and one to go on strike from April 1 to 7, with the possibility of the strike being renewable thereafter.

Department of English Student association (DESA)

Austerity Consultative Forum: March 31 at 4 p.m. in Leacock 219.

Though not a strike vote, this forum will gauge the desire of students in the Department of English to go on strike, and will serve as an informational session for those who would like to know more about what going on strike would entail

DESA does not currently have clauses in its constitution for a GA or strike vote, so standing rules would have to be adopted or the constitution would have to be amended.

Passed strike votes

Medicine Students’ Society

On strike on March 30 in protest of Bill 20.

Association générale des étudiants de langue et littérature françaises (AGELF)

On strike from March 30 to April 3.

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Who is running for PGSS? http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/03/who-is-running-for-pgss/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/03/who-is-running-for-pgss/#comments Mon, 30 Mar 2015 10:15:48 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=41929 An overview of your potential 2015-16 post-grad executives

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Like last year, several of the Post-Graduate Students‘ Society (PGSS) executive candidates are running as a slate, namely Danielle Toccalino, Sahil Kumar, Bradley Por, Brighita Lungu, and Behrang Sharif. The slate‘s common platform elements mainly consist of increasing the availability of the executive to constituents — in particular by holding consistent, visible office hours — and maintaining a regular presence at Thomson House, Mac Campus, McGill-affiliated hospitals, and PGSS events.

Click on a position to see the candidates’ overviews.


Secretary General
Danielle Toccalino

Photo courtesy of Danielle Toccalino

As former Science Undergraduate Society (SUS) President, current SUS Chief Returning Officer, and current representative to PGSS for the Graduate Student Association of Neuroscience, Danielle Toccalino has a wealth of experience with McGill student politics. In addition to sitting on the SUS Constitutional Affairs Committee — where she helped update the Society‘s governing documents and reform electoral bylaws — Toccalino has participated in a number of working groups with both McGill Principal Suzanne Fortier and Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) Ollivier Dyens. She noted that her terms in office demonstrate the organizational skills needed for the role of PGSS Secretary-General, which involves sitting on all of the associationís committees and acting as a bridge between graduate students and the University.

The PGSS executive committee suffered from strong internal divisions this year, with former Secretary-General Juan Camilo Pinto eventually resigning in January, citing personal reasons. Toccalino aims to promotes unity within the executive officers by making sure every executive officer has an equal voice. She also indicated that she would prioritize consensus-building on issues that polarize executive officers, aiming to work through proposals as a unit instead of relying on majority voting to make decisions. Divisions are not unique to just the executive, however, and Toccalino stated that she intends to shorten the gap between heavily committed PGSS members and apathetic ones.

As Secretary-General, Toccalino said that she would visit each of the 57 departmental associations meetings at least once a semester in order to solicit broad opinion. She is also advocating improved communication with graduate students by conducting more surveys and organizing more face-to-face events. Mental health and equity are also prominent parts of Toccalino‘s platform, and she would mandate each executive officer and commissioner to undergo equity, mental health, and first aid training.


Saturnin Espoir Ntamba Ndandala

Photo courtesy of Saturnin Espoir Ntamba Ndandala

Saturnin Espoir Ntamba Ndandala completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Cape Town, where he was president of the undergraduate student society. He has also occupied leadership positions while studying at the University of Sorbonne and the University of Toronto, and has helped in the development of a smartphone application that aims to promote electoral knowledge among minorities. At McGill, Ndandala currently serves as a member of the Policy and Structural Advisory Committee of PGSS and ran for interim Secretary-General following the resignation of Juan Camilo Pinto in February. He lost to Yony Bresler, winning only 29 per cent of the votes. Ndandala argues that his exposure to different cultural values will give him a good standing if elected. Furthermore, he describes himself as a fighter, citing his cancer survival as evidence of his tenacity and strength.
Of the two electoral platforms in the PGSS Secretary-General campaign, Ndandala‘s is the more radical. He is proposing to reduce the fees that graduate students pay to their association by eliminating PGSS executive salaries. In support of this, he argued that executive officers are only required to work for 15 hours per week, and that the heads of graduate departmental associations are also unpaid.

Raising awareness of sexual assault is also a key part of Ndandala‘s platform. He hopes to make it mandatory for all graduate students to take a course on sexual assault, sexual harassment, and gender equality as part of their degree. True to his international academic experience, Ndandala also wants to ensure that international students have an easier transition into McGill by starting a program that would pair Canadian and foreign students. He envisions the program as a cultural exchange that would promote diversity among the student body.


