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PGSS year in review

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This year’s Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS) executive was made up of  Secretary-General Jonathan Mooney, External Affairs Officer Errol Salamon,  Academic Affairs Officer Adam Bouchard, Financial Affairs Officer Pooja Tyagi (replaced by Erik Larson as of March 22), Internal Affairs Officer Michael Krause, and Member Services Officer Elizabeth Cawley.

Salamon started the year off strong in August, organizing an English-language electoral debate alongside SSMU, the Concordia Student Union, the Concordia Graduate Students’ Association, and the Dawson Student Union. One of the only English-language debates of its kind, it was an opportunity for the anglophone student unions to collaborate further throughout the year.

PGSS, in collaboration with SSMU, organized an alternative education  summit in December in preparation for the provincial education summit in February. “We addressed several key issues, including tuition, university financing, international and out-of-province students, and university-industry partnerships,” wrote Salamon in an email to The Daily.

However, Salamon told The Daily that some students didn’t feel comfortable attending, due to administrative interference in the event. “According to the PGSS Secretary-General, the administration even asked PGSS to remove particular McGill student presenters from the event because of their political views,” he wrote.

Salamon has also been a proponent of francophone culture at McGill, especially after an executive meeting in October that almost led to the cutting of French translation services at PGSS. “At many PGSS meetings, I’ve supported a bilingual McGill, highlighting historical struggles of francophone Quebeckers in Quebec and the continued need to fight for university education and services that are accessible to francophone students,” he said. Cawley also told The Daily that a group has recently been formed to create a formal PGSS language policy, and will be meeting in the coming weeks.

Salamon was the only person on the PGSS executive who voted against taking the same stance on tuition as Conférence des recteurs et des principaux des universités du Québec (CREPUQ). CREPUQ has long argued that universities in Quebec are underfunded. During a meeting, Salamon alleged that Mooney had tabled the motion after meetings with Vice-President (External Affairs) Olivier Marcil.

Notable successes for this year’s PGSS executive include the beginning of a project to create a daycare, and the creation of a better online content management system for their website. Mooney also counted the successful campaign for accreditation in March, with a 29 per cent voter turnout, as one of the biggest successes this year.

“We worked with [the Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies office] and McGill [Network and Communication Services] to increase student e-mail space from 200 MB to 300 MB, and negotiated a reduction in the fees postgrads have to pay to use the gym, the sports medicine clinic, and fitness and [recreation] courses,” Mooney told The Daily by email.

February was marked by more turmoil for PGSS. That month, the Art History and Communications Studies Graduate Student Association (AHCS-GSA) voted to join the Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante (ASSÉ), considered Quebec’s most radical student union. PGSS is a parent organization to AHCS-GSA. Typically, all graduate and postdoctoral fellows are associated with another union, the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec (FEUQ).

Later in the month, the Chief Returning Officer Brock Rutter resigned from his post, storming out of a debate between PGSS candidates and shouting, “You people are ridiculous. You aren’t fit for this university, you aren’t fit for society.”

Mooney, Bouchard, and Cawley are running unopposed for reelection in their positions for next year. Larson and Krause both face opponents, and Navid Khosrav will be running for External Affairs.