AUSU Council Meeting August 11, 2003, 11:00 AM MST – Reported by Tamra Ross Low

Chair: Debbie Jabbour, President
AUSU Council Members: Shirley Barg, Nicholas Palamarchuk, Sandra Moore, Mac McInnis, Karl Low,
Minutes taken by: Meeting taped for transcription
Also present: Voice Editor: Tamra Ross Low, plus 2 student observers.
SPECIAL GUEST – Dr. Dominique Abrioux, President, Athabasca University

The August 11th council meeting centered around an address by Dr. Dominique Abrioux regarding AU’s request to follow the Alberta Government’s recommendation to exempt AU from the tuition cap for distance education courses. The address was followed by a question period, during which all participants – including non-council student observers – were invited to ask questions of Dr. Abrioux. After the departure of Dr. Abrioux, a regular, although brief, council meeting was held.

The meeting was brief, because AUSU had already spent all of August 10th together in Calgary, where a strategic planning weekend was held. Among items that were discussed at the weekend session were the AUSU budget for the coming year, and the direction that the students’ union should take in the immediate and extended future.

For students who could not attend this council meeting and listen to Dr. Abrioux directly, I recorded the address and question period, which are now available online (http://www.ausu.org/multimedia) in mp3 format [sound files which you can listen to using any music software on your computer] and as text transcripts. The sound files are not of the greatest quality, because they were recorded over a teleconference line and because I had to compress them a great deal in order to keep the size small. Nevertheless, I hope students enjoy this opportunity to hear the university president speak on an issue of paramount importance to all AU students.

Any comments on Dr. Abrioux’s speech can be forwarded to The Voice for an upcoming Sounding Off column, where students’ views on the issue will be posted. Please indicate if we can print your comments. If you require additional information on this, or any issue affecting AU students, contact the students’ union at ausu@ausu.org.

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
Table motion for Adoption of Council Minutes (July 11/03) All
Discussion of AU’s request re the tuition fee policy, with guest D. Abrioux D. Jabbour/All
Motion to amend policy sections S. Barg
Action on AUSU’s position on tuition deregulation S. Barg
Motion on AUSU’s position statement on tuition deregulation S. Barg
Motion on services for students with disabilities S. Barg
Update on AUSU student scholarships D. Jabbour
ACAT/DeVry issue S. Barg
Student handbook M. McInnis
Art contest M. McInnis
Employment terms for C. Benavides D. Jabbour

Reports & Information items
Province-wide Bill 43 campaign S. Barg
SUDS report S. Barg/D. Jabbour
President/VP/Committee Reports All

MY REPORT:
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.

Discussion of AU’s request re the tuition fee policy, with guest D. Abrioux

After the agenda was approved and council passed the motion to table the minutes from the previous council meeting. Debbie Jabbour then noted that while student observers are normally not allowed to speak at council meetings, for the purpose of this meeting with Dr. Abrioux, the students should be invited to speak freely and question Dr. Abrioux if they desired. All council members agreed that the student observers should be allowed to ask questions along with council, and the floor was then passed to Dr. Abrioux, who was attending the Calgary meeting via teleconference.

After a few prefacing remarks, in which Dr Abrioux thanked AUSU for the opportunity to address students, asked to be called Dominique, and had the attendees add some additional to the spreadsheet files that he had sent out [the additional data is on the spreadsheet file which has been posted on the AUSU website], Dominique began his explanation of AU’s perspective on the new tuition fee policy and the recommendation that distance education courses be excluded from the fees portion of that policy. It is at this point that the mp3 sound files and transcripts of the meeting begin.

Dr. Abrioux spoke for about 45 minutes, then opened the floor to questions. Most of the question period is also transcribed and available on the AUSU website, although 1 or 2 questions were missed due to tape changes.

After the question period, the normal council meeting resumed.

Motion to amend policy sections
VP external Shirley Barg moved that the AUSU policy manual should include a section for position statements, so that when AUSU establishes an official position on any topic, it can be kept on file within the policy manual. Council agreed that the policy manual should be amended to include a section for position statements.

Motion on AUSU’s position statement on tuition deregulation
Shirley read to council a draft policy statement in which AUSU would agree to oppose the deregulation of distance education tuition in Athabasca University.

