News | PGSS talks student grants, funding campus media

Suzanne Fortier makes surprise appearance

The Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS) held its monthly Council meeting on October 2. On the agenda was the amelioration of post-grad life, internal business, and a surprise visit from Principal Suzanne Fortier.

Post-graduate life

In his Secretary’s report, PGSS Secretary-General Jonathan Mooney said that steps had been taken to ensure the even distribution of student grants.

On occasion, some post-graduates and post-doctorates get more than enough grants while others get none. The problem, according to Mooney, stems not from a lack of funds but rather from bureaucratic oversight.

“The central administration has the money and it is sent off to the various faculties, but sometimes it does not make its way to the right people, and we’re talking to the administration to figure out a way to do that,” he said in his address.

PGSS also plans to make post-graduate student rights regarding their supervisors more clear. A recent PGSS survey that asked students to assess their supervisors came up with mixed results.

PGSS, Mooney says, will aim to “increase awareness, protect, and advertise student’s rights regarding their supervisors.”

Internal business

Four motions were discussed and voted on during Council.

The first was a motion to impose a non-opt-outable fee of $0.75 on PGSS members once per semester to financially support the operations of the McGill Tribune, making PGSS members part of the Tribune Publications Society. This motion passed.

A similar question was put to referendum in late April of this year, but it lost by a close vote. According to Mooney, the Tribune started covering Council and graduate student issues about a year ago, and is interested in expanding its coverage. When the proposed $1.00 per semester fee lost in referendum in April however, Mooney said that the upcoming referendum will be lesser in scope.

“We agreed that we’ll ask the question again, but we’ll ask for a smaller fee,” he told The Daily.

Another motion aimed to institute a McGill Writing Centre fee of $1.80 per term, to avoid the cessation of “all one-on-one tutorial services for graduate students” provided by the centre.

The motion passed, but the follow-up motion, which aimed to amend the PGSS budget for a one-time transfer of $3,000 from the Special Projects Fund to the McGill Writing Centre for tutor wages, did not.

“Some people said, ‘even though it’s an important service […] we don’t feel comfortable allocating money from the budget,”’ Mooney later told The Daily.

The fourth motion aimed to create a policy regarding Mandatory Institutional Fees (FIOs). PGSS currently risks seeing new FIOs created by McGill’s Fee Advisory Committee without an official PGSS referendum, the standardized process utilized for fee increases in other student bodies at McGill. A policy for structuring a referendum process in the event of any fee changes or increases was voted on, and the motion passed.

A visit from the principal

The highlight of the meeting was McGill Principal Suzanne Fortier’s surprise visit, when she took the floor for a short speech and questions from students afterwards.

On several occasions, she emphasised the need for herself, the administration, and the professors to be “connected to the student body.”

“Open communication and honesty” between the two bodies, she said, is vital in order to improve students’ university experience.

Her speech also emphasized the need to maintain and better McGill’s status as a world-class university despite financial troubles. To do this, Fortier emphasized, the priority investment must be in people – attracting top-level graduate students and professors – rather than in material.

Fortier’s visit, Mooney said, was largely successful. “[It’s] clear that this was a great forum for her to hear about what issues are happening at the local level,” he said.