Following the resignation of Internal Affairs Officer Sahil Kumar on November 11, the Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS) is holding a by-election to fill the vacant position. The campaigning period took place from November 27 to December 3 and voting will begin online on December 4. Of the three candidates initially nominated, two – Parker Donaldson and Abhishek Kumar – have withdrawn their candidacy due to “personal reasons.”
The remaining candidate, Mina Anadolu, is a second-year PhD student in neuroscience, and has been a student at McGill since the beginning of her undergraduate degree in 2009. Anadolu has focused her platform on three tenets: transparency, equity, and diversity. She has been a member of the PGSS Internal Affairs Committee since February, and has worked under both Kumar and his predecessor Gesa.
The McGill Daily (MD): Why are you running?
Mina Anadolu (MA): I think that I have somewhat of a responsibility to the existing Internal Affairs Committee because of my experience and because of the circumstances of Sahil resigning in the middle of his term.
I’ve been running events that they’ve organized and helping them out since last year. I learned a great deal from them regarding logistics of organizing events in Thomson House, and outside of campus, and also about what it means to be an Internal Affairs Officer. It’s not just about planning parties. Part of it is to communicate to all the members about what we’re doing, what the activities are, and most importantly that we’re there for them, to represent them and to enrich their graduate experience.
MD: Why do you feel it’s your responsibility to run for Internal Affairs Officer right now?
MA: I felt like someone from our existing Internal Affairs Committee had to step up and ensure that what Sahil planned for the 2015-16 mandate got executed properly. I think it was on us to make sure that all of the events we planned were run and we didn’t exclude anything from the mandate or sacrifice from Sahil’s platform for this year.
MD: What issues do you seek to address in your role?
MA: In the latest referendum on the CKUT levy raise, [the voter turnout at] 22 per cent, and the Chief Returning Officer [Colby Briggs] told me that it was a big success, and that a lot of people participated. When people hear that number they say, “Oh, that’s great!” and I’m like, are you serious? It’s not even half of PGSS members. We have 8,600 members. I think it’s a big problem that [only] 22 per cent are participating. It means that our events cater to this 22 per cent.
I think this is a transparency issue, a communication issue. We are not communicating enough with our members and asking them what they’d like to see from us. I think we can only do this by increasing communications with them through social media, through office hours.
I really want to be a transparent Internal Affairs Officer, in terms of conveying information from PGSS to members, and from members to PGSS. Part of our job is to get feedback and to act upon it. I think it’s also important to increase transparency within PGSS. I think we should collaborate with our PGSAs [post-graduate students’ associations] more, and include them more in the decision-making process.
MD: Are there any ways you would improve upon what’s been done by previous Internal Affairs Officers?
MA: This is an interim position, so my job is not to start from scratch but to fit into an existing team of executives, work in collaboration with them, run the existing events, make sure that they’re successful, as well as make our own contribution to the mandate.
I think the LGBT community is being underrepresented in PGSS. Another thing that I want to work on right now is International Week, in collaboration with International Student Services. I think that was one thing that was missing from this year’s mandate – international activities.
MD: Some people believe that PGSS should focus on advocacy work over service provision. Do you agree?
MA: As a student society we should definitely have an advocating role. Having so many people be a member of your society is a big advantage, and it also comes with responsibilities in terms of advocating for that community. We should be doing more advocating, for sure, and we would be doing more advocating if our members knew we were open to their suggestions.
I think PGSS should be a one stop shop for graduate students where they can find everything and anything they need. It should be a home away from home for them. They should be able to find the services they need, they should be able to join in and advocate for the things that they are passionate about, and have a say in what decisions are made and what services need to be [provided] in order to meet certain needs of the PGSS community. If PGSS didn’t have any services, or any events, for example, I think we wouldn’t be a complete student society. There are a lot of students that rely on the services we provide – myself being one of them.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.