Chair: Debbie Jabbour, President – handed to Shirley Barg part way through
Carla Benavides [took minutes]
AUSU Council Members: Shirley Barg, Karie-Anne Getta, Nicholas Palamarchuk, Sandra Moore, Mac McInnis, Karl Low,
Voice Editor: Tamra Ross Low.
The May 29th Council Meeting was a lively one, to say the least. Chair and AUSU President Debbie Jabbour was hurrying to get ready for her youngest daughter’s high school graduation, and she chaired much of the meeting from her cell phone as she drove to the grad location. Your can read details of her hectic day in her article from last week, but I have to add that the meeting ran quite smoothly and it was productive and professional despite the unusual circumstances. AUSU council are some of the busiest people I have ever met, and it’s not that uncommon for councillors to attend meetings from diverse locations, or to squeeze them in between shifts at work. In fact, Councillor Getta came home from work for the meeting, and then returned to the office afterward.
As always, the meeting ran quite long – well into it President Jabbour had to leave for her daughter’s grad, and she handed off the chair duties to VP Shirley Barg for the remaining agenda items.
The Agenda was as follows:
Approval of Agenda and Adoption of April 22 Minutes – All
Committee vacancies – D.Jabbour
Grad Association steering committee – D.Jabbour
2003/2004 planner committee – D.Jabbour
Update on collection of overdue accounts – D.Jabbour
Student service scholarship – D.Jabbour
AGM debriefing – All
Discussion on computer loan for Councillors and staff – D.Jabbour/S.Moore
Meeting schedule – S. Moore
General manager hiring process – S.Barg
Tutor surveys – S.Moore
Bylaw approval process – K.Low
Convocation plans – S.Barg/S.Moore
Newsletter update – T.Ross Low/S.Moore
Bill 43 update – S.Barg
Strategic planning – N.Palamarchuk/S.Barg
I attended the meeting to report on what happened. I am not an AUSU council member, and these notes are only my perspective on the meeting. Contact AUSU for more information on any of these items.
After the agenda and minutes from the previous council meeting were approved, President Jabbour brought up the issue of vacancies on AUSU committees. At this time, two committees of AUSU are dormant: The Student Services Committee – which was chaired by Darren Kereluk before his removal from council, although this committee did not ever meet – and the Academic Committee, which was chaired by me when I was a member of AUSU Council. When I left council, I expressed an interest as continuing as committee chair [you do not need to be a member of council to chair a committee], but once I was hired as Voice Editor, council felt it prudent to check the AUSU policies to ensure that there could be no conflict of interest issues arising from a staff member chairing a committee.
No policy conflicts were found, and President Jabbour put the question to the council at the meeting. All were in agreement that I could continue to chair the committee. I was asked if I would like to revive the committee, and I said that I would. I have already secured one student member and I look forward to our upcoming projects.
Grad Association steering committee
President Jabbour mentioned that when she was doing her history of AUSU for an upcoming Voice issue, she learned a great deal about how the council was initially formed. She realized from this research, that the first step in forming the union was the creation of a steering committee. President Jabbour proposed that the planning of an AUSU Grad association – which has been in the works for some time – would be best facilitated by forming a similar steering committee.
2003/2004 planner committee
For many years AUSU produced a yearly student handbook/planner, which was free upon request to all AU students. In 2003, however, the handbook was not produced as it became apparent that the old planner needed to be updated and possible produced in a new format to increase its usefulness. Instead, a package of AUSU logo gifts was produced, and these may now be requested from the AUSU office [see the AUSU website for more details]. A new planner will be produced for the upcoming school year, and at the council meeting it was decided that council member Sandra Moore would head up an ad hoc committee to design the new planner. [note: it has since been decided that council member Mac McInnis would chair this committee, and work is already underway.]
Update on collection of overdue accounts
In the ongoing battle to collect on overdue accounts that were written off by ex- AUSU VP Finance Gurpreet Dulai, little progress has been made. This is due mostly to the fact that most of the old records were lost, and that too little documentation exists to collect these items. Many companies insist that the bills have been already paid. Due to the lack of records, many of the old accounts [dating back up to 4 years ago] have had to be abandoned, and new finance procedures will be put into place to ensure that all overdue accounts are billed and followed up on in a timely manner.
Student service scholarship
The student service scholarship will not be going to anyone this year, due to requirements that have been deemed too strict. A few student names were put forward, but none qualified because of the minimum course completion requirement. After discussion, council realized that while this requirement makes sense for other scholarships, since the Student Service Scholarship already has the built-in criteria that the student must have performed some significant service for other students, and have shown a commitment to the AU community, no other requirement is needed. Unfortunately, the requirements of the scholarship cannot be changed for this year, as they are already published in the AU calendar. However, they will be changed for the next school year.
