Editorial – It’s Bigger Than you Think

I went to the AUSU Council Meeting this week, you can find out more about what happened there in my Council Connection column, but being there reminded me about how big this institution really is, and how we, sitting here at home doing our courses, rarely get any sense of that. We never see the over 40,000 students that are taking courses along with us, and only talk to a few of the over 1,300 people working there, so sometimes it can seem like this university is a pretty small thing. It’s not.

When you go to an AUSU Council meeting, you get to hear some of the back-story that goes on at Athabasca University. There’s both good and bad in there. Things like a committee that spends a good deal of time creating a very detailed and involved report about student interactions with AU and once they’re done realizing they don’t know what they’re going to do with it. You also hear things like how certain AU committees are dealing with e-text issues but in the context of doing everything they can to make sure that the e-text providers live up to the promises that were made so that students still have some form of choice.

You hear about how one Councillor happens to have some knowledge of the new AU Interim President, Peter MacKinnon, and is very pleased that he will be here. If you look up some information about him, (our Did You Know?) column has a very small bit, you’ll probably be able to understand why. But simply AU being able to entice a man with Mr. MacKinnon’s qualifications gives me pause. This doesn’t seem like a person who’d be willing to move to a small-town university. And we aren’t.

But it doesn’t often feel that way, does it? Without the obvious big building, the crowds of students walking around you, AU can often feel very tiny. It’s when you start talking to tutors like Dr. Catherine Caufield, as I did for this week’s Meeting the Minds, and take a look at the research she’s put up, that you start to get a sense of just what AU is. And that can lead to a sense of pride in this university, and consequently pride in yourself for being able to succeed here. Building that sense of pride in our university is something AU doesn’t do enough of for us. It’s something AUSU doesn’t do enough of for us, and, if I’m being honest, it’s something even I don’t do enough of for us. But hopefully that’s changing. This new Council, and some of the changes I’m starting to see at AU, make me think that maybe a corner is being turned. I’m getting a sense of something I haven’t had for a while at AU, and that’s the feeling that things might start to improve. Oh sure, there are still problems. The draconian exam invigilation rules at the Calgary campus immediately spring to mind, but perhaps things are getting better.

Of course, while they do, you should take a few moments to read the content we’ve got in this weeks’ The Voice Magazine. All of our regular content is returned, along with a music review of hard rock band Workout’s latest album, and Barbara Lehtiniemi’s look at one of the more unorthodox ways of funding your education. Although I suppose it really isn’t all that different from student loans?either way you’re probably getting screwed.

Also, be sure to check out the comic this week. It’s funny because it’s true.