From the Gallery – Highs and Lows

The past week has been a time of surprises. Perhaps the most amazing news is on the AUSU election front. As the AUSU website has announced, nominations opened January 9?and the response has been unprecedented.

In past elections, the usual number of candidates has been around 15. So far (and with nominations still open) the number for this election has increased more than four-fold: 80 candidates have requested the paperwork to register, and inquiries are still coming in.

These numbers are great for providing members with a wide choice when it comes to voting?and that makes it all the more surprising that only two students joined the recent Town Hall meeting held by council on January 25. Advertised on the AUSU main page and in the Discussion Boards, the meeting was a great opportunity for students to get to know their councillors and let them know what issues matter most.

And what a great opportunity it would have been for the candidates: without the chance to campaign face-to-face, what better way to take the pulse of potential voters?

Not that the meeting should have been used for campaigning. Instead, candidates could have listened to questions posed by students, and discovered what the people they may be representing are interested in.

They could also have asked questions themselves: what are the hot topics council is dealing with? What progress is being made on certain issues? All in all, a great way to get a better understanding of the challenges they might face as new councillors.

It’s understandable that not everyone would be available to attend. But assuming that the two students who dialled in are running for council (and that wasn’t discussed), only 3% of potential candidates took advantage of the opportunity. If the two attendees aren’t running, the involvement from prospective candidates is even more discouraging.

In spite of the small turnout, the discussion was lively. One of the questions raised was about council’s efforts in having the calculation of GPAs changed from a lifetime average to one reflecting a student’s 30 most-recent credits. Specifically, the conversation centred on how those changes affect part-time students.

Another hot topic was how AUSU makes its presence known to students. The questions went both ways: it was also a chance for council to find out how students first discovered AUSU’s presence, and how well efforts to promote the organization are reaching students.

Tutor service standards were another topic of discussion, and as the dialogue wrapped up, councillors took the opportunity to ask students what kind of AUSU services they used most, their opinion of the online Course Surveys, the usefulness of Facebook groups, and feedback (from both students and AU) on the new SmartDraw download.

On that note, it will be interesting to see students? responses to a recent Discussion Board posting, namely one asking for the top three council deliverables that members would like to see and their thoughts on how those could be achieved.

More surprising numbers came when the conversation turned to the 2008 AUSU planners. For the 2007 planners, between 350 and 400 pre-orders were received. The planners have become such a popular item that, when the 2008 pre-order form went up on the website, council received over 1,000 requests!

Total orders have now topped 1,500 and are still climbing, so if you haven’t received yours yet, rest assured that Pam at the AUSU office is busy getting all those orders filled.

On the Monday following Friday’s Town Hall session, it was time for the next regular council meeting. One of the first orders of business was the ratification of a vote to place an immediate freeze on councillor’s wages (including annual inflation increases), with an exemption for executive wages.

Council also ratified several items previously voted on via email. Included in these was a review of policy 3.01, which covers election conduct; the review showed that no revisions are currently needed. Another item of interest, especially with the election coming up, was an amendment to the council responsibility policy. The amendment clarifies that councillors ?should be prepared to devote approximately 2 to 5 hours per week to council duties,? and that ?additional responsibilities, such as committee work, may require more time.?

During the councillor’s reports, more interesting news came from the Awards Committee. Surprisingly, there have been very few recent applications for student awards. However, council noted that the Academic Achievement awards are coming up, always a busy time for the committee.

The Executive Director’s report included some info on the new look That’s in the works for the AUSU website. Along with an updated, more user-friendly interface, the site will offer an online store with some exciting new AUSU gear.

The final item of business was the Administrative Assistant’s report. The office is still fielding a steady flow of inquiries about planners and the election, and the new auditors are proving to be a great resource as updates to accounting practices are implemented.

The next council meeting is scheduled for March 3; see you there in The Gallery!

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