Discussion ensued. Councillor Karl Low expressed concern that within Bill 43 the out of province fee is not covered under the tuition cap, and that this fee could conceivably be raised without limit. Shirley Barg noted that regardless of AUSU policy, the exemption will most likely go through, and therefore the purpose of the policy is to establish whether this exemption should occur with, or without the blessing of AUSU. Some on council noticed that if AUSU opposes the exemption, AUSU will have greater credibility in the future if tuition raises significantly and AUSU must then go to the Alberta government to ask that the exemption be repealed.

It was also noted that the tuition fee policy only covers tuition, but not book fees, out of province fees, or any other academic fees, and therefore tuition may be the only fee which will be controlled by the Alberta policy, therefore it is very important to ensure that this one portion of the cost of education remain controlled.

However, both Debbie Jabbour and Karl Low stated that they might be more comfortable with supporting AU’s exemption from the policy if the Alberta policy guaranteed that consultation between the university and AUSU is necessary for tuition increases beyond the 30% cap, whereas the current policy is not very explicit as to Athabasca’s responsibility to consult with the students’ union as it stands.

After some debate, the position was passed by a majority of AUSU and thus AUSU established that it would oppose AU being exempt from the new position policy. Arrangements were made for both AU and Alberta Learning to be informed of the official AUSU position.

Motion on services for students with disabilities
Shirley Barg updated AUSU on discussions with the AU Access for Students With Disabilities unit, regarding the use of AUSU funds to assist disabled students. Several options were discussed, including the donation of $2000 each year to ASD to be used at the department’s discretion in order to help disabled students to obtain technology that they require in order to better access AU courses. This option was agreed upon, and this amount has been allotted to the ASD unit in response to a desperate need for funds to assist these students. Athabasca University also provides money to assist disabled students, in the amount of $1500 per year.

Update on AUSU student scholarships
AUSU has recognized that the criteria for the new scholarships is too rigid, and it is too difficult for students to qualify. To address this, the scholarships will be revised to include more appropriate criteria for future years.

ACAT/DeVry issue
DeVry university has requested to be included in the Alberta Transfer Guide. They would be the only for-profit school in this guide. ACAT asked all Alberta students’ organizations to comment on this issue.

While many on AUSU expressed a dislike for including DeVry in this guide – for a number of reasons – they concluded that since inclusion in the guide in no way confers credibility to the institution, and because the transfer guide is intended to provide the most complete information for prospective students, then AUSU should not oppose DeVry’s inclusion in the guide. DeVry would only be listed as a receiving institution, for which DeVry already has a number of agreements with other Alberta schools.

Student handbook
Councillor and Handbook/Planner committee chair Mac McInnis updated council on discussions between his committee and the AU Public Affairs office regarding the possibility of creating a joint planner with AU. Council members and committee members argued the pros and cons of working with AU, and many issues were taken into consideration, including: finances (if AUSU worked with AU, the university would pay for a portion of the book, but on the other hand the greatly increased production that AU desires would greatly increase the AUSU contribution), autonomy (whether AUSU should maintain an arm’s length relationship with the university when creating publications, or should work with the university on joint projects), student perception (does working with the university help raise the visibility of AUSU), and control of AUSU funds (would AUSU have sufficient control over the project, if the book is to be created as a joint project with the university).

Based on the discussion, Mac felt he was ready to continue talks with AU public affairs, and that he would be able to obtain the information that council and committee members felt was needed.

Art contest
Councillor and Handbook/Planner committee chair Mac McInnis informed council of the winner of the art contest for the planner cover. The winner – who will be announced in an upcoming Voice issue – will receive $250 and have his/her artwork on the cover of the upcoming AUSU planner.

Employment terms for C. Benavides
Council discussed the employment agreement of the AUSU administrative assistant.

Province-wide Bill 43 campaign
This discussion was left to AUSU email, and students are invited to contact Shirley Barg at sbarg@ausu.org if they have any questions about Bill 43.

SUDS report [from the Student Union Development Symposium]
This report was not completed at the time of the meeting, as President Jabbour and Vice President Barg had not had enough time since returning from the conference. President Jabbour promised a detailed report of the conference, plus Voice articles detailing the conference for the information of student readers. The introduction to this report is featured in this issue of The Voice.

President/VP/Committee Reports
Due to the length of the meeting, in addition to the lengthy session the day before, reports were tabled. All reports are to be reviewed by council members prior to the next meeting.

The meeting ended with a statement from me, where I indicated that given the length of the speech by Dominique, I would not be doing a complete transcription as previously promised.

I lied. The complete transcripts are online (http://www.ausu.org/multimedia). Enjoy!

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.

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