The McGill Daily On strike since 1911 2015-03-30T15:13:24Z WordPress Drew Wolfson Bell <![CDATA[Year in review]]> 2015-03-28T19:45:42Z 2015-03-30T10:49:22Z It’s time to change sports culture

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To nobody’s surprise, there was no shortage of topics to write about this year. From domestic violence in the NFL, to the lack of accountability seen in McGill Athletics, or even the way in which sports commentators use racial stereotypes to describe athletes’ performance, it is clear that sports culture has a lot of problems, many of which escape criticism. The sheer variety of issues shows that sports are inherently political. While they can be tools for empowerment and community building, sports can also perpetuate racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and more forms of oppression.

Take, for example, the way McGill Athletics chose not to make consent training mandatory for athletes, despite the allegations of sexual assault against three McGill football players last year. True or false, these allegations prove the existence of a systemic problem that McGill, through its complacency, is unavoidably a part of. Another example of this complacency is the failure of McGill Athletics to change the name of their men’s varsity teams, despite widespread criticism. This name is a racial slur rooted in colonial violence, and by refusing to address and change the name, McGill is failing to take a stand against this racism.

We see the same trends in professional sports. The NFL still does not have a concrete sexual assault policy, consequently classifying instances of sexual assault as isolated incidents, and refusing to acknowledge it as a systemic issue. The rhetoric surrounding athletes of colour, such as Marshawn Lynch and Richard Sherman, shows that sports writers and commentators can spew racist and sexist language–including, among other things, describing such players as ‘thugs. They escape without much criticism from mainstream media and are coupled by a lack of concrete action afterwards.

Sports’ problems need to be recognized, and the culture needs to change. It’s not all feel-good stories and shiny trophies – the level of apathy surrounding these issues in the world of sports is part of the problem. These injustices are real, and they need our attention. In order to make a difference, we need to wake up and start challenging these problems, instead of running away and burying our heads in a pile of our favourite team’s memorabilia. So, before cheering on your favourite team, whatever sport it may be, take a second to think about what you can do to actively combat this problem – whether it is speaking up on a blog or boycotting certain teams or figures within the sports community. Make your voice heard. If you’re not part of the solution, you are definitely a part of the problem.

Note: In order to bring attention to the racist and colonial history of the McGill men’s varsity team’s name, the Sports section of The McGill Daily has chosen to no longer use the R*dmen name in the section.

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Tanner Levis <![CDATA[Year in review]]> 2015-03-28T19:46:24Z 2015-03-30T10:42:44Z McGill’s athletic successes

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For McGill Athletics, the 2014-15 year was one for the books. From the resignation of Clint Uttley, the football team’s head coach, to the success of both the men’s and women’s basketball teams, the past year has been eventful, to say the least.

Although neither of McGill’s basketball teams brought home the gold trophy, there was no lack of success for either program. The men’s basketball team finished with a final record of 18-12, losing their shot to compete at the national level with a loss to the Bishop Gaiters in the Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec (RSEQ) championship game. Three athletes from the team–Francois Bourque, Dele Ogundokun and Vincent Dufort–earned all–star honours and earned spots on the conference all-star teams. Bourque was also named the RSEQ player of the year, and earned Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) All-Canadian honours, while Ogundokun was named the RSEQ defensive player of the year. Of course, some of this success can be credited to head coach David DeAveiro, who was also named the coach of the year by the RSEQ.

For the first time in school history, McGill’s women’s basketball team earned a spot at the CIS championship game. Despite losing the game to the Windsor Lancers, the team finished with an overall record of 26-5, and placed second in the country at the CIS Final-8 Tournament their best finish in history. Gabriela Hebert was one of the tournament all-stars with 34 points and 29 rebounds, while Mariam Sylla was voted RSEQ player of the year, finishing fifth among scoring leaders with 12.4 points per game. Sylla also earned CIS All-Canadian honours for the second time in her career, after being named the CIS rookie of the year in 2013.

The McGill women’s hockey team finished with a record of 15-4, earning gold in the RSEQ Championship, and ranking as the number one team in the CIS after the regular season. The team advanced to the CIS championships, where they were shut out 5-0 by the Western Mustangs, finally taking silver. Forward Gabrielle Davidson and defenceman Kelsie Moffatt were named CIS All-Canadians.

The men’s hockey team finished with an impressive record of 21-5, finishing first in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) East Division and fourth in the playoffs after losing the bronze medal game to the Windsor Lancers. Defenceman Samuel Labrecque, goalie Jacob Gervais-Chouinard, and centre Cedric McNicoll received all-star honours in the OUA. McNicoll was also named the MVP of the league while earning CIS All-Canadian honours.

