Council Connection

Meetings that achieve a certain flow can be deceivingly hypnotic, like a soothing zephyr.

For me, Wednesday’s AUSU council meeting began on the right foot, because I was able to get an agenda for the meeting. Trying to follow a meeting over the phone without an agenda is challenging, especially when I want to write about the meeting. Now I don’t have to trust my hearing when I tell you about which policies were discussed.

Council routinely reviews AUSU policies and there were several on Wednesday’s agenda. Recommended changes to Policy 3.04 Referendum and Plebiscite were approved to be brought forward to the next AGM or SGM for AUSU members to vote on. Students can look forward to seeing this on the agenda for this spring’s AGM. Policy 1.03 Policy Manual Maintenance Administration does not require a student vote, and updates were approved with minor revisions by council.

The wind shifted a little for the next five policy items, as these were all voted to be repealed: Policy 9.04 Student Travel Expenses, Policy 9.11 Committee and Meeting Attendance Options, Policy 9.13 Tutor Service Standards, Policy 9.14 Incentives for Program Students, and Policy 9.19 External Copyright. (As of time of writing, these policies were still available on the Policy Manual page of the AUSU website, so if You’re quick you may be able to access them before they’re removed.Otherwise, if You’re really interested, you should be able to contact the AUSU office and get historical copies.)

There was little discussion during the meeting regarding these five policies, but it was clarified that these policies would be removed completely from the policy manual. In general, the reason given for repealing these policies was that they were no longer relevant and, in some cases, no longer reflected AU operating practices.

Four of the repealed policies were created ten years ago; the fifth only six years ago. What wasn’t discussed was the background discussion which prompted development of these policies in the first place. Also not discussed was whether potential amendments to the policies had been considered to ensure their continuing relevancy. It’s easier to maintain or amend a policy than to develop one. One hopes council made these decisions mindful of potential future shifts in the wind.

For example, policy 9.11 was about AUSU making sure that the university keeps allowing people to attend the meetings by distance technology, whether by phone, computer, or anything that doesn’t require people to fly up to Athabasca to attend a public meeting, something AUSU apparently had trouble with at one point in time. However, the AUSU executive pointed out that AU was now allowing distance technologies as a matter of course, so there was no longer any need for this policy to exist. But what happens if a future university administration decides to renege on allowing distance communication options at their meetings?

Or, when it comes to the now repealed policy on copyright, what happens if the government decides it wants to pass some restrictive laws around copyright that prevents students from being able to properly source or cite materials for their course work? Or if AU decides that getting part-time students to take a program is too expensive and only wants to encourage full-time students to do so? Let’s hope Wednesday’s decisions don’t prove to be short-sighted. Storm clouds can linger a long time beyond the horizon before arriving, but still must be anticipated.

The last part of the meeting was the usual breeze of reports from council executive, committees, and staff. Here are some highlights discussed:
– AU’s interim president’s term has been extended. AUSU council president Jason Nixon noted that Peter MacKinnon maintains a good relationship with both student groups.
– AUSU has engaged an outside contractor to assist with website changes and updates. Updates should be more timely going forward.
– The possibility of online applications for AUSU student awards is being investigated.
– AUSU Student Planners arrived in the office January 5. AUSU hasn’t begun promoting this year’s planner yet, but the ordering process is in place (log into your AUSU account and go to your Account Info page to order.) Even without promotion, almost 200 students have ordered planners so far.
– The first enrolments for the new healthcare plan were active on December 1, resulting in a number of inquiries to the AUSU office. There’s now a FAQ document available on AUSU’s Health Insurance page.
– AUSU staff members are setting up vendors for EFT payments which will replace the current cheque process. This will save time and expense once It’s all set up.

Full reports are only available to council members at meetings. However, I’m pleased to notice that AUSU has resumed its practice of posting the full reports on their website. You can find the reports appended to the meeting minute files on the AUSU website (the most recent file available is for the November 14 meeting; minutes are only posted after they’ve been approved at the following meeting.)

The meeting wrapped up after a reasonable 63 minutes. The next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, February 11 at 5:30pm MST.