Jacob Lavigne, PhD student in Experimental Surgery, currently serves as External Affairs Officer of the PGSS. He has experience in Senate, committees, and various clubs, such as the 3D Printing Club. As Secretary General, he aims to advocate for graduate student space, promote a culture of innovation, address international students’ challenges, improve mental health services, and enforce bylaws.
Lavigne will prioritize the lack of space on campus at the Board of Governors (BoG), on which the Secretary-General serves as the only representative of postgraduate students. He supports campus expansion, but in a proximate, sustainable, and socially responsible manner, instead of sprawling across the city. Specifically, he hopes to reach out to Macdonald Campus and develop the Royal Victoria Hospital. In general, he wants expansion to be conducive to carbon neutrality.
As External Affairs Officer, Lavigne believes in the importance of professional events. He hopes to have events similar to hackathons, foster innovative thinking, and better publicize the opportunities on campus.
Lavigne seeks to improve the retention of international students. He claims that crucial topics to address as Secretary General are access to health insurance and culturally-sensitive resources.
Lavigne wants to take a preventive approach to mental health. He intends to alleviate stress through experiential learning opportunities and flexible curriculums. Additionally, he will promote existing health services to students.
Finally, on all action plans, Lavigne wants to ensure increased access to these documents as required by PGSS by-laws. He believes this is bureaucratically the most important part of his platform and hopes that it will improve institutional memory. and indigenous affairs portions of the portfolio, but has no official platform point addressing these groups.
The McGill Tribune endorses Jacob Lavigne for Secretary-General. His platform and overall organizational approach is self-reflective and pragmatic, highlighted by his idea to scrap events where necessary and his admittance of the issue of by-laws commonly being ignored.
PGSS will benefit from his institutional knowledge, which will ensure continuity, and his past experience working with the society will help him adapt to his new role. Furthermore, his bilingualism will help him engage the francophone community, and his experiences from studying outside of the province will help him bring fresh ideas to the campus.
What Lavigne requires, however, is a clear plan of action. He recognizes a wide variety of issues to address, but was vague about the actual process of achieving the variety of goals he has set for himself. As the only PGSS student representative on the BoG he has the opportunity to push for policies, but he was less definitive about his relationship with the administration than other parts of his portfolio. However, he showed himself to be capable of effective strategizing. As Secretary-General, Lavigne will address his projects with efficiency, professionalism and attention to detail.
Internal Affairs Officer
Steve Beukema is a PhD student in Neuroscience running for the position of Internal Affairs Officer (IAO). While completing his master’s degree, Beukema organized events for the Psychology Graduate Student Association at Western University. At McGill, he has been working as the VP Social for the Graduate Student Association for Neuroscience (GSAN) for the past year. Beukema plans to continue hosting events that are inclusive to international students and minorities, including Equity Week and Love Sex Week, both of which were pioneered by the current IAO, Mina Anadolu.
Beukema is a proponent of fact-based decision making, stressing the importance of communicating with PGSS members after events. In order to facilitate this conversation, he plans to create an online event calendar and use the messaging service Slack as a platform to hear from student representatives directly. He also promises to host more events at the Macdonald Campus.
An amateur magician and pianist, Beukema hopes to organize events that are mentally and physically engaging in order to keep students actively interested in PGSS. His ideas include laser tag, axe throwing, and a charity student art auction to benefit mental health initiatives.
Mansha Imtiyaz is completing her Master’s in Computer Science with startup experience as a social media manager and operations manager. While completing her undergraduate degree, she was Student President of the Amity University chapter of the Institution of Engineering and Technology. In her past year at McGill, she has been involved in organizing events with the Internal Affairs Committee and the McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship.
Imtiyaz aims to host more culturally inclusive events—celebrating holidays, such as Holi, Hanukkah, and Chinese New Year—in order to accommodate the range of international students attending McGill. In addition, she plans to increase awareness and outreach to students struggling with mental health issues, isolation, or physical trauma by using social media to connect them to other students who have experienced similar ordeals.
