2016 PGSS elec­tions and ref­er­enda

Ex­ec­u­tive can­di­dates

The McGill Daily - - Pgss Elections - Com­piled by Ellen Cools, Saima De­sai, & Cem Ertekin

The voting pe­riod for the Post­Grad­u­ate Stu­dents’ So­ci­ety (PGSS) Gen­eral Elec­tions has started. Seven can­di­dates are run­ning for six ex­ec­u­tive po­si­tions. In ad­di­tion, there are two ref­er­en­dum ques­tions re­gard­ing fee levies for the World Univer­sity Ser­vice of Canada (WUSC) at Mcgill and the Le­gal In­for­ma­tion Clinic at Mcgill (LICM).

The Daily sat down with the ex­ec­u­tive can­di­dates to dis­cuss their plat­forms, the high num­ber of un­op­posed can­di­dates, and the fu­ture of PGSS. The voting pe­riod runs from March 16 at 9 a.m. un­til March 25 at 5 p.m..

Elec­tions be­com­ing a “for­mal­ity”

Of the six ex­ec­u­tive po­si­tions be­ing elected, five have can­di­dates run­ning un­op­posed.

“It seems there has al­ways been a dis­con­nect be­tween PGSS and its mem­ber­ship,” said Jenny Ann Pura, the Mem­ber Ser­vices Of­fi­cer can­di­date. “Though this year reached an un­prece­dented low with re­gards to the num­ber of can­di­da­cies, there have been only a few hotly con­tested elec­tions in PGSS’S re­cent past.”

“An elec­tion where most of the po­si­tions are un­op­posed means that the elec­tion has turned into a for­mal­ity,” said Mina Anadolu, cur­rent In­ter­nal Af­fairs Of­fi­cer who is run­ning un­op­posed for re-elec­tion.

“When they’re not given a choice, the ma­jor­ity of [vot­ers] vote for the can­di­date be­cause [...] they think that a po­si­tion is bet­ter filled than left empty,” said Anadolu.

“So that’s a prob­lem be­cause if some­one comes in with very, very rad­i­cal ideas, [...] if they give spe­cific power to only a spe­cific mi­nor­ity of mem­bers, if they don’t rep­re­sent the mem­ber­ship, then PGSS is at risk, be­cause they can do what­ever they want with the mem­ber­ship fees that we col­lect; they can run their own sep­a­rate agenda,” she con­tin­ued.

Asked about the rea­sons for low voter turnout and a lack of can­di­dates, Anadolu said that post­grad­u­ate stu­dent en­gage­ment “hits a low in March” since stu­dents are fin­ish­ing re­search and writ­ing grant pro­pos­als. Ni­cholas Dunn, the can­di­date for Aca­demic Af­fairs Of­fi­cer, added that “a lot of peo­ple work out of dif­fer­ent cam­puses as well,” and rarely spend time in Thom­son House.

In­ter­nal Af­fairs Of­fi­cer

Mina Anadolu is the cur­rent In­ter­nal Af­fairs Of­fi­cer, hav­ing been elected in De­cem­ber af­ter the res­ig­na­tion of for­mer In­ter­nal Af­fairs Of­fi­cer Sahil Ku­mar. She 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’s plat­form fo­cuses on in­creas­ing col­lab­o­ra­tive ef­forts with clubs and ser­vices, fact- and feed­back-based de­ci­sion mak­ing, and an in­clu­sive events port­fo­lio.

She told The Daily that she would col­lab­o­rate with Walk­safe and Drivesafe for events, es­pe­cially to ad­dress the prob­lem of stu­dents from the Mac­don­ald cam­pus get­ting home af­ter night­time events, once shut­tles be­tween cam­puses have stopped run­ning. She would also im­ple­ment a cat­e­gory sys­tem for events, to en­sure that one event per se­mes­ter would be planned un­der cat­e­gories such as eq­uity, sus­tain­abil­ity, and in­ter­na­tional stu­dent af­fairs. Fi­nally, Anadolu seeks to of­fer more work­shops re­gard­ing se­cur­ing fund­ing and pro­fes­sional devel­op­ment.

Ex­ter­nal Af­fairs Of­fi­cer

The po­si­tion of Ex­ter­nal Af­fairs Of­fi­cer is the only con­tested one in this year’s elec­tions. Ja­cob Lav­i­gne, a third-year PHD stu­dent in ex­per­i­men­tal surgery, and Ver­tika, a first-year PHD stu­dent in po­lit­i­cal science, are com­pet­ing for the po­si­tion.

