Executive candidates debate, members vote on motions regarding accountability & accessibility

SGPS Winter General Meeting recap

SGPS Executive candidates at the Winter General Meeting on Wednesday.

The Society of Graduate and Professional Students (SGPS) held their Winter General Meeting in Mac-Corry this Wednesday evening, at which all six uncontested executive candidates running in the upcoming election had a chance to discuss their platforms.

Motion to create Executive Oversight Committee

Former SGPS President Christopher Cochrane moved to create an Executive Oversight Committee of the SGPS. According to his proposal, the committee would be responsible for “providing a constructive review of the performance of elected Executive members of the SGPS, and for facilitating resolution of concerns about the functioning of the elected SGPS Executive.”

Many members commended Cochrane’s attempt to address the SGPS’s accountability — an internal issue that many graduate and professional students identified as crucial.

However, a debate ensued regarding the logistics of said committee. Many members raised questions about the committee’s proposed jurisdiction, disciplinary power, and relationship to the SGPS.

Following a lengthy discussion of these details, members voted to defer the motion to be discussed and voted on at their March council meeting.

Non-fee Referendum Questions

A second motion moved by Cochrane was passed to allow the SGPS to conduct referenda on any matter within the jurisdiction of the SGPS on their fall and winter election ballots.

By cutting down on signatures required, which Cochrane said made it difficult 

to submit referendum questions to be included in the past, he hopes the SGPS will now have the opportunity to use referendum questions to collect constructive feedback and data regarding all graduate and professional departments.

All Candidates Debate

The SGPS executive candidates formed a panel at the end of the Wednesday night meeting to introduce themselves and address questions from members.

The candidates were asked about how they felt running uncontested and how they plan to account for the views of all graduate and professional students when four out of five executive candidates are from the Faculty of Law.

Presidential Candidate Adam Grotsky explained that he doesn’t like running uncontested, which he did once before for ASUS Presidency, because it robs students of a certain aspect of democracy.

However, he said that he’s worked hard to show he should be voted for because he is a good candidate, not because he’s the only candidate.

All candidates expressed their uneasiness with running unopposed, but Vice-President (Campaigns and Community Affairs) Candidate Tyler Morrison, Law ’19, also said that it has given him the opportunity to put more energy into researching for his platform rather than campaigning.

The candidates also expressed their sincere dedication to representing the interests of all students through extensive consultation with students, despite their lack of faculty diversity.

Vice-President (Graduate) Candidate Stephanie McKnight explained that through her PhD work in Cultural Studies, she has connections with members of many faculties, which she will use to serve varied interests on a daily basis.

Vice-President (Finance and Services) Candidate Lauren Peacock, Law ’19, explained her perspective as a law student will allow her to advocate for many of the resources, which are now exclusively available to law students, to be extended to all graduate and professional students, especially in areas like career development.

When asked what he would do to address mental health concerns among students, Grotsky explained that his goal would be to expand health coverage and work alongside the incoming AMS executive to implement an online booking system with Student Wellness Services.

Vice-President (Professional) Candidate Russell Durward, Law ’19, echoed Grotsky’s sentiment, and noted that wellness services currently seem to be focused on crisis management. Durward hopes to shift this focus to prioritize regular check ups and consistent support.

Peacock explained that she plans to work with their budget to put more money into SGPS mental health resources.

Graduate Senator Candidate Alexandru Sonoc explained that while Senate can do little in terms of curative solutions to mental health problems, there is “great deal they can do to prevent it.” 

Sonoc hopes to help graduate and professional students who struggle with the feeling that they haven’t accomplished anything over a long-term, open-ended research project by promoting project management skills.

When asked about the biggest issues currently facing the SGPS, Grotsky indicated that he would like to “reconsider” the SGPS’s relationship with the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS).

According to Grotsky, many students have come forward with concerns about how the CFS has been functioning lately, especially following the discovery of a hidden bank account.

Durward hopes to address a “wall” currently separating the SGPS from the Queen’s student body at large, as well as the limited student engagement with the SGPS.

Candidates identified mental health resources among students, the accountability of the SGPS, and decreases in research funding as being key issues they’d like to address during their term.

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