Imtiyaz hopes to promote innovation and entrepreneurship by ensuring that students have a multitude of networking opportunities to choose from. She also plans to aid graduate students in obtaining guidance and investment from mentors in their respective fields.
Endorsement: Mansha Imtiyaz
The McGill Tribune endorses Mansha Imtiyaz as IAO. While both candidates are thoroughly qualified, Imtiyaz demonstrates greater concern with extending her work as IAO beyond organizing events.
Imtiyaz’s platform highlights the specific goal of providing students with dynamic networking opportunities. Beukema’s platform only cites neuroscience events, such as BrainReach and Neurosymposium, as examples of events where students could advance their career goals. In addition, Imtiyaz’s experience working with the Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship will undoubtedly put her at an advantage when organizing events for graduate students in a multitude of departments.
Furthermore, Imtiyaz’s plan to use social media as a way to increase mental health awareness and outreach is a notably innovative addition to her platform. The work of the Internal Affairs Officer is often perceived as that of a party planner—yet Imtiyaz promises to provide graduate students with more than just opportunities to socialize. As Imtiyaz recognizes, many individuals could greatly benefit from developing connections with other students who have lived through similar struggles and experiences—especially in the context of Graduate Studies, where a heavy workload can often result in stress and social isolation. Provided Imtiyaz follows through with these promises, she will likely make an excellent Internal Affairs Officer.
Financial Affairs Officer
Matthew Satterthwaite is a Neuroscience graduate student with a focus on decision-making and Neuroeconomics. Satterthwaite attended McGill for his undergraduate degree and was an Arts and Sciences representative to SSMU in his last year. Since becoming a graduate student, he has been a member of the Internal Affairs Committee and is currently the Neuroscience Representative to the PGSS.
Satterthwaite wants to push for financial transparency to allow PGSS members access to the budgets, fund balances, and financial statements. He would like to see transparency outside of the fiscal portfolio, as well. Satterthwaite is encouraging the entire society to be more open with its proceedings.
In his platform, he also advocates for an Ethical Investment Policy. The policy would be crafted in conjunction with the Policy and Structure Advisory Committee to outline the parameters for companies to invest.
Satterthwaite also wants to expand PGSS sponsorship opportunities. He would like to institute either a Sponsorship Commissioner or a Sponsorship Committee within his portfolio in order to expand revenue.
One of Satterthwaite’s goals is to form a stronger connection with Postgraduate Student Associations (PGSAs) in the form of “Financial Roundtables” to discuss the budget, fees, funds, and any other questions the associations may have.
The McGill Tribune endorses Matthew Satterthwaite as the next PGSS Financial Affairs Officer. He has a wealth of experience in student government through his time as both an undergraduate and graduate student at McGill. These experiences will be valuable as the Financial Affairs Officer.
That being said, his experiences seem to centre around the management of a team rather than managing a budget as large as that of the PGSS. There will be a learning curve as he adjusts to the different needs and conditions of the position.
He seems to have done research into the key issues affecting the PGSS and states the Macdonald Campus graduate students’ potential secession from the society as the biggest challenge for the portfolio. Proactively, he is exploring additional avenues of funding, such as increased advertising, to make up for the potential loss in student fees.
Overall, Satterthwaite’s platform would serve the Financial Affairs Officer portfolio and the PGSS well. He has a solid plan of action and has accounted for potential roadblocks and challenges next year. While he may struggle with the immediate learning curve, he should acclimate well to the demands of the position.
Christopher Leeks, who is running for Financial Affairs Officer according to the PGSS website, did not respond to The McGill Tribune for comment.
External Affair Officer
Hocine Slimani, PhD student, is running unopposed for the position of External Affairs Officers. Slimani was involved in various student associations, during his Bachelor studies at Université de Montréal, working in event planning. He completed his graduate studies in Denmark, Belgium, and Italy, which has shaped his views on student rights and representation.