Members Services
Jenny Ann Pura

Photo courtesy of Jenny Ann Pura

Jenny Ann Pura is currently an Experimental Surgery Graduate Student Society (ESGSS) representative on PGSS Council. She told The Daily that her experience there sparked an interest in joining the executive committee. She also participated in initiatives to train student volunteers in active listening while an undergraduate at the University of Victoria. Aside from her work for ESGSS — of which she is co-president — Pura indicated her having attended Council meetings as experience that would count in her favour as Member Services Officer. The office is designed to offer guidance to graduate students on accessing McGill services — such as career planning, health services, and mental health services — as well as managing the various services run by PGSS.

Pura said that it is difficult to pinpoint what is most crucial to the role, stating that all aspects of the portfolio are equally important. She also had difficulty expressing a clear platform, but emphasized that team building exercises, transparency, and dealing with conflicts in a timely manner were all crucial. Additionally, she suggested that services for post-grads should be centralized in a single online platform, similar to Minerva. Pura stressed that every person‘s voice should be heard. However, she cautioned that she could not guarantee the feasibility of every electoral promise, expressing reluctance to declare what she hoped to achieve if elected.

Brighita Lungu

Photo courtesy of Brighita Lungu

Brighita Lungu, having completed her first term, is running for re-election to the position of PGSS Member Services Officer (MSO).

Given the year she has spent as MSO and as a member of the Graduate Architecture Students‘ Association (GASA), Lungu has built up extensive experience catered to the position. Although she characterized the learning curve of being a PGSS MSO as steep, Lungu said that given her increased familiarity with the terrain, she will be able to accomplish more in the next year if re-elected.

Lungu said that she thought that one of the biggest issues facing student leadership is the turnover that the positions often see. Therefore, highlighting institutional memory as a crucial factor for success, Lungu asserted that being consistent and running for the same position will give her an edge over her opponent.

With the brunt of the MSO‘s responsibility surrounding the proper representation of her constituents, Lungu cited a good working relationship with existing administrative organs as a significant advantage. She also addressed the importance of teamwork, and said that she intends to require all PGSS executives to go through equity training and active bystander training.

Lungu was also very vocal about providing support mechanisms for graduate students, particularly with regard to mental health and counselling. She also noted potential future collaboration with the McGill Office of Religious and Spiritual Life (MORSL) as a way to ensure that graduate students who might not be seeking these services because of perceived stigma are able to access them safely.

Lungu said she believed that one of the challenges facing MSO is that the departmental associations are not centralized in one place, like at the downtown campus — instead, they take the form of eighty small groups around Montreal. She expressed her hope to work on improving the disjointed relationship between these associations if re-elected.


Internal Affairs Officer
Sahil Kumar

Photo credit: Andy Wei

Sahil Kumar gained a sense for the position‘s portfolio through his involvement with the Internal Affairs Committee this year as a PGSS representative for the Experimental Medicine Graduate Student Society (EMGSS). He sat on the PGSS Equity Committee this year, and has past experience in student government; he was the Science Undergraduate Society (SUS) VP Internal in 2013-14, a position in which he coordinated orientation week and introduced changes to make Frosh more accessible. He was also the SUS executive administrator in 2012-13, and worked for Campus Life & Engagement.

Kumar highlighted the importance of activities, communications, and committee recruitment to the Internal Affairs portfolio. He noted that there was room for improvement with orientation options — as a first-year graduate student, Kumar found orientation activities insufficient, even though a services fair was available. He hopes to create more welcoming orientation activities such as an activities night for committee positions, and to get students involved in committees, clubs, and departmental associations early in the year. Kumar also noted that he wants to provide more family-friendly events for PGSS members with children, and to take proactive action toward a sexual assault and harassment policy for PGSS.

Kumar considers mediating internal struggles to be an aspect of the Internal Affairs portfolio, noting that issues this year had detrimental effects on PGSS‘s public image, as well as on the atmosphere at Council meetings and Annual General Meetings.


External Affairs Officer
Bradley Por

Photo credit: Andy Wei

Bradley Por decided to run for External Affairs Officer during the extended nomination period. Por is currently in his third year at McGill, as he has completed a Masters in Law and is just starting his PhD; he was previously the Academic Affairs Officer at the Graduate Law Students‘ Association (GLSA).

Por made it clear that he is not afraid to take strong stances, and indicated that resistance to austerity was a priority for him at a time when budget cuts are resulting in reduced funds for education services. In the wake of the possible collapse of the Fédération Étudiante universitaire du Québec (FEUQ), Por indicated that it was essential to rebuild a new organization based on open collaboration and communication in order to resist austerity.