McGill’s athletics were well represented by the hockey and basketball teams in their respective conferences with one first-place finish, two second-place finishes, and a fourth–place finish. We will see if these teams are able to generate a little more success next year and bring home the gold.

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Marina Cupido <![CDATA[Council demands reopening of women-only hours negotiations]]> 2015-03-28T17:59:57Z 2015-03-30T10:42:28Z 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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Madison Smith <![CDATA[Pinning and pitching]]> 2015-03-28T02:39:14Z 2015-03-30T10:37:39Z The MLB’s moral panic over PED’s

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Baseball spring training started this month, bringing Alex Rodriguez back into the minds of those who care about men hitting balls with sticks. For those who don’t follow America’s favourite pastime, Mr. Rodriguez is currently coming off an unprecedented season-long suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs). Specifically, A-Rod (as he is known to fans and the impatient) admitted to using steroids and human growth hormone (HGH). A-Rod, with the assistance of these chemicals, became perhaps the greatest home run hitter that baseball has ever known. Unfortunately, the guardians of baseball’s precious morality frown upon the use of PEDs, and have waged an apparently successful war to rid baseball of steroids and HGH in recent years. A-Rod is perhaps the most high-profile casualty of this inquisition.

The great PED purge is also having an effect on the most tangible manifestation of the morals of people in baseball – the Hall of Fame ballots. So far, no ex-player whose name has been tainted by allegations of steroid or HGH use has ever been voted into the Hall. This is awkward, because almost all of the superstars now eligible for entrance into the Hall have used PEDs at some point. Thus far, this has resulted in one year in which no players were elected, and others in which only second-tier players were elected, leaving big names like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens conspicuously mouldering on the ballot.

This is a problem first and foremost because, by keeping recent superstars out of the Hall of Fame, the Baseball Writers’ Association is holding them to a higher standard of ‘cleanliness’ than it did their predecesessors. While steroid and HGH use is a comparatively recent development in baseball’s history, the use of other performance enhancers has been widespread for almost the entire history of the sport. Amphetamines were the most prominent pre-steroid era PED, and they seem to have been common almost to the point of ubiquity for a time. They were only banned by Major League baseball (MLB) in 2006, after players had been using them for decades. By denying steroid-era players the honour of being in the Hall of Fame, the Writers’ Association is implying that those players violated the code of a game that is supposed to be played ‘clean.’ The Hall of Fame voters are trying to clean up the history, a sport that has always been played by cheaters and drug abusers, and played gloriously.

Many of the greatest baseball players of all time were famous for cheating. Ty Cobb, a player from the 1930s widely considered to be one of the greatest pure hitters in baseball’s history, infamously sharpened his metal cleats so that people would be afraid to tag him as he slid into bases. Another Hall of Famer, Gaylord Perry, wrote a whole book about his success with an illegal pitch called the spitball. Substance use has also been a constant part of the grand tradition. Babe Ruth was infamous for drinking too much, and he’s in the Hall, alongside countless players from the amphetamine era. Dock Ellis infamously pitched a no-hitter while tripping on acid. The idea that steroid users somehow ‘tainted’ a prevlously pure game with their substance abuse is absurd.

Another problem with MLB’s anti-PED crusade is that drug use has had no negative effect on the game from an entertainment standpoint. In fact, the steroid era was perhaps the most exciting time in MLB history. The steroid era saw the single-season home run record broken twice in less than a decade, and saw Hank Aaron’s record for career home runs shattered. Since baseball’s PED crusade started, both total home runs and total scoring have declined. Anyone even remotely interested in baseball knows that it is a sport that involves long periods of waiting between exciting moments, and the decline in offence caused by the end of the steroid era is doing nothing for the sport’s popularity or viability.

I’m not necessarily advocating for the reinstatement of drug-fuelled baseball, but I will say that MLB’s moral panic over PEDs is ridiculous, and is ultimately harmful to the legacy of the sport. The steroid-era stars deserve to be in the Hall of Fame because they succeeded in an era where steroids were as ubiquitous as amphetamines used to be. Drugs only provide a little assistance. Players like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens were clearly the greatest of their eras, and arguably some of the greatest players of all time. I have little sympathy for arguments that drugs ‘cheapen’ the game in some way. Baseball has always been played on drugs, and the steroid era was exhilarating to watch from a fan’s perspective. Baseball needs to come to terms with its coloulful history and realize that it has never been a bastion of moral righteousness. It’s a hell of a lot more fun that way.