A key piece of Slimani’s platform is addressing the motion to change the status of postdoc students from students to employees. He points out that there are downsides to this change, such as PGSS not being able to represent postdocs under their new status. Overall, he aims to make the provincial government aware of the drawbacks of the change, ultimately hoping to extend his mandate as External Affairs Officer (EAO) to continue this work. He cited the example of Denmark, where PhD students are considered employees and receive salaries that are equivalent to government positions, suggesting that this could be a long-term goal.
Slimani’s platform is strongly focused on student rights, mentioning ideas to introduce universal health care for foreign students. He also contends that education should be free.
Regarding affiliation with student unions, Slimani stated that once he is elected, he will make judgments about affiliations based on how well-suited the federation is to defend PGSS’ interests. He claimed that because a lot of information regarding PGSS affiliations are confidential right now, he does not have concrete plans.
The majority of Slimani’s ideas are lofty and beyond the scope of the EAO’s portfolio. While his eagerness to advocate student rights is admirable and the position does entail big-picture ideas, he does not propose any concrete, practical goals to affect change on federal and provincial policies, making it dubious whether he will be able to achieve his vision.
Slimani’s platform lacks focus on issues where he must make timely decisions and incite specific action, such as affiliation with student federations, like AVEQ. When asked to comment on how he would approach this portfolio, he claimed he would rely on his predecessor Jacob Lavigne for guidance. This is worrisome considering Lavigne is now running for the position of Secretary-General and will have his own obligations should he be elected.
Slimani also displays inadequate appreciation for the intricacies of the political process of student government and the McGill administration— for example, in his interview with the Tribune, he claimed that it was “easy” to introduce the Sexual Violence Policy at McGill.
Overall, while Slimani might bring reach and vision to the position and PGSS as a whole, without concrete planning and a deeper understanding of his portfolio, he will have difficulty filling his role, let alone instigating significant change.
Member Services Officer
JennyAnn Pura, a PhD student in Experimental Surgery, is running unopposed for the position she currently occupies: Member Services Officer. From 2012-2013, Pura served as VP External and president of the Post-Graduate Student Association (PGSA) Experimental Surgery from 2013-2016.
The Member Services Officer advocates for PGSS members on matters related to university student services, and campus-wide student organizations. In collaboration with the PGSS staff, the Officer is responsible for managing all member services of the Society, such as the Health and Dental Insurance Plan, the PGSS annual handbook, the Member Legal Defence Fund, and the Grants Program. Issues regarding sustainability are also within the Officer’s purview.
As the present Officer, Pura’s platform consists of carrying on projects she oversaw from the 2016-2017 school year, most notably the Study Saturdays program. Additionally, she seeks to maintain an open door policy to foster an open and safe environment for students.
With her experience as a Member Services Officer, Pura has circumvented the learning curve presented to newly elected PGSS Executives. During her term, Pura coordinated Study Saturdays–a free service allowing student parents to have their children cared for. Pura collaborated with SSMU VP Student Life Elaine Patterson to move the program to the Shatner Building, making the service more accessible than it was in Thomson House’s more limited space.
Moreover, Pura, along with the incumbent Academic Affairs Officer Nicholas Dunn, lobbied for the creation of a Member Services Committee, which PGSS Legislative Council approved in December 2016. While the committee currently only has one member, Pura’s return to the Member Services Officer position will allow her to realize the committee’s potential as an asset to her portfolio.
Her time in office centred on reviewing the PGSS Health and Dental Plan, leading up to the renewal referendum taking place later. Pura has also organized networking trips for postgraduate students by working alongside the McGill Career Planning Service (CaPS) and alumni.
In addition, Pura has secured funding for leisure courses, including meditation hours so that students can de-stress at the start of their week.
In exercising her role, Pura demonstrated her ability to follow through with her plans. Although it took some time for Pura’s projects to be implemented and her absence at the PGSS debate called her commitment to this year’s campaign into question, she clearly has valuable experience and the passion to improve her initiatives.
Academic Affairs Officer
Thomas Colbourne, PhD student in Philosophy, has experience both with the Academic Policy Committee on Senate and the Council of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies. In both, Colbourne was involved in program changes and believes he has applicable insight into the institutional processes. He intends to promote communication with constituents, professional development, renovating the library, and improving both funding and supervision.
