This year’s convocation was a hot topic at this month’s AUSU council meeting. AU has some concern over the large number of graduates this year, (major concerns over this include fire code violations, and hours-long ceremonies.) The council is anticipating solutions that could include mixed ceremonies for graduates and undergraduates, or a three-day-long convocation.
One council member pointed out that as a distance-education institute, graduates have spent a significant amount of money on their degree, as well as travel/accommodation to the graduation ceremonies (especially since typically, they are bringing family as well.) With approximately 250 grads this year, having a mixed crowd [of grads and undergrads], along with hours-long recognition, graduation, and presentation ceremonies, families would have a difficult time connecting at the post-ceremony luncheon. AUSU council members generated several ideas to alleviate the potential problems, such as forgoing the traditional graduate gift-giving ceremony, instead increasing the budget to promote a separate, AUSU-sponsored luncheon, which would also give AUSU a chance to establish itself separately from Athabasca University. Some council members disagreed with this suggestion, arguing that because students have invested so much time and money on an AU degree, the traditional gift is tangible nostalgia–students should feel as though they’re “getting something” in addition to the degree they’ve worked so hard for.
One council member, who’d had experience with convocation, admitted that while she loved the gift she received upon her graduation, in the long run, it was unimportant–she suggested that a meaningful congratulatory card recognizing her efforts would be just as meaningful (ed. especially since traditionally, December grads did not get their gifts until the following June)— and that it might be accompanied with a small token, such as a pin, or key chain. After much discussion, the council’s prospective decision for this year’s convocation is to forgo gifts (although keeping the honoraries), increase the budget for an AUSU luncheon, so that families can comfortably gather. Post-ceremony, a congratulatory note and/or gift will be sent to the graduates.
Moving along, the subject of the new federal privacy legislation (FOIP) was introduced. The legislation regulates the collection of personal information from AU staff and students. As a student, you are entitled to your privacy, and response to any surveys or focus groups is not mandatory–it is an opportunity to voice your opinion. Recently, several AUSU committees have launched research and implementation efforts to provide groups and services that are tailored to student’s interests. However, even if the committee is gathering information on behalf of the AUSU council, under the Canadian Privacy Act, AUSU’s clubs and groups are not recognized under the legislation. To prevent any incidents, the council appointed Privacy Officers, (Tamra Ross Law, primary.) to oversee all outgoing documents.
Lastly, to briefly update on the rest of the meeting’s activities, the council spent time reviewing various administrative updates, resolving communication issues and procedures, and approving or amending policies throughout Legislative, Clubs and Groups committee, funding, etc. The council also delegated committee status for the Newsletter, Planner, Web, and Convocation committees, each labeled ad hoc, the history of each being a necessity for future student councils. As well, the Finance Committee is in the beginning stages of investigating investment opportunities. Matters to consider include investing in ethical companies, and high-risk, vs. low-risk investments. (Because low-risk investments take longer to produce results, it was suggested that the committee mix assets, investing in both high and low risk.)