The SGPS’s ineffectiveness

In her strategic vision for Queen’s, entitled “Engaging the World,” Principal Karen Hitchcock outlined a desire to further increase graduate enrolment, making good on her promise to make Queen’s a more prominent player in research-intensive universities in Canada. As graduate and professional enrolment (law in particular) increases, pushing this campus towards a mixture of nearly one-third graduate students, the need for student representation is obvious to all involved. Unfortunately, the current representational structure—made up of the ill-equipped and poorly run Society for Graduate and Professional Studies (SGPS)—has failed to meet the needs of current graduate students, much less those to come.

While the AMS is undoubtedly not without its faults, at the very least the AMS provides its students with useful services and effective representation. In my experience as a student leader, due to a lack of professionalism and follow-through, the SGPS does a poor job of conveying the needs of graduate students to various groups within the University administration.

A large part of the reason that the SGPS is disregarded by the University administration is the fact that they have failed to make good on key promises and commitments—a trait that is extremely damaging to an organization that relies on dealing in good faith with others. For example, while previous SGPS executives had promised the University administration and others that graduate students would contribute to the construction of the Queen’s Centre—a project which undergraduate students selflessly committed $25.5 million dollars—to this date, the SGPS executive hasn’t made a move to make good on this not-insubstantial promise. In fact, in my experience, the SGPS failed to show interest in participating in even the most basic consultations regarding the design and development of the Queen’s Centre, often times failing to provide a person to sit on the requisite committees.

While the SGPS may defend their actions in this regard by claiming that the Queen’s Centre isn’t important to a majority of their constituents (a statement which is short-sighted and gives little credit to the many graduate students who realize the importance of the project to all students), ineffectively dealing with critical issues is a trend which isn’t just limited to dealings with the University. When the AMS made the decision to close After-Hours Childcare in 2005, it was with the knowledge that the majority of student use was from graduates, not undergraduates. However, despite the fact that it was obviously a priority for graduate students to have such a service (demonstrated by the fact that SGPS members were, at the time, paying a fee to support the operation of the childcare service), the SGPS representatives at the time knew little about what After-Hours Childcare was, how it operated or who was using it.

I hope that if nothing else, these people begin to take positions on the SGPS and help transform it into a relevant organization that effectively serves the needs of its student members. It’s only through active participation by more concerned and intelligent individuals that the SGPS can be worth more than the value of a free ISIC card.

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