Another key element of Por‘s platform is increasing communication between the External Affairs Officer and PGSS constituents. An Annual General Meeting twice a year, he noted, is not enough of a conversation with students. Por emphasized the importance for students to see their students‘ society as a tool for advocating for their interests, with regard to both the administration and the government.


Academic Affairs Officer
Devin Mills

Photo credit: Andy Wei

Devin Mills served on the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee at Edgewood College in Wisconsin for three years, was an assessment graduate research assistant, and is currently the Education Graduate Students‘ Society (EGSS) VP Finance. If elected, communication and transparency will be at the forefront of Mills‘ priorities, as he has said that communicating with constituents is something that he would like to see PGSS do more of in the future. He hopes to make the policies that impact student life more clear to students, and thinks that, overall, PGSS could benefit from more transparency in its initiatives. He cites the Society‘s recent disaffiliation from the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) as an example — PGSS members were unaware of the disaffiliation vote‘s potential effects on their fees.

Mills indicated that he was highly concerned about budget cuts at McGill, and also named increased research funding as an issue that he would prioritize in his advocacy. He said that filling all the Senate committee seats allocated to PGSS was a priority for him, and that he would seek to improve communication with PGSS members to that end.

After the controversies of this past year that resulted in the removal of Secretary-General Juan Camilo Pinto from his position on the PGSS executive, Mills said he would like to help PGSS regain respect from its constituents and re-establish its credibility. Overall, he says he would like to eliminate doubts that people might have regarding the organization in order to promote engagement.


Financial Affairs Officer
Behrang Sharif

Photo courtesy of Behrang Sharif

Behrang Sharif has been involved in various PGSS committees since he began his graduate studies at McGill around three years ago, and was previously treasurer and president at a national association for pharmaceutical students in Iran. He has also worked in a financial capacity at a startup, has taken part in local, national, and international student organizations and federations, and has spent two years as a PGSS representative for the Physiology Graduate Student Association (PGSA).

Transparency and accessibility of the PGSS budget and its overall finances is of great importance for Sharif, especially given that PGSS is struggling financially following its legal dispute with the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS). He suggested seeking increased revenue to avoid hiking fees by encouraging people to hold meetings at Thomson House throughout the day in order to increase sales, for example.

Sharif‘s other portfolio-related goals include improving the partnership between PGSS and other campus organizations, and continuing the Thomson House lease negotiations with the University in case they are not completed by the current executive. He noted that there is currently a lack of clarity about the negotiation process on the part of PGSS executives. He also aims to to promote PGSS involvement among constituents.


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Student Services budget faces threat of depletion http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/03/student-services-budget-faces-threat-of-depletion/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/03/student-services-budget-faces-threat-of-depletion/#comments Mon, 30 Mar 2015 10:15:13 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=41688 Lack of transparency frustrates students

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Increased overhead costs paid by Student Services to McGill, in addition to increased cuts in university funding transfers to these services, means that the McGill Student Services budget will see significant and unsustainable strain in the coming years.

Erin Sobat, Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS) VP Academic and undergraduate student member of the Senate Committee on Student Services (CSS), explained to The Daily that with the higher overhead payments next year, Student Services will be eating into its $6 million budget surplus more quickly than anticipated.

Originally, CSS had planned to spend the funds over a five-year period, this year drawing down on the surplus by channeling $500,000 into the Innovation Fund, and $500,000 to counteract the operating deficit. However, with the 2.5 per cent overhead fee imposed by the central administration increasing to 3 per cent, Sobat predicts that the surplus could be gone in as little as two years, meaning the only way to continue current levels of service would be through a significant student service fee increase. Particularly given that overhead charged in 2018 is forecasted at 5 per cent.

The overhead paid by Student Services to the central administration has increased drastically since the fee’s implementation in 2008, when then-Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) Morton Mendelson told CSS that the central administration would begin charging Student Services a flat overhead fee of $15,000. In 2010, an overhead fee of 1.5 per cent was applied to all non-fee revenue. The current rate of 2.5 per cent was established in 2013, meaning about $200,000 of Student Services funding was returning to the central operating budget.

Jim Ghoshdastidar, PhD student and member of CSS, characterizes the increase in overhead charges as “students […] essentially being levied with a back-door tuition increase.”

Members of CSS are especially concerned about the lack of sustainability surrounding this current model, given the importance, as well as vulnerability, of certain programs under the Student Services umbrella, such as the Office for Students with Disabilities (OSD).

