Physical spaces for students were at the forefront of the SGPS’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) discussions this week.
SGPS executives and members came together to approve the society’s budget and discuss graduate student life during the AGM in Kingston Hall on Oct. 24. During the meeting, the SGPS presented their 2022-23 audited financial statements, which were determined to faithfully represent the SGPS’s financial standing by auditor KPMG. The audited statement of operations presented a deficit of $69,889.
The proposed budget for the 2023-24 year projects a surplus of $41,468. The proposed budget was approved during the meeting.
Graduate students raised concerns over unequal working spaces on campus between departments—an issue Speaker Aileen Editha was aware of.
After conversations with Queen’s University Library last year, an exclusive library space for graduate students isn’t moving forward, Editha announced. There were discussions with University Library Director (Finance and Administration) Nancy Petri to convert part of a reading room in Douglas Library into a space for SGPS members. Renovations would have come from the library’s budget, Editha explained.
“That was out of the goodness of their hearts apparently because they had extra money to spare. However, there was no push from the University to make those spaces available,” Editha said during the SGPS Council meeting.
Aligning with their advocacy efforts, the SGPS is in contact with the ARC to carve out dedicated dates and times for graduate students to have exclusive access to parts of the gym spaces.
Graduate Student Housing
Graduate students are being relocated from University owned housing, but the SGPS remains in the dark.
SGPS President Devin Fowlie explained parts of An Clachan, a residential building predominantly housing graduate students and their families, are set to be torn down. The University plans to replace the existing building with a denser floorplan.
Fowlie doesn’t think the upcoming changes to An Clachan constitute either a renovation nor a new building.
“They’re keeping the same footprint of the building that is currently there, generally speaking, and they’re building it bigger and more dense,” Fowlie said during the meeting. “[The University] is taking down parts and they’re making the building higher and more dense.”
The University hasn’t disclosed to Fowlie where displaced students will be re-housed, or how long the building project will take. In the past, the University has moved residents into hotels while residences were under renovation.
“We’ve explicitly asked [the University] to have a plan for where they’re going to put the graduate students that are going to be displaced,” Fowlie said.
For Fowlie, hotels aren’t an ideal solution, but he’s committed to having discussions with the University to ensure impacted students receive appropriate attention and care.
Tony Hu, vice-president (community), categorized changes to the residence as distressing.
Other changes to the An Clachan residence include limiting lease renewals, allocating space via a lottery system, and adding to eligibility requirements. Tenants will be permitted to live in An Clachan for up to three years, according to Hu’s report.
Tenants’ rent may be raised beyond Ontario guidelines. Hu explained if Queen’s University Community Housing charges more for rent, they can use the extra funds to build more homes.
“Community housing is claiming that raising the rent will help them build their capital reserves so that they will be able to action the increased density there,” Hu said.
Students raised concerns to the executive about the changes. Students expressed confusion with how the introduction of a minimum one student to one bedroom ratio will work, given An Clachan houses many families.
Hu stated students’ points were well taken and will be brought up in upcoming meetings with the University.
The Grad Club
The Grad Club is looking to improve their profitability by raising item prices, removing low sale items from the menu, and expanding their marketing efforts after evaluating their financial performance last year.
“We don’t want the Grad Club going out of business,” Maya Kawale, vice-president (professional), said during the meeting. “We’re hoping to get efforts going so that we are better able to sustain the Grad Club.”
The Grad Club is a student-run pub on campus that’s served food and drinks since in 1963. While the pub is open to all Queen’s community members, Kawale emphasized its special connection to SGPS members.
“We would like to make the Grad Club a hub for professional and graduate students. It does involve the SGPS members to an extent because a lot of our members do like to spend time there,” Kawale said.
Graduate and professional students who are Grad Club regulars brought up concerns about the service and irregular menu items. Master’s student Jeremey Favaro described the confusing service he received at the Grad Club.
“I distinctly remember they were out of stock of hamburgers, but they were in stock of cheeseburgers. I don’t really understand how that happened,” Favaro said.
Kawale hopes to remedy these discrepancies as she looks towards improving the financial state of the pub.
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