News  Post-grads decry “unreasonable” retroactive tuition policy

Council updated on Royal Victoria Hospital acquisition

At its February 4 meeting, the Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS) Council approved Secretary-General Juan Camilo Pinto’s resignation and heard an update on McGill’s acquisition of the Royal Victoria Hospital. Council also passed a motion to advocate for the suspension of tuition policies for students who exceed the time limit for thesis submission, and a motion in support of murdered and disappeared students in Mexico.

Reinstatement fees for de-registered students

McGill Graduate Sociology Students’ Association (MGSSA) representative Jason Jensen introduced a motion for PGSS to advocate for the suspension of existing tuition policies for students who exceed the time limit to complete their thesis and are thus de-registered from the university.

Under the current policy, de-registered Masters and PhD students can submit their thesis within two years of de-registration, provided that they pay reinstatement fees equal to a retroactive charge for all semesters between the time limitation and the thesis submission.

“This is patently unreasonable, because it’s asking us to pay for services, i.e. student status, which we do not benefit from. You can’t benefit from student loans, you can’t benefit from bursaries, as well as student services on campus,” said sociology student Leslie Cheung in a presentation to Council on the topic.

“A lot of people are not aware that this policy exists,” added Cheung.

“This is patently unreasonable, because it’s asking us to pay for services, i.e. student status, which we do not benefit from.”

PGSS Health Commissioner Elizabeth Cawley commended Cheung for her presentation to Council. “I think that’s one of the best issues that’s been brought to Council this year,” she said.

In response to a question, Cheung noted that the Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (GPS) unit has recognized the need to revisit the policy, but is hesitant to take a stance against it for the moment.

“From what I can see, the position is that [GPS is] just willing to revisit it, but it may or may not end in the status quo,” said Cheung. “They do not take the position that [the policy] is unreasonable. Although individually as members, [Associate Provost (Graduate Education) and Dean of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies Martin] Kreiswirth, Dean [of Students André] Costopoulos, [Associate Dean of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies Heather] Goad, as well as the ombudsperson [Dimitrios Berk] have all taken personal positions against it.”

The motion, which passed, calls on PGSS to advocate for the immediate suspension of the current policy, to motion for its suspension at Senate, and to “work with McGill on creating new time limitation policies which are fair.”

Secretary-General resignation, solidarity with Mexican students

Council accepted Pinto’s letter of resignation, submitted on January 20 following a Board of Directors motion of censure against Pinto on November 13 and a vote of no confidence by the executive on December 10.

The new Secretary-General is to be elected on February 24. Pinto indicated that he will assist the new Secretary-General for a week without pay to ensure a smooth transition.

“I’ve been concentrating on organizing all the documents, ensuring that the interim Secretary-General has a smooth transition and there’s no breakdown of communication,” said Pinto.

Council also passed a motion in solidarity with the 43 Mexican students who disappeared in the city of Iguala in September, presented by Association of Postdoctoral Fellows representative Illa Carrillo Rodriguez.

The motion mandates PGSS to write a letter of solidarity with the families of the victims and work to raise awareness of the issue.

Update on the acquisition of the Royal Victoria Hospital

Vice-Principal (Communications and External Relations) Olivier Marcil gave a presentation on McGill’s situation in the process of acquiring the Royal Victoria Hospital.

“We are struggling to find some new space […] to meet our academic purposes and enhance students’ life on campus. It is clear that on campus right now, we are really landlocked,” said Marcil.

A year ago, McGill officially informed the government of its interest in the hospital site, which is roughly a million square feet in size. Marcil said that, as of April 2015, the site will be empty and “might become an urban ghost.”

Marcil also shared his vision of creating a “green hospital” and converting roughly 50 per cent of the parking lots into a part of the Mount Royal Park.

“Since McGill is a green campus, and our students are walking, our profs do not have cars […] we don’t need all of those parking lots and we can give them back as green spaces to the mountain, and that will be the biggest enlargement of the Mount Royal Park [… in] a long time.”

If everything goes as planned, McGill will launch work on the site in 2017 and the site will open in 2021.