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Emily Saul <![CDATA[SSMU launches survey on quality of life at McGill]]> 2015-03-28T17:34:50Z 2015-03-30T10:26:10Z 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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Jill Bachelder <![CDATA[Unsuccessful VP Internal candidate seeks election invalidation]]> 2015-03-30T11:08:34Z 2015-03-30T10:24:50Z 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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Jill Bachelder <![CDATA[SSMU executive year-end review]]> 2015-03-30T11:02:31Z 2015-03-30T10:20:07Z 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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Jill Bachelder <![CDATA[Quebec students on strike: a timeline]]> 2015-03-30T09:42:16Z 2015-03-30T10:17:12Z 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.

The post Quebec students on strike: a timeline appeared first on The McGill Daily.

Jill Bachelder <![CDATA[Who is running for PGSS?]]> 2015-03-30T05:54:14Z 2015-03-30T10:15:48Z An overview of your potential 2015-16 post-grad executives

The post Who is running for PGSS? appeared first on The McGill Daily.


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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Niyousha Bastani <![CDATA[Year in review: Culture]]> 2015-03-28T21:25:00Z 2015-03-30T10:15:14Z The Daily looks back.

The post Year in review: Culture appeared first on The McGill Daily.


Click on a title to read more!
Gender in art

Students in art

Community and culture in Montreal

Saving the Earth with art

Critiquing oppressive narratives

Culture picks 2014-15

The post Year in review: Culture appeared first on The McGill Daily.

Emily Saul <![CDATA[Student Services budget faces threat of depletion]]> 2015-03-28T16:38:08Z 2015-03-30T10:15:13Z Lack of transparency frustrates students

The post Student Services budget faces threat of depletion appeared first on The McGill Daily.

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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Joelle Dahm <![CDATA[Year in review: Features]]> 2015-03-29T17:09:16Z 2015-03-30T10:14:23Z Click on a quote to read more! “I will not forget the moment […]

The post Year in review: Features appeared first on The McGill Daily.


Click on a quote to read more!
“I will not forget the moment when they called us to the flight on [May 29, 2014]. It opened up a lot of doors for the family, especially for the children’s education.”
Jassem Al Dandashi, Syrian refugee

“The situation is so difficult. Continuous airstrikes target houses round the clock. So far over 580 houses were destroyed, some of them after the alleged ceasefire. In some of these house targeting raids, whole families were obliterated, at one instance a family of 18 was killed at once.”
Belal Dabour, medical doctor living in Gaza

“I distanced myself from engineering for a long time because it made me feel unwanted, or like I didn’t really fit in it.”
Chemical Engineering student at McGill

“There are hardly any fresh fruits and vegetables here. […] By the time they get up North, they are frozen [and spoiled], and still they are so expensive.”
Claire*, Inuit mother of two from Nunavut
(*name has been changed)

“[We] can’t pretend that the first relationship that settler colonials on [Canadian] soil had with black bodies wasn’t that of enslavement. You can’t run away from that fact.”
Kai Thomas, McGill student

The post Year in review: Features appeared first on The McGill Daily.

June Jang <![CDATA[AUS executives reflect on high turnover]]> 2015-03-30T14:27:22Z 2015-03-30T10:13:22Z Five executive resignations mostly due to “bad luck,” president says

The post AUS executives reflect on high turnover appeared first on The McGill Daily.

Updated March 30 with comments from Leila Alfaro.

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.”

Alfaro noted that, while she had indeed left her job due to “external circumstances,” there were problems she saw in the work dynamic during her time at AUS. “I felt great relief to be freed from the pressure of being part of the AUS executive, as I had to deal with some unpleasant situations throughout my term,” Alfaro told The Daily in an email.

She continued, “[F]rom my own experience, I can say that there was a lack of cohesiveness within the team, priorities in terms of operations were not always necessarily shared, and there lacked efforts for open-mindedness and understanding of others’ perspectives and realities – and it was very hard for me, personally, to have a sense of belonging.”

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.”

Alfaro noted that while she was thankful for the support she received in certain instances from her fellow executives, there are still many ways that the work environment of AUS could be improved, including more attention to self care.

“It is imperative for future executive teams to keep in mind the wellbeing of the individuals executives in order to foster a welcoming and inclusive work environment, which would in turn facilitate operations and efficiency rather than perpetuate shallow and often useless debate,” she wrote.

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

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Jill Bachelder <![CDATA[Year in review: News]]> 2015-03-30T11:19:28Z 2015-03-30T10:11:16Z The Daily looks back

The post Year in review: News appeared first on The McGill Daily.


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

The post Year in review: News appeared first on The McGill Daily.

Igor Sadikov <![CDATA[McGill teaching assistants to hold strike vote]]> 2015-03-30T07:17:37Z 2015-03-30T10:09:59Z AGSEM members frustrated by McGill’s monetary offer

The post McGill teaching assistants to hold strike vote appeared first on The McGill Daily.

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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