The OSD is one of the many programs that McGill must offer under provincial law, yet its financial burdens have been incorporated into Student Services. Elizabeth Cawley-Fiset, postgraduate CSS member and Health Commissioner at the Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS) told The Daily that this is but one example of a pattern in which McGill forces legally mandated programs onto Student Services.

“How can you say that […] students with mental health issues should have to wait on a five-month waiting list? Or that, if you have a scholarship, you should pay for the office that disburses it? And then, the worst part is, if you have a disability, you have to pay for your own supportive services.”

CSS has attempted to address concerns by proposing moving certain services, such as OSD, out from under the Student Services umbrella. However, CSS members have been unable to communicate with Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) Ollivier Dyens about this project, as he was unable to attend the March 20 CSS meeting, and will not be at the next one.

Cawley-Fiset noted, “There’s zero regulation, as far as I know, at this point in terms of what they can charge. So the people that are receiving the overhead fees and benefitting from this are also the people who decide what the percentage is.”

Transparency issues in provincial funding for student services

In an email to The Daily, Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) VP University Affairs Claire Stewart-Kanigan noted that, per her understanding, “money earmarked by the government as for ‘services for students’ that generally goes to Student Services may start going to more units across the university that do not fall under Student Services.”

Student Services is an office run on student fees, but, as Sobat noted, even if CSS does ask for a higher student services fee, it can’t be sure that all this money would be going into Student Services rather than the central administration.

Student Services Executive Director Jana Luker told The Daily that she acknowledges that many students “feel that services developed due to government regulations should not be paid for by Student Service fees.”

“It’s kind of a grey area, and the way that McGill has decided to do it is the way they’ve decided to do it,” was Luker’s response to these concerns.

While McGill receives money from the provincial government intended for student services, Sobat noted that there remains a lack of transparency regarding the allocation of these funds.

“We’ve never been able to see what the amounts are. [The administration] always refused to give us what the amounts coming from the government to [the] central [administration] have been for student services. […] We don’t know how much is coming into McGill, so we don’t know how much is getting transferred,” he said.

“We’ve never been able to see what the amounts are. [The administration] always refused to give us what the amounts coming from the government to [the] central [administration] have been for student services. […] We don’t know how much is coming into McGill, so we don’t know how much is getting transferred.”

“It’s been very difficult as a representative to get any clear information, and I think it’s difficult for Student Services to get that information as well. And that’s why you get contradictory reports. The University needs to take on more responsibility [in terms of communicating this information] to the rest of the McGill community at all levels, not just Student Services.”

Rourke noted that she was also concerned that maintaining the status quo for service provision would not suffice under this new model. While all units are taking cuts, she said that “Student Services are critical to student success and are a backbone of our community and our institution.”

Cawley-Fiset shared this sentiment. “The University is in a massive budget crisis, I don’t doubt that. But Student Services, in the grand scheme of McGill University, is like a drop in the bucket, and it has such a profound impact on the student experience.”

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AUS executives reflect on high turnover http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/03/aus-executives-reflect-on-high-turnover/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/03/aus-executives-reflect-on-high-turnover/#comments Mon, 30 Mar 2015 10:13:22 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=41754 Five executive resignations mostly due to “bad luck,” president says

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Five Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS) executives resigned during the 2014-15 academic year, with three citing personal issues, and two citing the working environment at AUS, as reasons for their resignation.

The first resignation came from former VP Finance Kateryn Kim in late August, and was due to personal reasons; the second resignation was submitted by former VP Internal Leila Alfaro at the end of September because she was going on exchange for Winter 2015; the third was former VP Social Kyle Rouhani in November, as a result of duress experienced in the role.

The fourth AUS executive to resign was former VP Internal Roma Nadeem, Alfaro’s replacement, who left at the beginning of the semester due to health problems, and passed away on March 9. The last to leave was former VP Finance Li Xue, who joined to replace Kim, and resigned at the end of February citing the work dynamic within the AUS.

“The work dynamic that I experienced within the AUS and the decreasing meaningfulness of the work I found myself having to do was very alienating,” stated Xue in her resignation statement to AUS.

“In the end, I could no longer justify such a large time and energy commitment to something that made me unhappy.”

“In the end, I could no longer justify such a large time and energy commitment to something that made me unhappy.”

In the email to The Daily, the current VP Academic Erin Sobat mentioned that the unusual number of resignations this year, while rare, was likely exacerbated by external factors.

“I think that it is unfair to phrase the events of this year in the context of a poor working environment at the AUS,” wrote Sobat. He added, “we have had an incredibly difficult year, largely due to circumstances outside of our control, and have done our best to deal with the results of this.”

