A Councillor Afar

While the AUSU 2004 election was being held, I was packing for a months-long visit to my parents who live in China. As I strolled down the Q&A web page, I read: “Q. If I am elected, do I need to live in or around Edmonton to attend Council meetings? A. Not at all.”

That is one of the great advantages of being a student at Athabasca University – you can get involved from anywhere in the world!”

Next thing you can imagine: I am typing on my parents’ computer and so much want to tell you my story.

Everything is simple: all I need is a phone line and access to the Internet. I have gone from participating in the campaign to placing polls all throughout the Internet.

It would be needless to describe AUSU’s advantages of cutting-edge technology if you saw me attending the online chatroom for a campaign interview, answering the questions and nursing my newborn at the same time. Of course I’ve got to have some expertise.

The result? I was elected!!! Next, I joined the hectic discussions with other councillors via email. Sitting in my small den, I felt fully empowered.

One problem arose when the teleconference was held on May 1 for the changeover meeting (when the old council briefed the new council on AUSU’s history, plans and policies). Mark, our executive director, found out that although the teleconference provider does have toll-free numbers to dial for international residents, China is not one of those countries. To connect me directly with the teleconference would be $1.95/minute, so a full day changeover meeting would be closing in on $1000, and it is just for me. Well, I started wondering if China is part of anywhere in the world.

With the imagination of Karl, our strict VP Finance, nearly fainting with the thought of a $1000 bill in his trembling hands, I suggested I only attend the most important parts, or maybe not attend the meeting at all. Debbie, the previous president, soon emailed me back and ensured me that they needed me there and we would work it out together.

A new email subject ” A councilor afar” was going on then within the council. Net meeting, chat room, Messenger, many suggestions were brought up, nobody wanted to leave me out.

After asking around for the possibilities to allow me to join the meeting at a reasonable cost, Mark concluded that with a Telus phone card and pod-to-pod system, we could make each minute cost only 9 cents, which is even lower than the current teleconference rate. “Nicely done, Mark!” jubilated Karl. He was relieved, I think.

The meeting started at 12:00 midnight time in China, but it was not bad for me because as a student mother, I am used to staying up late to get things done. Even better that my toddler was sound asleep during this time therefore could not disturb me.

The meeting went successfully, I could clearly hear everybody and I got to know them more through their voices and tones. Besides, I nursed my new born two times during the meeting, therefore I believe, everybody was satisfied.

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