Council Connection

There’s nothing like a debate to add a little spice to a council meeting. And one of the advantages of being a student observer is that I don’t have weigh in with my views (observers at regular AUSU council meetings have no standing and cannot speak to an issue even if they want to.) So, I just sit back, phone muted, and listen and try to learn.

The meeting of Wednesday, February 11 began ten minutes late due to two late arrivals. At 5:42 MST, the meeting got underway despite the absence of one councillor (who joined the meeting later.) Another councillor was absent with approval?she’s just had a baby.

After the usual approvals of agenda and minutes, council moved on to a series of policies that were up for review. Policies 1.01 Creation, Format, Maintenance & Review, 3.01 Election Conduct, 7.02.20 (point 4) Scholarship, Awards & Bursaries, 9.05 Technology Infrastructure, 9.07 Base Operating Funding, 9.10 Athabasca University National Presence, and 9.21 Career Services were approved with minor or no amendments. New policy 3.05 Council Changeover, which consists of items formerly included in policy 3.01, was approved for adoption.

One policy, 9.15 Awards GPA Calculation, sparked a lengthy debate. The recommendation was to repeal this policy and, after a motion was made to that effect, a lengthy discussion ensued. Policy 9.15 is a position policy which recognizes that the GPA calculation made by AU for awards and scholarships is cumulative. That means that a single low grade, no matter how early in a student’s career and no matter what the circumstance, can effectively bar a student from consideration for awards based on GPA.

Here was the policy’s wording before the meeting took place:
“WHEREAS Athabasca University currently uses a cumulative GPA calculation for all scholarships and awards;
WHEREAS a cumulative average does not give recognition for trends in a student’s performance or recognize an improvement in a student’s average over time;
WHEREAS students should not be removed from consideration for awards due to poor performance in a single year, or over a few courses, or many years in the past;
AND WHEREAS Athabasca University currently calculates its annual Honours List based on 30 credit intervals that resemble traditional academic years rather than cumulative GPAs;
BE IT RESOLVED THAT AUSU petition Athabasca University to change its current scholarship and awards GPA calculation from a cumulative average to a credit interval system which recognizes recent performance trends in a student’s degree program;”

Policy 9.15 was created in 2005. On February 11, 2015, it was repealed. Not all councillors agreed with the motion; the final vote was 5-2. The consensus was that AU is never going to change, so why bother lobbying for change? Opposing voices pointed out that the cumulative GPA calculation was unfair to students, and even if AUSU wasn’t currently lobbying for change, it did no harm to have the policy in place.

The final segment of the council meeting consisted of reports from various members and committees. As a meeting observer, I don’t have access to the reports until they’re posted on the AUSU website, usually a month or so after the meeting. However, here’s a brief summary of what was discussed:
– AU’s Board of Director’s chair Barry Walker is retiring after 10 years on the board.
– AUSU’s health plan is well underway. Enrolment is a bit slower than anticipated.
– Finance committee reports that a review of The Voice’s finances identified a large sum of money in The Voice’s bank account.
– AUSU’s office is sending out student planners to fill orders. An additional 300 planners were distributed to the collaborations department.

Wednesday’s meeting wrapped up at 6:54pm MST.

Next AUSU council meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, March 11, 2015 at 5:30pm MST via teleconference. Contact AUSU at to register to attend.