President Ava Liu concurred, stating that three of the resignations this year were purely bad luck.

“Last year we got two [resignations]. It depends on every year. Three of them are just bad luck and last year we had two,” Liu told The Daily.

When asked to comment on Rouhani and Xue, who did not leave for personal reasons, Liu remarked that Xue resigned because of team dynamics and Rouhani due to his inability to perform the work.

“First, [Rouhani] resigned because of the lack of ability to perform on the job – that was what happened due to personal incapability, and not due to [the] dynamic at AUS,” Liu explained. “[In the case of Xue], it was because of personal dynamics, I’ll give it that.”

“I think that first of all, the year ends at the end of April. Term ends at the end of April and not at the beginning of March. So it’s not really acceptable to resign real close to the end of the year [when] there’s not really anything left to do,” she added.

According to Grant Whithan, the executive assistant at AUS, in contrast to Xue’s claim, he found the AUS work environment to be very friendly. “I totally agree with the sense that I don’t know where this hostility […] is coming from, because I found the environment at AUS to be very supportive.”

Because no one ran for the VP Finance position for next year, the AUS Legislative Council has been empowered to fill the position by appointment.

“The nature of the job is very hard; but the environment, the people and dynamic is not the problem,” Liu noted. “Everyone is very supportive. But because of the job, everyone [works] at their own pace.”

As of press time, Rouhani has yet to respond to requests for comment.

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Year in review: News http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/03/year-in-review-news-2/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/03/year-in-review-news-2/#comments Mon, 30 Mar 2015 10:11:16 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=41774 The Daily looks back

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Click on a title or quote to read more!
The Tariq Khan Drama

Campus unions get moving

“I cannot celebrate the status quo of mental health support at McGill.”

Tense debates at General Assemblies

Students against austerity

Sustainability at McGill

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McGill teaching assistants to hold strike vote http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/03/mcgill-teaching-assistants-to-hold-strike-vote/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/03/mcgill-teaching-assistants-to-hold-strike-vote/#comments Mon, 30 Mar 2015 10:09:59 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=41697 AGSEM members frustrated by McGill’s monetary offer

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Dissatisfied with the University’s monetary offer, McGill teaching assistants (TAs) voted at a General Assembly on March 19 to mandate the executive of AGSEM, their union, to hold a strike vote by April 10. Negotiations have been ongoing since the TAs’ collective agreement expired in June 2014, but the University has not been receptive to TAs’ demands.

“I will say, having been at the bargaining table, that we’ve had to argue very strenuously for what seemed to us relatively minor changes to the collective agreement,” AGSEM TA Grievance Officer and Bargaining Committee member (and former Daily Publications Society Chair) Benjamin Elgie told The Daily.

The TAs’ main demands include a wage increase of 5 per cent per year, a partial health insurance and tuition waiver, and a limit on TA-to-student ratios. On March 18, the University offered the TAs a yearly wage increase identical to that of the Quebec public service workers – which is currently in negotiations – with a one-year lag. Unlike some similar unions in Quebec, AGSEM is not affiliated with the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), and is not involved in public service collective agreement negotiations with the government.

“We’re not a public service union, [and] the amount of the increase is currently unknown,” said Elgie. “The government’s offer to the public service has been […] a 3 per cent raise [in total] over five years with two years of wage freeze, which amounts to a cut [accounting for inflation], and historically, we’ve managed somewhat better than that.”

“The offer of a wage cut is not acceptable by itself, but the lack of even any attempt to come to a compromise on the other demands regarding tuition and ratios was very surprising to our members, and very disappointing.”

Speaking to The Daily, AGSEM President Justin Irwin noted that McGill TAs’ working conditions compare very unfavourably to those of TAs at the University of Toronto (U of T), who were on strike until last week, and to those of TAs at York University, who are still on strike. According to AGSEM mobilization material, the hourly wage at York can be almost double that at McGill.

“In terms of the plain numbers it’s pretty straightforward – they have better agreements than we do,” said Irwin. “In Toronto they have higher costs of living, that’s true, but the extent to which we’re able to meet our costs of living is still less, in many cases.”

The University’s disappointing offer on wages, as well as its failure to consider the TAs’ other demands, prompted AGSEM members to request that the executive hold a strike vote.

“The offer of a wage cut is not acceptable by itself, but the lack of even any attempt to come to a compromise on the other demands regarding tuition and ratios was very surprising to our members, and very disappointing,” said Elgie.

