The Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS) met in the ballroom of Thomson House last Wednesday for their monthly council meeting. The makeshift council chamber was near capacity. PGSS president Daniel Simeone said the turnout was unusually good.
The most extensive and emotional debate at council concerned the recent proposal to increase tuition for McGill’s Master of Business Administration (MBA) program as it adopts a self-funded model. Tuition for this well-regarded program was previously set at $3,000 a year for Quebec residents, but was raised across the board to $29,500 – an increase of 1,600 per cent for Quebec students.
Those who supported the tuition hike pointed to McGill’s recent decline in the business school rankings, citing higher tuition as a way to increase the quality of the program. PGSS VP Internal Harry Saitis also mentioned that almost every MBA student at McGill has a high-paying job waiting for them after graduation, and so the degree essentially pays for itself.
However, history student Margaret Carlyle argued that high tuition does not necessarily yield a better program. She received loud applause when she urged her fellow councillors “to send a strong public message that this [tuition hike] is unacceptable.”
Carlyle urged students to “act now,” proposing a motion in which Simeone would draft a letter to the MBA program explaining the council’s concerns. Amendments were added saying that the letter should contain signatures from the executives of the Association of Graduate Students Employed at McGill (AGSEM) and the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec (FEUQ). The motion passed with an overwhelming majority.
AGSEM Wage Woes
AGSEM representatives discussed a subcommittee it has recently created to make recommendations on how to approach the University’s recent decision to delay a salary increase for TAs from January 2010 to June 2010. The wage raise was granted to TAs as part of an earlier agreement, but in the past year the administration has taken steps to eliminate its $17.2-million deficit. The wage hike would have amounted to $128 for TAs who worked over 180 hours in that time period.
Issues regarding the children of graduate students came up repeatedly in the council meeting. Pamela Lirio, the Family Care Commissioner, reported on the projects she had in mind, which include determining how many graduate students are parents and creating a McGill day-care service for graduate students who require it.
PGSS VP Academic Dahlia El Shafie fielded questions later on in the meeting about her plan, reported in The Daily profile of the PGSS executive, to fund a parental leave program for graduate students at McGill. The University of Montreal currently provides their students with a five-month paid parental leave, a program on which El Shafie’s proposition is modeled. PGSS is currently looking for a donor to fund the project.
Simeone nominated Tarek Hamade as elections commissioner, and an almost unanimous vote approved him. Hamade is now listed as interim commissioner on the PGSS web site. Cynthia Nei was nominated and also quickly elected as interim environment commissioner. It will be Nei’s task to monitor McGill’s implementation of its own environmental policy.
In the original version of this article, it was erroneously reported that AGSEM had set a court date to fight the University’s plan to delay a wage increase for TAs. AGSEM in fact has expressed no intention of taking the McGill to court over this matter, but has simply established a subcommittee to look at possible ways that it might approach this issue with the University.