Lav­i­gne was heav­ily in­volved in stu­dent pol­i­tics at his pre­vi­ous univer­sity, and is a founder of the Mcgill Ad­di­tive Man­u­fac­tur­ing Stu­dents’ So­ci­ety. Ver­tika is also a vet­eran stu­dent ac­tivist, who ini­ti­ated a cam­paign against “drag­ging” (an ex­treme form of bul­ly­ing by se­nior stu­dents toward in­com­ing stu­dents) at the Jawa­har­lal Nehru Univer­sity (JNU) dur­ing her un­der­grad­u­ate stud­ies.

When asked about the most im­por­tant part of the role, Lav­i­gne said it was to “rep­re­sent the views of [ the] con­stituency, and find a mid­dle ground with other stu­dent as­so­ci­a­tions.” He em­pha­sized that he has been vis­it­ing grad­u­ate stu­dent of­fices and labs to speak to stu­dents about his plat­form, but, when asked, ad­mit­ted that he had spo­ken mostly to Science stu­dents rather than Arts stu­dents.

For Ver­tika, the most im­por­tant part of her job would be build­ing a coali­tion within the Que­bec stu­dent move­ment. “I want to make sure that stu­dents have enough plat­forms to be in­formed of what is go­ing on and to ac­tu­ally en­gage,” she told The Daily. Fur­ther­more, Ver­tika ar­gues that PGSS should be more po­lit­i­cal and wants “to make the po­lit­i­cal na­ture of the of­fice vis­i­ble to stu­dents and to en­cour­age them.”

“My role is firmly stand­ing against de­politi­ciz­ing PGSS. Spa­ces for po­lit­i­cal ex­pres­sion are clamped down on. I would work with the stu­dent body to work against that. If we’re just ab­stain­ing on most of the is­sues, that’s not go­ing to help us,” she said.

Lav­i­gne’s pri­or­i­ties in­clude lob­by­ing the gov­ern­ment for in­creased re­search funds, as well as cre­at­ing a PGSS award to rec­og­nize ex­tracur­ric­u­lar in­volve­ment, which would be funded by in­dus­try or the gov- ern­ment – he stressed that there is no need to use money from stu­dent fees. In ad­di­tion, Lav­i­gne plans on reach­ing out to his con­tacts in the Quartier de l’in­no­va­tion de Mon­tréal to or­ga­nize events that could be of rel­e­vance to grad­u­ate stu­dents.

Sec­re­tary Gen­eral

Vic­tor Frankel is a cur­rent En­vi­ron­ment Com­mis­sioner to PGSS and has been the PGSS rep­re­sen­ta­tive to the Bi­ol­ogy Depart­ment for sev­eral years. He is pur­su­ing a PHD in ecol­ogy and evo­lu­tion­ary bi­ol­ogy and has been a stu­dent at Mcgill since 2010.

Frankel stresses the im­por­tance of serv­ing and en­gag­ing the stu­dents in PGSS as Sec­re­tary Gen­eral. While he has not sat on the Board of Gover­nors or the Se­nate, he of­ten goes to these meet­ings to ed­u­cate him­self and un­der­stand the ad­min­is­tra­tive pro­cesses in­volved. “I feel like what I want to do, most im­por­tantly, is serve the so­ci­ety, but I also feel like I bring qual­i­ties into it that are in­formed but also proac­tive in ad­vo­cacy for stu­dents,” he added.

When asked what he will im­prove on as Sec­re­tary Gen­eral, Frankel em­pha­sized con­tin­u­ing the work of cur­rent PGSS Sec­re­tary Gen­eral Danielle Toc­calino in en­gag­ing stu­dents and re-es­tab­lish­ing stu­dent con­fi­dence in PGSS. Con­se­quently, he sees the role as one of en­sur­ing a sense of con­ti­nu­ity in

ex­ist­ing pro­grams while ad­vanc­ing new ini­tia­tives.

Frankel will also work on im­prov­ing “the pro­cesses by which stu­dents at var­i­ous fac­ul­ties and de­part­ments can feel like they’re get­ting in­volved,” and en­sur­ing that com­mu­ni­ca­tions re­main as trans­par­ent and stream­lined as pos­si­ble.

Re­gard­ing the large num­ber of un­op­posed po­si­tions, Frankel pointed to the high level of re­spon­si­bil­ity and time com­mit­ment re­quired. He also said that the “right peo­ple” are run­ning for these po­si­tions and that stu­dents are con­fi­dent in them.