“Our members aren’t satisfied […] with our quite rational demands […] being completely rejected out of hand,” added Irwin, noting that the strike vote will likely be held in the week of April 7. Members will decide the duration and parameters of a potential strike at that meeting.

Elgie and Irwin noted that a TA strike may affect exam invigilation as well. The collective agreement for invigilators, who are also members of AGSEM under a different bargaining unit, will expire on April 30.

“Up until the end of April, TAs are the only members of AGSEM that are in a position to strike; however, it’s possible that, if we are striking […] picket lines will affect invigilation of exams as well,” said Irwin.

“There’s a massive overlap between the membership of the TA unit and the membership of the invigilator unit, and if we have a lot of our members who are on strike as TAs, there’s a good chance they won’t cross picket lines to work as invigilators,” added Elgie. “Any unionized employee at McGill has the right to refuse to cross a picket line.”

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QPIRG holds workshop on past and present student activism at McGill http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/03/qpirg-holds-workshop-on-past-and-present-student-activism-at-mcgill/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/03/qpirg-holds-workshop-on-past-and-present-student-activism-at-mcgill/#comments Mon, 30 Mar 2015 10:03:22 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=41814 Workshop explores resistance tactics and reasons to resist

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As a part of the two-day educational series “From Austerity to Solidarity: Communities Fighting Back!” the Quebec Public Interest Research Group (QPIRG) McGill hosted a workshop titled “History of Student Movements at McGill” on March 25. The workshop, held at the ECOLE house, explored the historical context of student strikes and various tactics students could utilize in resistance.

The workshop included a conversation on the various reasons to hold resistance movements at McGill. One reason discussed by participants was ensuring affordable education. One attendee brought up “creating power that is outside the traditional hierarchies of power that exist in our society” as a reason to resist at McGill.

Another in attendance mentioned the need to resist the discourse and mindset that education is a consumer product to be bought, when in reality, students provide a great deal to the university in terms of labour and research.

The facilitators and attendees explored ways in which students are complicit in McGill’s oppressive actions and also looked at the privileges that are involved in attending the university. Facilitator Becca Yu said, “Quebec has much cheaper tuition, and people will come because of that reason, but they are not committed to fighting for accessible education.”

“They’re not recognizing [the] history that has kept tuition cheaper,” Yu explained, referencing Quebec’s history of student movements against tuition hikes.

Jaime MacLean, another facilitator, added, “While [international students] are here, they bring their money and gentrify neighbourhoods.”

The workshop also explored tactics of resistance besides strikes and how they have been used at McGill in the past. Some of the methods mentioned included teach-ins, blockades, skill-sharing, and occupation.

Yu also cited the creation of student organizations such as Midnight Kitchen and QPIRG-McGill as a form of resistance. She spoke on the 2010 closing of the Architecture Café, saying that she considered it to be “the last student-run food and hang-out space on campus.”

“There are still other student-run things on campus […] but they’re not actual spaces where people can mix and mingle and be,” continued MacLean. “What does it do to society when we don’t have those public spaces?”

The workshop also addressed creative and theatrical disruptions as another form of resistance. Yu referenced the on-campus blood drive disruptions of 2005, in which participants dressed up in drag to combat discriminatory practices against queer people.

One of the tactics that the workshop focused on specifically was student representation in the university setting. MacLean said, “[At McGill], there are structures that exist like the Senate, the Board of Governors; departments have associations, and all of these bodies have students on them.” Although she questioned the efficacy of the creation of these boards, she recognized that “they all have student seats on them because of an occupation in 1968 of the [James] Administration building.”

Although the workshop focused primarily on the history of student movements at McGill, it also included information on the Sir George Williams Affair, the largest student occupation in Canadian history, in which close to 200 students occupied a computer lab at Concordia University in opposition to a racist professor.

The workshop ended with a discussion on the limitations of student activism. “Student organizing is not perfect,” said Yu. She added that it was important to look at “the ways that student resistance can link up with other struggles.”

Yu also noted that, in the past, power structures present within strikes and student movements left many feeling conflicted between supporting the cause and escaping “the racist, patria rchal bullshit happening within it.”

“There were a lot of interpersonal dynamics that had a lot of problems [in the 2012 Quebec strikes].” She also noted that “the overwhelming whiteness of a lot of the groups who were organizing” was a part of the problem.

“If the way that we organize and work together recreates the systems of oppression that exist that we are trying to fight against, then what are we really accomplishing?”