Discussion on computer loan for Councillors and staff
It has been recognized for some time that to be a member of AUSU council, you must have a modern, working computer and a good internet connection. However, the price of a new computer is restrictive for some councillors, and anyone who is on council cannot apply for the computer bursary. This means that low-income students have a difficult time being on council. To address this, there have been discussions for some time about how AUSU can assist councillors in purchasing a computer to do their jobs. At this meeting, VP Finance Sandra Moore proposed a plan where councillors could obtain a loan from AUSU, to be paid back to the union by a direct reduction in their monthly honorariums. Should the councillor leave AUSU before the computer is paid for, then they would owe the remainder of the computer cost at that time.
There was some debate on this issue, as some councillors felt that the amount of personal and financial information that was being asked for in order to qualify for the loan was too invasive of their privacy. One councillor noted that he could obtain a bank loan without divulging so much information. VP Moore, however, said that it is very important that AUSU have enough information to ensure that they will be able to receive full payment of the loan should the councillor leave council, and that the proposed program was better than a bank loan in that it is interest free.
After some debate it was determined that the program is worthwhile, but that it will need more discussion and revision before becoming policy. The item proposed at this meeting was for discussion purposes only.
Normally AUSU council meetings have been scheduled by the President proposing a date, and then asking the rest of council about their availability. Through discussion, a date is chosen that will allow most or all council members to attend. Due to the very busy lives of AUSU councillors, the dates of council meetings can be quite variable and are often not decided until a few days before the meeting. Several council members have pointed out, however, that it would be easier for students to attend meetings if they are set up well ahead of time and on a fairly regular schedule. After some discussion, it was decided that council meetings will be set up for the last week of each month, with the date posted well ahead of time.
General manager hiring process
AUSU decided a few months ago that a general manager should be hired to oversee many of the council’s administrative tasks. The job will be posted soon, and filled as expediently as possible. Since all of council has an interest in who obtains this position, it was decided that all of council should be able to listen to the interviews of the final few candidates either in person of by teleconference, though the actually interviews will be conducted by the personnel committee as usual.
In order to track student concerns about academic staff [and also to determine which staff are exemplary], AUSU will be creating their own confidential tutor evaluation surveys. Sandra Moore has created a draft survey, and asked at this meeting for input into the questions. As the acting webmaster for AUSU.org, I was asked if we could use the website survey feature to put the questions online, and I indicated that this would be fairly easy. The surveys will be reviewed again at a future meeting.
Bylaw approval process
The new AUSU bylaws were finally approved at the recent Annual General Meeting, where students had an opportunity to discuss them. The next step was to have the bylaws approved by the Alberta Government’s Corporate Registry department. At the council meeting, however, Councillor and Legislative Committee chair Karl Low admitted that one small omission was made. A required item – detailing what would occur should AUSU be disbanded – was omitted in the final version of the bylaws. Therefore this item will be added to the bylaws, and a brief Special General Meeting [SGM] will be called in order to pass the corrected bylaws.
There was a brief update on the plans for this week’s upcoming convocation. The main item of discussion was when AUSU would present graduates with their graduation gifts. In the past this was done in front of the stage before grads were called up to accept their parchments, but it was a bit awkward for grads to have to hold their gifts while mounting the stage and receiving their papers. Also, it meant that AUSU had little visibility at the convocation, although the union provides grad gifts each year, and pays for and hosts the breakfast, entertainment, and the afternoon luncheon. After last year’s grad, it was noted that AU did not even mention the significant AUSU contribution in their online convocation photo book. This year, AUSU will have a place on the back of the stage where the union will not only be more visible, but where they can hand out gifts to the grads as they are ready to be seated.
After a few delays, the next AUSU Newsletter – created this time by Sandra Moore – will be ready to go out very shortly. I have been helping out as liaison with the printer [because I worked with them on the last newsletter], and with some final editing. Sandra and I were asked at the meeting for an update on the newsletter status, and I listed the few items that I still needed before the project could go ahead. Most of these items have been provided and we are almost ready to go! Look for your newsletter soon.
Bill 43 update
VP External and Council of Alberta University Students Shirley Barg provided an update on the Alberta Government’s Proposed new education bill. Shirley is much better versed in this bill than I, and I suggest you read her Just CAUS column this week for more information.
For more information on any of the items mentioned in this report, please contact any AUSU councillor, or council as a whole. Contact information is on the AUSU website. All information presented above is based on my perspective as an observer, and more complete and detailed information can be obtained from council or the council website directly. Any errors or omissions are my own. I am not a member of AUSU council.