Aca­demic Af­fairs Of­fi­cer

Ni­cholas Dunn is a first-year PHD stu­dent in phi­los­o­phy, with lit­tle ex­pe­ri­ence in stu­dent gov­ern­ment.

His pri­or­ity is to in­crease the amount of work and study space for grad­u­ate stu­dents on cam­pus, say­ing, “It’s kind of shock­ing how lit­tle space there is on cam­pus for grad stu­dents to work.”

Dunn be­lieves that the pro­posed ren­o­va­tion of the Red­pathM­clen­nan li­brary com­plex, termed Fiat Lux, would cre­ate much more stu­dent work space. Dunn says he would lobby to have a sig­nif­i­cant por­tion of that space ded­i­cated to grad­u­ate stu­dents, such as rooms for grad­u­ate stu­dents to hold of­fice hours and group meet­ings, and lock up per­sonal be­long­ings.

Asked about how he would strive for more fund­ing for grad­u­ate stu­dents in a cli­mate of aus­ter­ity, Dunn said he be­lieves there is “not much that can be done,” since the ma­jor­ity of Mcgill’s bud­get is “un­touch­able” and the Univer­sity’s “hands are tied.” In­stead, he said he would ex­plore al­ter­nate sources of fund­ing. Dunn also plans on par­ing down in­ac­tive com­mit­tees, and pro­mot- ing com­mit­tees that are more ac­tive in their place.

Fi­nan­cial Af­fairs Of­fi­cer

Mina Mo­radi is a sec­ond year stu­dent pur­su­ing a Mas­ter’s de­gree in hu­man nutri­tion and di­etet­ics. Her ex­pe­ri­ence in­cludes be­ing head man­ager of the Logh­man Hakim hos­pi­tal in Tehran for two years.

In an email to The Daily, Mo­radi de­scribed her plans to re­sub­mit the ques­tion to in­crease the PGSS mem­ber­ship fee to grad­u­ate stu­dents in Fall 2016, which was brought up ear­lier this year. “If it passed it would greatly im­prove the health of our fi­nances and al­low us to pro­vide bet­ter ser­vices to our mem­bers,” she ex­plained.

Mo­radi also noted the ten­sion be­tween pre­serv­ing PGSS’S es­sen­tial ser­vices and mak­ing nec­es­sary spend­ing cuts. “I be­lieve that my past work ex­pe­ri­ence gives me the skill to man­age this com­plex sit­u­a­tion,” said Mo­radi.

Af­ter a four-year-long court case be­tween PGSS and the Cana­dian Fed­er­a­tion of Stu­dents (CFS), PGSS has been left with a sig­nif­i­cant deficit. How­ever, at last month’s Coun­cil meet­ing, coun­cil­lors were un­able to agree over the sever­ity of the deficit, with some cit­ing $277,779 and oth­ers cit­ing $611,000. Asked about which num­ber she agrees with, Mo­radi said, “I won’t ven­ture to pick a side be­fore look­ing closely at the num­bers my­self.”

“It is pos­si­ble the wa­ters may have been mud­died by con­flict­ing views over the years. I be­lieve it would help to look at the sit­u­a­tion with a fresh pair of eyes,” she con­tin­ued.

Mem­ber Ser­vices Of­fi­cer

Jenny Ann Pura, a PHD stu­dent in ex­per­i­men­tal surgery, has been in­volved in PGSS since 2012, when she was VP Ex­ter­nal of the Ex­per­i­men­tal Surgery Grad­u­ate Stu­dent So­ci­ety and a rep­re­sen­ta­tive at PGSS coun­cil.

In an email to The Daily, Pura ex­plained that “In a time of aus­ter­ity for uni­ver­si­ties and deficits for PGSS, the ser­vices of­fered to stu­dents are in peril.”

“More than ever, the [Mem­ber Ser­vices Of­fi­cer] will have to be strong and cre­ative to pro­tect the bud­get lines ded­i­cated to ser­vices and to make sure the funds are used as ef­fi­ciently as pos­si­ble,” she con­tin­ued. “Stu­dent ser­vices are not a lux­ury; they are ne­ces­si­ties.”

Asked about her plans for the role, Pura said she would of­fer pro­fes­sional net­work­ing and devel­op­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties to mem­bers, and would work closely with Lav­i­gne, if elected, on his plan to “reach out to his con­tacts in the [Quartier de l’in­no­va­tion de Mon­tréal] to set up work­shops and in­for­ma­tion ses­sions.”

So­nia Ionescu | The Mcgill Daily

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