PGSS Coun­cil

Coun­cil seeks to in­crease stu­dents’ po­lit­i­cal en­gage­ment

The McGill Daily - - Contents - Ellen Cools The Mcgill Daily

On Mon­day March 20, the Post­Grad­u­ate Stu­dents’ So­ci­ety (PGSS) Coun­cil met for its eighth coun­cil meet­ing of the 20162017 aca­demic year, and its sec­ond Gen­eral Meet­ing (GM). At Coun­cil, a mo­tion was ap­proved to cre­ate a spe­cial ref­er­en­dum re­gard­ing the grad­u­ate in­no­va­tion cul­ture fund, coun­cil­lors were ap­pointed to the ap­point­ments board by a lot­tery sys­tem, and a mo­tion was brought from the floor to en­dorse a let­ter to Mcgill re­quest­ing that the Le­gal In­for­ma­tion Clinic at Mcgill (LICM)’S ref­er­en­dum ques­tion be blocked.

At the Gen­eral Meet­ing, PGSS mem­bers heard an­nounce­ments, as well as re­ports from each of the ex­ec­u­tives. They also dis­cussed ways to in­crease en­gage­ment at PGSS Coun­cil meet­ings in the fu­ture. Quo­rum was lost roughly half way through the GM, and as a re­sult, new busi­ness was tabled un­til the next meet­ing.

Mo­tion to block LICM ref­er­en­dum

From March 20 to 26, the LICM is host­ing a ref­er­en­dum which asks grad­u­ate stu­dents, “Do you agree to in­crease the non-opt- out­able Le­gal In­for­ma­tion Clinic at Mcgill as­so­ci­a­tion fee paid by all grad­u­ate stu­dents on the down­town cam­pus, ex­clud­ing post- docs, from $2.00 per stu­dent per se­mes­ter (ex­clud­ing sum­mer) to $4.50 per stu­dent per se­mes­ter (ex­clud­ing sum­mer), start­ing in Fall 2017?”

Dur­ing the Coun­cil meet­ing, a mo­tion was brought from the floor by PGSS Chief Re­turn­ing Of­fi­cer (CRO) Man­meet Rai. The mo­tion ini­tially sought to block the LICM ref­er­en­dum, but ac­cord­ing to PGSS Coun­cil by­laws, this would have been il­le­gal. In view of this, it be­came a mo­tion to en­dorse a let­ter to Mcgill re­quest­ing that the ref­er­en­dum be blocked, re­gard­less of the re­sult.

The mo­tion brought by Rai stated that the LICM pre­sented the ref­er­en­dum ques­tion be­fore PGSS Coun­cil at its Jan­uary 2017 meet­ing, and it passed. How­ever, “the next day cer­tain dis­crep­an­cies were found in the in­for­ma­tion pro­vided by the LICM rep­re­sen­ta­tives at the Coun­cil.”

It fur­ther al­leged that the LICM lacks fi­nan­cial trans­parency and has adopted “skewed” pro­ce­dures in run­ning the ref­er­en­dum, and called for a PGSS rep­re­sen­ta­tive to be placed on the LICM’S board to re­port on the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s work­ings and sug­gest im­prove­ments.

At one point, a stu­dent from the Com­puter Sci­ence Grad­u­ate So­ci­ety asked for more de­tails re­gard­ing the pro­ce­dural dis­crep­an­cies. In re­sponse, Rai said that the LICM had pro­vided a pro­vi­sion for a pre­am­ble to be added be­fore the vot­ing pe­riod be­gins.

Ac­cord­ing to Rai, the LICM claimed the pre­am­ble would only add fac­tual in­for­ma­tion, but “what is hap­pen­ing with this fac­tual in­for­ma­tion in tech­ni­cal­ity, [is] if a ‘No’ Com­mit­tee goes out and gar­ners a lot of sup­port, and you add new in­for­ma­tion which is go­ing to show up on the bal­lot, it takes away that el­e­ment of all your cam­paign­ing that you’ve done.”

“This is some­thing which is ab­so­lutely rigged and should not be al­lowed, and this is not how ref­er­en­dums take place,” Rai said.

More­over, Rai said the LICM has al­lowed any­one to join the ‘Yes’ com­mit­tee, but stu­dents who would like to be part of the ‘No’ com­mit­tee would have to go through a nom­i­na­tion process. He added that this process is un­clear.

