Starting October 22, McGill’s Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS) held a series of hustings, or debates, to create an opportunity for dialogue between post-grads and proponents of “Yes” votes on three referendum questions. The third and final installment took place on the evening of October 30 in Thomson House, where all three representatives were present to give their cases and answer questions from the floor.
McGill Writing Centre
The first referendum question on which post-graduates will vote will be whether or not they support paying a $1.50 fee per term in support of the McGill Writing Centre.
The Writing Centre’s representative, Julien Ouellet, said that the Centre’s survival is on the line, adding that McGill ended up not providing this service to students that every university “from Harvard to U [University of] Sherbrooke” has.
The sum would be enough to ensure its survival – a “no-brainer,” he concluded – and would also ensure the continuation of one-on-one tutorial services for grad students. Without the fee, those services would be terminated. In October’s meeting, Council voted against a motion amending the PGSS budget for a one-time transfer of $3,000 to the Centre for tutor wages.
Post-graduates will also resolve whether or not to pay $0.75 per student per semester to the McGill Tribune. The money will go toward “bolstering our publication by enhancing the services that we already have,” according to the Tribune’s representative and former editor-in-chief Elisa Muyl.
The extra funds would go toward financing a smartphone and tablet application and a graduate student focus within the paper’s pages, as well as training initiatives such as writers’ workshops.
Post-doctoral fee for student services
The third question facing post-graduates in the referendum concerns McGill’s body of close to 600 post-doctoral fellows (or post-docs). With the fee question, post-docs will be voting whether or not to pay a mandatory fee to be included under the purview of student services. For full-time post-docs, this entails a monthly fee of $22.74 – or $136.46 per semester – that would enable them to access all services that fall under McGill’s Student Services umbrella.
At the moment, post-docs can access these services on an individual basis if they opt to pay the current Student Services Fee ($156.89 per semester). This makes it more expensive, and also means that service staff are not trained to cater to the post-doctoral student body’s specific needs.
In the event of a “Yes” vote, post-docs would be able to take full advantage of services such as Career and Planning Services, Health Services, and Financial and International Services.
“All these are things that other graduate students would take for granted but that we can’t access at the moment,” said Emma Vincent, president of the Association of Postdoctoral Fellows (APF), pointing out that the Quebec government designates post-docs as students, but since they have PhDs and teach classes, they are in “limbo” between the statuses of student and professor.
She also added that in the event of a “Yes” vote, PGSS and the APF would work together with the administration to transfer some or all of the cost of this monthly fee to post-docs’ supervisors.