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SSMU Equity Committee holds conference on equity and law http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/03/ssmu-equity-committee-holds-conference-on-equity-and-law/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/03/ssmu-equity-committee-holds-conference-on-equity-and-law/#comments Mon, 30 Mar 2015 10:02:38 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=41731 Students critically explore equity issues within McGill and Canada

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Last week, the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU)’s Equity Committee hosted a two-day Equity Conference in the Shatner building. The two-day conference focusing on equity and law presented a range of student research discussing the problems faced both at McGill and in the broader Canadian legal system. The speakers – undergraduates as well as law students – presented their own work and research on the topics discussed.

Kat Svikhnushin, a U1 Arts student and the coordinator of the event, said that the purpose of the conference was to make the concept of equity seem less vague and more manageable by addressing issues in individual fields.

“A huge goal for me, and something that I really wanted to see for the conference, is to take it away from this really standard idea of academia,” said Svikhnushin.

“Taking equity out of this realm of the inaccessible, and demonstrating that equity is as important in an HIV [Supreme Court] case, as it is in a multicultural case, as it is in the [McGill] School of Environment,” Svikhnushin said.

According to Svikhnushin, a great deal of support came from the SSMU Equity Commissioners and from SSMU as well.

The lacklustre attendance on both days of the conference was noteworthy. Monday’s event, which included presentations that critiqued the McGill administration’s academic hiring practices and discussed colonialist ideology present in the School of Environment, garnered the attendance of around ten students. Similarly, on Tuesday, the room was nearly empty apart from the event organizers.

U1 Political Science student Udita Samuel said that she came in large part because of a Canadian Law class that she is taking. When asked about the poor turnout on both days, Samuel said that considering how well-organized the conference was, “it’s unfortunate that people aren’t reaching out and coming to learn and meet people that have super innovative ideas.”

The second day’s talks did not deal with McGill-related issues, but rather with Canadian legal issues.

“I think it’s a really good opportunity to break down some of those really rigid academic barriers.”

Warwick Walton, a student in the Faculty of Law, spoke about the role of a judge in a multicultural society, and the importance of communication between a society and its courts. He said that it was an opportunity to practice approaching difficult concepts in comprehensive ways, and to take on the task of promoting knowledge of common law among more people.

Andrew Stuart, a third-year Law student who presented “The Evidence Just Doesn’t Add Up with HIV Non-Disclosure: A study of R. v. Mabior,” agreed with Warwick. “This is an opportunity for people from different fields to come in and hear from each other,” said Stuart.

“I think it’s a really good opportunity to break down some of those really rigid academic barriers,” said Svikhnushin.

Commenting on what she thought the role of administration should be in assisting such events, especially considering the conference’s criticisms of McGill, Samuel said that the school should be involved as a promoter, but that it is important to maintain academic events that are distinctly student-run.
“What we want to see, and what programming we want at McGill is something that’s important. If it comes from the McGill administration it might not be in tune with what we want to hear and what we want to see,” said Svikhnushin.

Svikhnushin added that she considered the conference to be an overall success. “Even if it’s not well-attended, the thoughts that it brings out are amongst the highest and the most interesting at McGill.”

Reflecting on the importance of conversation about student research, Stuart said, “We have a lot to say, and we really should be saying more.”

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SUS endorses McGill Food Coalition, updates bylaws http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/03/sus-endorses-mcgill-food-coalition-updates-bylaws/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/03/sus-endorses-mcgill-food-coalition-updates-bylaws/#comments Mon, 30 Mar 2015 10:01:57 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=41816 BRIEF

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The Science Undergraduate Society (SUS) General Council (GC) convened for its biweekly meeting on March 25. Without much debate, the GC endorsed the McGill Food Coalition and passed revisions to SUS electoral and financial bylaws.

Representative to the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Zacheriah Houston and VP External Emily Boytinck presented a motion for SUS to endorse the McGill Food Coalition and sign the group’s charter. The Coalition, created in February following the cease-and-desist order on sandwich sales sent to SNAX, aims to promote food accessibility, student input in campus space allocation, and sustainability.

Boytinck said that, even though SUS does not run a food operation, an endorsement of the Coalition would be an important show of solidarity. “It’s really important to maintain some student power and ability to run our operations,” she said. “It’s really important that […] all student societies on campus are united in solidarity with each other.”

The motion passed with one abstention.

The GC also passed a set of changes to the SUS electoral bylaws, the most important change being the introduction of an appeals process. Candidates will now be able to appeal sanctions from the Chief Returning Officer (CRO) made during the campaign period as well as election results to the GC.

“It was brought to light that we had gaps in the current bylaws that we wanted to address,” said CRO Danielle Toccalino.