Rai also claimed that on a bal­lot, LICM is al­lowed to pro­vide a link to the state­ment of the ‘Yes’ Com­mit­tee or the ‘No’ Com­mit­tee. How­ever, Rai claimed that the link LICM pro­vided leads di­rectly to LICM’S web­site.

The mo­tion also noted a num­ber of fi­nan­cial con­cerns with re­gards to LICM, and ques­tioned whether a fee raise from $2.00 to $4.50 was nec­es­sary.

One stu­dent, Matthew, asked the Chief Elec­toral Of­fi­cer (CEO) of LICM to ad­dress the con­cerns brought up by Rai.

Colby Briggs, CEO of LICM, claimed that there is no pre­am­ble on the bal­lot, as LICM is us­ing an omni-box sys­tem which pro­vides a link to a ver­sion of a can­di­date sys­tem, some­thing which is typ­i­cally done in PGSS elec­tions.

In ad­dress­ing the claim that a nom­i­na­tions process is re­quired only for stu­dents wish­ing to join the ‘No’ Com­mit­tee, Briggs said that “LICM ob­vi­ously wants the fee levy to pass, so it’s not re­ally log­i­cal to have a dis­tinct nom­i­na­tion process, but if they did have a nom­i­na­tion process, it would be a mat­ter of ‘Hey, CRO, I would like to be on the ‘Yes’ com­mit­tee.’”

The nom­i­na­tion process for the ‘ No’ com­mit­tee would be the same. Briggs added that no stu­dent emailed him say­ing they would like to form a ‘No’ Com­mit­tee.

In re­sponse, Rai said “I don’t see any state­ment out there which says that if you are ap­ply­ing [ to be part of] a ‘No’ Com­mit­tee, it will only be, ‘ Hey, CRO, put me on the ‘No’ com­mit­tee.’”

He added that, ac­cord­ing to the LICM’S pro­ce­dures, the LICM Yes Ref­er­en­dum Com­mit­tee will be ex­empt from nom­i­na­tion pro­ce­dure.

“In prac­tice, I’m not sure it re­ally mat­ters if there is a nom­i­na­tion process or not,” Briggs re­sponded. “The Yes Com­mit­tee is au­to­mat­i­cally the Le­gal In­for­ma­tion Clinic be­cause the Le­gal In­for­ma­tion Clinic is hold­ing a ref­er­en­dum to in­crease the fee.”

Mina Anadolu, PGSS In­ter­nal Af­fairs Of­fi­cer, also pointed out that in an email sent out by Elec­tions LICM on Fe­bru­ary 27, LICM called for the for­ma­tion of yes or no com­mit­tees.

How­ever, the mo­tion was then tabled, as the Coun­cil meet­ing had reached its time limit.

In­creas­ing en­gage­ment

At the end of the Gen­eral Meet­ing, PGSS Sec­re­tary- Gen­eral Vic­tor Frankel asked PGSS mem­bers how they thought en­gage­ment could be im­proved.

In re­sponse, An­drew Dixon, PGSS Health Com­mis­sioner, sug­gested that awards for PGSAS could in­crease en­gage­ment at Coun­cil. Ja­cob Lav­i­gne, PGSS Ex­ter­nal Af­fairs Of­fi­cer, said that peo­ple might feel dis­en­gaged be­cause they may have a lack of un­der­stand­ing of many of the is­sues dis­cussed at Coun­cil, and thus sug­gested fur­ther train­ing at the begin­ning of the year.

In re­sponse to these sug­ges­tions, Anadolu an­nounced that awards for PGSAS are in the works, as is an in­crease in ori­en­ta­tion ses­sions and train­ing.

Fi­nally, a stu­dent named Matthew from the Grad­u­ate Stu­dents’ As­so­ci­a­tion for Neu­ro­science said, “One of the things that I’ve no­ticed this year on Coun­cil is that there’s re­ally not a lot of mo­tions to dis­cuss. When we get to Coun­cil we’re re­ally just hear­ing re­ports, there’s no ac­tual dis­cus­sion go­ing on. I don’t know if that’s be­cause no­body knows how to ac­tu­ally write a mo­tion [ but] I think a work­shop at the start of the year on how to write a mo­tion, how to present it to Coun­cil, and how to ac­tu­ally make a dif­fer­ence here would be very in­ter­est­ing.”

It fur­ther al­leged that the LICM lacks fi­nan­cial trans­parency and has adopted “skewed” pro­ce­dures in run­ning the ref­er­en­dum.

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