The Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS) held its Annual General Meeting (AGM) Tuesday evening in the Thomson Hall ballroom. With only 42 PGSS members in attendance, the Society failed to meet its quorum of 76, or one per cent of regular members of the Society, and was forced to hold an informal meeting.
The meeting’s main focus was the electoral debate for executive candidates. Although all positions were acclaimed, candidates discussed their platforms for three minutes each and answered questions posed by the audience.
Incoming president Alexandra Bishop addressed three key areas of concern, the first being how to improve the services available to PGSS members. “PGSS services are the first form of contact students have with the Society, making them a key priority of mine,” she said.
Bishop said that while she was satisfied with programs such as family care, she promised to try to gather more student feedback to improve all services.
“When making improvements, we need to look at where the greatest need is and what students want,” said Bishop. “As for other issues, such as increasing office and lab space for students, we’ll have to discuss matters with the University and see what money is available.”
One thing Bishop focused on was a widely discussed issue for the Society: improving communications with students.
Audience members agreed that most PGSS members are not even aware of the election currently taking place and that an endless slew of emails is no help.
“Each time I send out an email, I can feel it being deleted,” said one departmental councillor.
Others felt that it is the responsibility of students to make themselves aware of PGSS proceedings and to take part in the process, though everyone agreed that there was a fundamental flaw in the PGSS’s communications strategy.
Ryan Hughes, the VP (External) candidate, highlighted accountability as one primary part of his platform. “Executive evaluations have not been done and I hope to create a system to evaluate executives properly,” he said.
VP (Internal) candidate Magnus Bein mentioned plans to hold new events for PGSS members in Thomson House and off-campus. One audience member mentioned the lack of initiative in getting students from the Macdonald campus involved – an issue Bein said will be addressed.
There was a brief discussion of PGSS’s upcoming referendum to de-federate from the Canadian Federation of Students. In addition, both CKUT Radio and QPIRG-McGill will be asking for fee increases at the referendum.
“We’re asking for the fee increase because we need to balance our budget,” explained Erin Weisgerber, CKUT’s funding coordinator. “We’ve cut back as much as we can but without a fee increase, we’re looking at more deficit years in the future.”
According to Weisgerber, CKUT has not had a PGSS fee increase since 1987 when the community radio station first established itself. Since then, what the station receives from the PGSS has gone down by 60 per cent, after adjusting for inflation.
QPIRG-McGill has also not had a PGSS fee increase since it joined the Society in 1988.
“We are hopeful that we will be granted the fee increase,” said Andrea Figueroa, QPIRG’s external coordinator. “Students have been receptive and I feel it’s going to happen.”
Weisgerber, however, had some concerns. “Since I am not a member of the PGSS, I cannot campaign for the fee increase. Unfortunately, many people will not be informed about the fee increase when they see it listed on their ballot.”