In order to make appropriate decisions in his work with the upper administration of McGIll, Colbourne wants to improve communication with his constituents. To do so, he will make himself available before and after Council sessions. Additionally, he hopes for his policies to reflect the specific needs of various PGSAs.
Colbourne intends to work with Career Planning Services (CaPS) and SKILLSETS to make students more competitive on the job market. With the administration, he will push to address the course exclusion issue, which makes it difficult for different departments to allocate teaching opportunities. He believes that career assistance is faculty specific and desires practical advice from supervisors and advising resources.
Colbourne seeks to be involved with library renovations. By working with the Dean of Libraries, he will push for more locker space, private rooms, and presentation spaces for graduate students. He also intends to provide teacher’s assistants with private office space.
Finally, Colbourne believes that sitting on the Steering Committee—which decides the questions asked at senate—is important for enacting policies, and sees Senate as an opportunity to raise questions and hold the university accountable to student concerns.
Shufeng Zhou, PhD student in Experimental Surgery, has experience as VP of the Medical Students Society, at a medical university in China. Additionally, she feels that she has applicable practical experience managing research programs as a McGill student for eight years. Her platform consists of improving library spaces, increasing opportunities for international students, and improving degree advising and supervision as well as scholarships.
Zhou hopes to work with the Dean of Libraries to renovate the Royal Victoria Hospital (RVH) into a library and a student academic activity centre, arguing that most other universities have a version of the latter.
Zhou intends to improve the lives of international students. She hopes to implement a “pre-McGill program” to help prepare international students to integrate into the university. This program would teach incoming international students English and skills to assist their applications. She feels that this would benefit McGill as well by yielding the comparative advantages of diversity.
More generally, Zhou seeks to provide better services to all students. She argues that McGill should reduce tuition for PhD students after they have completed a comprehensive exam. She also hopes to allow students over 25 years old to be eligible for student metro passes in Montreal.
Finally, Zhou wants to improve communication both with Macdonald Campus students and with professors. She wants to reform the student feedback system so that students can see each others’ feedback.
Endorsement: Thomas Colbourne
The McGill Tribune endorses Thomas Colbourne for Academic Affairs Officer. Colbourne has the institutional experience to adapt to the role. In his interview with The McGill Tribune he demonstrated knowledge of what the incumbent Academic Affairs Officer has done and how he will continue his projects.
He also conveyed a firm understanding of his role with the administration and other student associations, and has a beneficial as well as realistic goal of sitting on the steering committee. He applied his own experiences to recognize issues with teacher’s assistant offices and holding supervisors accountable, and appears to be intent on communicating with the student body to represent their ideas as well.
While he admitted he had no knowledge of the Neurological Open Science policy at the PGSS debate, by the time of his subsequent interview, he had already spoken with the organizers of the policy and incorporated the intentions into his platform. This care for and responsiveness to expressed student interests will serve him well as Academic Affairs Officer.
We also take issue with Zhou’s suggestion that to address sexual assault on campus, sexual assault survivors need to speak out publicly about their experiences. Colbourne alternatively addressed the importance of improving the PGSS sexual assault violence.
While Zhou has interesting ideas, we believe that she would serve better as one of students that Colbourne represents as he applies his approach of increased communication, pressuring the administration, and working with others.
In order to present the most informed endorsement decisions possible, our editors were mandated to attend the PGSS and SSMU debates in person. Furthermore, we conducted in-person interviews with all of the candidates for both PGSS and SSMU, which all editors were required to attend.
The endorsements are the product of an Editorial Board meeting in which we addressed every position, debated, and voted. In order to earn the Tribune
’s endorsement, a candidate had to receive a two-thirds majority vote, while a simple majority would result in an endorsement with reservations. Reservations could also be appended to any “Yes” endorsement with the approval of a simple majority.
In the spirit of transparency and as a matter of upholding The McGill Tribune
’s credibility, we feel it imperative to make the process behind these decisions public. Should you have questions or concerns about our editorial process—or its outcomes—please send us an email at [email protected]