She also noted that the 2015 election saw the highest turnout in an SUS election in recent years with 13.4 per cent.

The GC also amended the SUS financial bylaws to reflect the recent introduction of the Student Space Improvement Fee, as well as to require consent from the GC to sign “sponsorship contracts that place restrictions on the departments.” The latter clause was meant to address a problem that arose this year when the SUS executive signed a contract with Kaplan Test Prep granting the company exclusive advertising rights for the Burnside building, thereby restricting advertising revenues for departments located there, such as the Society of Undergraduate Mathematics Students (SUMS).

In the same spirit, Houston and SUMS representative Francois Paul Claverie brought forward a policy recognizing support of departmental organizations as “one of [SUS’s] primary obligations,” which the GC also adopted.

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AUS approves $500 supplement for Barbados field study http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/03/aus-approves-500-supplement-for-barbados-field-study/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/03/aus-approves-500-supplement-for-barbados-field-study/#comments Mon, 30 Mar 2015 10:01:46 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=41818 BRIEF

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Meeting on March 25, the Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS) Legislative Council discussed the Association générale des étudiants de langue et littérature françaises (AGELF)’s planned strike against austerity measures and the University’s lack of transparency with regard to the funding of services for students with disabilities. Council also approved an increase to the Barbados Field Study Semester (BFSS) fee.

Council approved a $50 fee increase and the implementation of an additional $500 supplement per student enrolled in the BFSS program. The supplement would accommodate fluctuations in the exchange rate between Canadian and U.S. dollars, with the excess returned to students.

Council also discussed AGELF’s upcoming strike against the Quebec government’s austerity measures from March 30 to April 3.

“During that week, there will be picket lines in front of every class offered within the department,” explained AGELF representative Sandrine Jaumard in an email to The Daily.

At Council, Jaumard asked students to refrain from breaking the picket lines by entering classrooms. During the discussion, the Department of English Student Association (DESA) representative added that DESA membwwers would meet with faculty members to discuss a possible strike in their department.

Arts Senator Jacob Greenspon discussed the lack of transparency during the Senate meeting regarding the allocation of a government grant for students with disabilities. According to Greenspon, University officials determined that they had the right to redistribute funds at their discretion, and in fact cut the budget of the Office of Students with Disabilities (OSD).

VP Academic Erin Sobat also brought up concerns regarding the Student Services budget. “Student Services has taken a cut to its annual revenue and is being forced by the University to eat further into its surplus money to account for this deficit,” Sobat explained in an email to The Daily. Surplus reserves, which were planned to be spent over a number of years, are now being depleted at an accelerated rate due to cuts in annual revenues and increasing costs.

 

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SNAX wraps up burrito sales http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/03/snax-wraps-up-burrito-sales/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/03/snax-wraps-up-burrito-sales/#comments Mon, 30 Mar 2015 10:01:31 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=41733 BRIEF

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Updated March 30, 2015

On March 20, Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS) representatives were told by Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) Ollivier Dyens that they had once again violated the terms of their Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the University, this time by selling burritos.

The University alleges that it only recently became aware of SNAX’s burrito sales when the Office of the Deputy Provost was sent a picture of the illicit foodstuff.

AUS representatives met with Dyens in his office, where they were told the burritos fall under the same prohibited category as sandwiches: “processed or prepared” food.

Appendix E, the portion of the MOA that dictates what AUS may and may not sell, is one thing that AUS President Ava Liu says AUS is trying to rewrite, as the wording of the appendix is a bit ambiguous. She said that moving forward, AUS would like to make it more clear what is allowed and what is not, and to develop a coherent process for when violations occur.

Liu reiterated that AUS is not trying to set a precedent for any other group, particularly given that it’s “not as if other associations look to our MOA, […] it’s not going to be standardized, […] everybody is already on different terms.”

“We are seeing that this is perhaps more representative of his stance rather than our context.”

Liu stands by her past statements, saying she still feels Dyens has been unclear about the bargaining points AUS has presented to the administration.
She told The Daily, “He was just saying what he had said before, he didn’t really seem on the same page as the rest of us.”

Liu added that she feels the attitude Dyens has taken regarding the negotiations has little to do with SNAX or the association of AUS, but “is really a position that the Deputy Provost is taking regarding student services and activities.”

“We are seeing that this is perhaps more representative of his stance rather than our context,” Liu said.

During their meeting, Liu also alleged that Dyens told AUS representatives that if AUS doesn’t want to run a convenience counter, “we can take it off your hands.”

While Liu is hoping to conclude negotiations soon, she assured, “If this doesn’t go well, we will push back.”

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