AUSU Council Meeting July 11, 2003, 14:00 MST, Reported by Voice Editor Tamra Ross Low

AUSU Council Meeting July 11, 2003, 14:00 MST, Reported by Voice Editor Tamra Ross Low

Chair: Debbie Jabbour, President
AUSU Council Members: Shirley Barg, Nicholas Palamarchuk, Sandra Moore, Mac McInnis, Karl Low,
Minutes taken by: Carla Benavides
Also present: Voice Editor: Tamra Ross Low.

The July 11th council meeting was set at an earlier time than usual, and turned out to be a marathon session which ran nearly four hours. Accordingly, this report is long [but not NEAR as long as the meeting itself!]. Most councillors liked the earlier meeting time, however, and future meetings may also be scheduled for afternoon time slots. Once again, I’d like to remind all students that they may sit in at any AUSU council meeting by reserving a telephone line to call in for free. Contact the AUSU office to book a line once the next council meeting time is announced [watch the calendar on the AUSU website front page].

The Agenda was as follows:

New Business
Approval of Agenda All
Adoption of Council Minutes (May 29, 2003) All
Acceptance of resignation K. Getta All
Formal proposal to AU in support of teaching assistants D. Jabbour
Student discount project D. Jabbour
Computer/personal development policy final draft S. Moore
Committee Member recognition S. Moore
Invigilator list for students S. Moore
Student handbook/planner S. Barg/M. McInnis
Bylaw decision K. Low
Policies K. Low
Budget advisory and strategic planning weekend S. Moore
DeVry and the Alberta Transfer Guide S. Barg
Peer Counselling program S. Moore
Finance committee composition D. Jabbour
General manager job description S. Barg
Recommendation re addition of council members S. Barg
Report on disabled students S. Barg
Voice scholarship T. Ross Low
Discussion of AUSU position on Bill 43 D. Jabbour/S. Barg

I attended the meeting to report on what happened. I am not an AUSU council member, and these notes are only my personal perspective on the meeting. Contact AUSU for complete information on any of these items.

Acceptance of resignation of K. Getta
After the agenda and the minutes from the previous council meeting were approved, AUSU President Debbie Jabbour brought forward a motion to accept the resignation of AUSU Councillor K. Getta. Ms. Getta’s resignation had been presented to all council members a few weeks prior to the meeting, and was not part of the meeting package. Councillor Shirley Barg asked if it would be appropriate to discuss Ms. Getta’s reasons for leaving council, which were not clearly listed on her resignation. President Jabbour said that she had spoken personally with Ms. Getta, but did not feel that she could in good conscience discuss that conversation with council without Ms. Getta’s prior approval. The rest of council agreed that this would not be appropriate.

On her resignation, Ms. Getta indicated that she had chosen to leave council and the finance committee for personal reasons. Her leaving was rather sudden, but it should be noted that she had served on AUSU council for some time, and was in fact part of the much beleaguered previous council as well. I did not have an opportunity to say goodbye to Karie-Anne, but would like to wish her the best of luck with her continuing studies and future plans, and to thank her for her assistance in understanding the financial details of The Voice when I first took over editorship.

Formal proposal to AU in support of teaching assistants
As reported in a recent Voice issue, AU currently has no official staff position for student researchers or research assistants. Although some research assistants are hired, there is no standard of remuneration or employee benefits, and the process of hiring can be complicated and require special permission to the hiring professor from the university. Dr. Lyle Grant of the AU psychology department has proposed that AU create a student researcher classification in their employee definitions, and he has asked AUSU for support on this program, since the union has already been involved in this issue. At this meeting, AUSU members agreed that the union should strongly support AU creating a student researcher position and that AU should be urged to consider hiring more student researchers and teaching assistants. There will be follow up on this issue.

Student discount project
Students at most universities are able to take advantage of incredible discount pricing on educational versions of software through university bookstores. AU students do not have this option, although the AU bookstore does sell the educational version of Microsoft Office at a reasonable price, though not nearly as cheaply as U of C students can get it.

AUSU is discussing how they can help AU students receive these same discount rates through other university’s bookstores. More information is needed before this project can go ahead, but at the July 11th meeting councillors determined that it is well worth looking into.

Computer/personal development policy final draft
As reported last month, AUSU has been working to create a program where councillors can use the personal development budget [money that councillors can apply for to attend professional conferences, etc] to purchase a computer. This policy is in recognition of the fact that a student must own a computer and have reliable internet access to be a member of students’ council. Some councillors have not had the funds to purchase working computers, and their positions on council make them ineligible for the computer bursary that AUSU gives to needy students 4 times per year (see the AUSU website for more info on this program).

The program has been approved and councillors will be able to apply for funds once per year to purchase computer equipment.

Committee Member recognition
In an effort to improve volunteer participation and show appreciate for long term volunteers, Sandra Moore has proposed that AUSU send appreciation gifts to volunteers who serve as committee chairs, and clubs presidents. Gifts would be items such as mugs, t-shirts, and possibly the type of pad-folios that were given out as grad gifts by AUSU this year. Details are not finalized but the proposal was accepted by council and AUSU will work to develop guidelines for when gifts should be given to volunteers, and how much these gifts should be worth.

