News and Views – AUSU Annual General Meeting

Cold and snow might have brought traffic to a halt, but thanks to teleconferencing, AUSU’s 17th Annual General Meeting kicked off right on time and saw a solid turnout. The entire council was in attendance, along with several students and guests, and It’s clear that Council’s been busy.

Minutes of the 2010 AGM were approved and the focus quickly moved on to financial reports and upcoming projects.

In financial matters, Council’s been diligent about keeping things in top shape. As the message from President Barbara Rielly notes, 2010 brought an increase in membership and higher revenues ?beyond [Council’s] very conservative predictions.? Council has invested those funds carefully, and the interest generated will help keep current services in place as well as expand offerings, such as new web services for AUSU clubs and societies. Thanks to careful planning and a budget surplus, Council ?sees no need to increase . . . student fees in the foreseeable future.?

As well, Sarah Kertcher, VP Finance and Administration, noted that the working relationship with auditors Kingston Ross Pasnak is excellent, and a unanimous vote saw the firm appointed for the 2010/11 fiscal year.

One key note in the financial report is that surplus funds were used to purchase bonds, and a question raised during the AGM concerned a drop in those bond amounts. As Sarah explained, those investments are tied to market changes and can be expected to fluctuate. Following a brief question period, the financial statements for the 2009/10 fiscal year were approved in a unanimous vote.

Next up was an item sure to interest AUSU members: the Priority Activities and Planning Report, presented by Bethany Tynes, VP External and Student Affairs.

There’s been plenty of action around existing projects and proposed ones, and one major advance has been the success of AUSU’s complaint tracking system. In order to track complaints effectively (and increase success in resolving them), AUSU has been logging data into a secure database. As the Activities Report notes, AUSU provided AU with the ?first report from the database? in 2010, and results are positive. Not only are certain high-volume complaints beginning to fall, but AUSU has secured a long-anticipated meeting with the Tutors? Union.

Another interesting project Council’s been working on is called OrgSync, a software system that will free up a lot of the administrative time that goes into managing AUSU clubs. Although the clubs are popular with students, Council may spend far more hours than anticipated if a club finds itself without leadership. This can also delay new clubs from starting, and Council reports that OrgSync will ?allow clubs to be more self-maintaining, and . . . give all members an opportunity to contribute.?

OrgSync could also be tied in with AUSU’s Points Program, a service That’s been in development for some time. The OrgSync installation is complete, so watch for the upcoming announcement on the AUSU website.

Bethany also gave an update on some of AUSU’s current programs, and there were definitely some surprises. One of those was the sharp increase in the licence cost for the popular SmartDraw program. As the Activities Report notes, the program has been ?both cost-effective and a value-added benefit to members,? but in late 2010 Council learned that the cost was set to jump by 500 per cent. Tamra Ross, AUSU Executive Director, explained that Council has negotiated a reduced interim price and renewed the licence for another year, but they’re looking closely at whether or not to continue the program after that.

In other news, another successful Tutor of the Year contest wrapped up recently, and results will be announced soon. And if you love your AUSU Planner/Handbook, there’s even more good news on that front. Not only will the service continue, but Council has negotiated a much lower cost for printing.

One program that hasn’t met with the same enthusiasm is the AUSU Career Centre, and low participation means Council will look at whether to continue offering that service.

Following the reports, the AGM was adjourned and an open question session began. One question touched on an item in the Activities Report: student price cards. Although interest was low when AUSU first offered the discount cards a few years ago, the selection available with the cards is now much more diverse and Council is looking at introducing them again. One attendee noted that it might be a repetition of discounts that could be obtained through the AU MasterCard. However, the discount cards could still be an option for members who don’t opt for a university MasterCard.

And finally, the question was raised regarding how proposed changes to Canada’s Internet billing system might affect AUSU’s online services, as well as things like downloading digital textbooks, uploading assignments, etc. Council’s following that issue closely, but as of this writing it appears usage-based billing may not be approved after all.

For those who couldn’t dial in to the AGM, there’s one last thing worth mentioning, something you wouldn’t have found on the agenda: the sense of cohesiveness and energy on Council. While we’re knee-deep in textbooks and essays, It’s understandable that there’s not always time to get to know Council members or read meeting minutes. But as the 2011 AGM showed, AUSU is hard at work for its members, improving on current services and planning new ones.

To find out more or get updates on AUSU projects, visit their homepage. And if You’re an AU student who likes to plan ahead, make a note now to attend next year’s AGM. You’ll be glad you did!