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Post-grads voice support for rights of student researchers

Bylaw changes, charter signature fail to pass at first Council meeting of the year

Last Wednesday, the Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS) held its first Council meeting of the academic year at Thomson House. Councillors discussed the ratification of a charter to protect the rights of student researchers, as well as changes to bylaws and to the Society Activities Manual.

Charter of rights of student researchers

Moved by PGSS External Affairs Officer Julien Ouellet, the ratification of the Charter of the Rights of Student-Researchers was supposed to have been voted on at the August Council meeting, which failed to reach quorum. According to Ouellet’s presentation before Council, the charter was devised by the graduate students’ association of Université Laval, who invited PGSS to co-sign and promote the charter with the hope that it be made into law.

“This is a good opportunity for us to collaborate with another student organization and to have a broad legal framework that would support us in our campaign,” said Ouellet when introducing the document.

Broadly, the charter has six major sections: general provisions, intellectual property, roles and duty of research supervisors, roles and duties of student researchers, role of the home institution, and role of the government. In its current form (as it is still a work in progress), it dictates that student researchers should own 100 per cent of the intellectual property created by their research, and should also be “fully independent” when conducting their research.

“Since this is a charter that would be ratified by the [Quebec] National Assembly, it would have more weight than local university regulation,” said Ouellet, in response to a question on how the charter would be implemented if it came into conflict with university regulations.

However, while it seemed that members agreed with the overall sentiments of the charter, many were concerned about smaller language issues, saying that certain parts were vague, unclear, or should be worded differently. In the end, PGSS decided not to co-sign the charter, opting instead to express agreement with the charter in spirit and to cooperate with students who are behind the charter.

Changes to bylaws and Society Activities Manual

PGSS Secretary-General Juan Camilo Pinto moved a set of bylaw reforms, as well as changes to the Society Activities Manual, which describes the composition and procedures for PGSS’ governing bodies.

The motion would change the name of the Board of Appeals to ‘Judicial Board,’ which is the term used by the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU). It would also remove the Secretary-General from the Board, so that they no longer have a say in appeals decisions, and also change the process by which members of the Board are chosen in order to “generate a more robust appeals process within PGSS,” Pinto told The Daily.

“If we are trying to generate an independent judicial process within PGSS, there is no reason why the president should be able to be also a judge,” said Pinto.

The changes to the Society Activities Manual included striking the ‘anglophone’ qualification from the reference to student associations with which the External Affairs Officer should work. Pinto told The Daily that the change was meant to show that “PGSS will strive to work together with other universities in Quebec.”

The bylaw reforms failed to pass, and were sent to the Policy and Structure Advisory Committee (PSAC), which will suggest improvements on the changes and return them to Council by its next meeting. The Society Activities Manual reforms were approved, and the motion will return to Council in October to undergo its second reading.