Invigilator list for students
AUSU has received some complaints/comments from students regarding the quality and price of invigilation services in areas outside of Alberta. The price of invigilation varies widely, and some centers have not been providing adequate services to AU students. AU maintains a list of invigilation centers for students who call in looking for services in their area. However, this has led some students to believe that the only centers available are those on the AU list, when in fact many times there are a number of other options. AUSU is discussing the idea of keeping their own invigilator list, which will be continually updated with new invigilators, and which will track which invigilators have received complaints from AU students. Discussion of this issue will continue with AU.

Student handbook/planner
This item relates to the student handbook/planner that AUSU used to produce each year and distribute for free to AU students. This year, for the first time in many years, the planner was not produced and a student gift pack was issued in its place [contact AUSU to get yours]. The planner was discontinued only temporarily as it became clear that the planner should be revised to be more useful to students.

While investigating options for producing the planner, AUSU became aware that AU is planning to discontinue production of the very popular and useful Student Handbook that they have been sending to all new AU students in the past few years [I registered in 1998, so I haven’t seen one, but I’ve heard many good things about these informative books]. Apparently AU has decided that the handbooks are too expensive to produce.

AUSU’s planner/handbook committee became aware of this when they approached AU for some advice on handbook design, and people in the AU promotions department suggested that AUSU and AU might combine their talents and budgets to create a joint planner. This would mean a larger production run than AUSU is used to, since the book would go to every new student each year, plus every current student who requests one. On the other hand, AU would be able to provide high quality design services and some additional funding for the book.

To investigate this further, AUSU councillors and planner committee members Shirley Barg and Mac McInnis met with AU staff responsible for the AU handbook and began negotiations.

Many questions will need to be answered before the joint project will be further considered, such as – how much more will the planner cost if AUSU combines forces with AU, how much money will AU be offering [at the time of the council meeting the AU offer was $5000 – a small fraction of the production costs, but this is a starting number and negotiations continue], and how long should the contract period for this project be. At this time, a 2 year period of production is under consideration. More information to come:

Bylaw decision
AUSU discussed the correct procedure for getting the new bylaws certified by Alberta Corporate Registry. The discussion included information on why certification is important, and the benefits of sending in the bylaws to registries ahead of time so that registries can point out any errors or omissions. The final step will be to have a single, AUSU Special General Meeting to approve the final bylaws.

Also under discussion was the effect that Alberta’s impending Bill 43 will have on AUSU’s bylaws. On this issue, more information is still needed and council will follow up in upcoming meetings.

Karl Low, chair of the legislative committee, has been going through the AUSU policies and making recommendations for revisions and updates. The policies have not been revised as a whole for some time, although changes to individual policies have been made over the years. AUSU is currently working on updating all of the policies, removing outdated documents, and ensuring that all previously changed policies are correctly updated in all versions of the policy manuals. These steps were not properly taken by previous councils, so this is a huge task.

At this meeting, Karl recommended the removal of several redundant policies, and also the removal of the policy which grants all leaving council members – whether they quit, or are simply not re-elected – a bonus of $10 per each month that they served on council. AUSU accepted these recommendations.

Budget advisory and strategic planning weekend
Further plans were made for the AU Budget Advisory and Strategic Planning weekend, to be held in Calgary on the weekend of August 9th and 10th.

DeVry and the Alberta Transfer Guide and the Peer Counselling program

These issues were tabled until the next council meeting.

Finance committee composition
A very lengthy discussion ensued regarding whether or not the finance committee should be open to student members, or kept as an internal committee. After much debate, it was decided that AUSU should pursue the idea of student commissioners, who would sit on AUSU committees as observers and who would offer input. Other universities have similar student members on many committees, and in some cases these members act also as non-voting, non-paid council members as well. It is not clear yet how AUSU will implement these new student members.

General manager job description
AUSU has been working for some time to finalize the job description for the General Manager position. At this meeting, a final version of the job notice was approved and council discussed where the ad would be displayed.

Recommendation re addition of council members
AUSU has been discussing the idea of adding more council members, as there are currently at 6 members – 3 below the maximum. A deadline has now been placed on this process, although I am not clear on whether AUSU will add new members for certain, or simply investigate whether suitable members are available and interested. More info on this will come at the next meeting.

Report on disabled students
Shirley Barg has been in discussion with AU Access to Students With Disabilities ( coordinator Brenda Moore regarding unsatisfactory results for disabled students who had contacted AUSU for emergency funding in the past. The source of the problem has been identified [there was confusion regarding overlapping programs of AU and AUSU], and a new procedure will be put in place to ensure prompt handling of emergency funding requests for all students.

Voice scholarship
As Voice Editor, I have on a few occasions encountered writers who have not wished to be paid for a variety of reasons. Rather than simply leave that money in the Voice budget, I have decided to add that money to a fund for Voice scholarships, which would be supplemented directly from the Voice budget. At the council meeting I discussed two ideas for such scholarships: 1) a scholarship for students in need, sponsored by the Voice, and 2) a writing contest, which would serve the dual purpose of bringing extra submissions to the Voice, and helping to support student writers. Details of these scholarships/awards are being worked out. Look for the announcement of a writing contest in the very near future.

Discussion of AUSU position on Bill 43
Some basic facts about Bill 43 were outlined, but AUSU is still waiting for more details, specifically the position of AU on the bill and why AU wishes to be removed from the tuition cap. More details are expected soon.

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.