News | Post-grads instate gender equality, divestment at annual meeting

Quorum lost before vote on tuition indexation

Correction appended March 21, 2013.

With a long-standing history of failure to reach quorum, and a year haunted by intersocietal tensions, the McGill Post-Graduate Students’ Society’s (PGSS) Annual General Meeting (AGM) passed motions calling for gender equity and tar sands divestment. The AGM lost quorum before voting against tuition indexation.

A special council meeting also appointed a new Chief Returning Officer (CRO), Colby Briggs, a former community assistant at Concordia University. The appointment comes after a tumultuous year for the organization that saw the resignation of three CROs, one due to very public tensions with council members.

The council laid out several motions prior to the meetings and succeeded in reaching quorum for a few – notably, motions regarding gender parity on its Board of Directors and divestment from McGill’s tar sand holdings.

The AGM voted to establish a recommendation to increase diversity on its Board of Directors, with consultation of the Equity Committee. Although PGSS’s membership consists of 53.3 per cent of self-identified women, the board has historically  skewed male.

Originally proposed as a motion to ensure gender parity, Cora-Lee Conway, Education Graduate Students’ Society (EGSS) councillor, emphasized the motion as a means to open further discussion on diversity, rather than institutionalizing strict quotas.

“What does it say about our society when the occurrence of white male normativity goes uncontested?” Conway said to the AGM.  “It’s about bringing more perspectives and more voices from diverse backgrounds around the table.”

This year’s third female Board member, Danielle Meadows, was approved at the AGM, to an otherwise all-male board.

The debate turned to McGill’s tar sands investment, with Divest McGill present to field members’ questions on the benefits of divestment.

Some questioned the feasibility of the motion, while others pointed to McGill’s direct role in industry investment as problematic.

“As students at McGill, we are subsidizing the tar sands,” said Nora Hope, a PGSS member. “It’s time to send an important message that we do not want to be a part of these unethical practices that are going on there.”

The motion regarding tar sands passed.

Members then debated a motion against tuition indexation to inflation, with many arguing that PGSS needs to complete its research before deciding on the matter. PGSS’ by-laws state that all policies must be “evidence-based.”

“It doesn’t really matter what the researchers find, because they will not find that indexation increases accessibility to education,” one PGSS member stated.

However, the AGM lost quorum during debates on indexation and adjourned immediately.

PGSS will work with its researcher on the topic of indexation.

A censure motion against Secretary-General Jonathan Mooney and Academic Affairs Officer Adam Bouchard was brought forward at the start of the meeting by PGSS members, but was voted to be removed from the agenda. The motion took issue with Mooney and Bouchard’s failure to complete an audit of private security on McGill’s campus.

In a previous version of this article, The Daily incorrectly stated that the PGSS “saw three CROs leave the position due to tensions with the council.” In fact, only Brock Rutter resigned due to tensions with Council members. The article also incorrectly stated that the PGSS “board has historically been all-male” and that Danielle Meadows was their first female director this year. In fact, two women have sat on the board this year, though they have both resigned.  The article also stated that PGSS will work with an appointed researcher, in fact, it will work with its own researcher. The article incorrectly stated that a censure motion “was brought forward at the start of the meeting by PGSS councillors, but failed in a general vote.” In fact, the motion was brought forward by PGSS members and was voted to be removed from the agenda.