Stop the Press? Does AUSU Council want to kill The Voice?

In a puzzling move last week, AUSU Student Council announced it would seek to replace The Voice Magazine with a “Writer in Residence.”

Without notice and with minimal fanfare, AUSU placed an upcoming event listing on its website, and on the AUSU Update page in April 3rd’s The Voice, for the seemingly hastily-organized 2015 Annual General Meeting. The meeting notice link reveals an agenda that contains a heretofore unheard of Special Resolution to “replace Section 7.5 with Writer in Residence”.

No further information is provided. Unless you know that “Section 7.5” refers to AUSU’s bylaws, and that particular bylaw section?actually called Article 7.5?refers to The Voice Magazine, you’d be in the dark.

Is AUSU torpedoing The Voice Magazine? I’m still waiting to see if more information is forthcoming from AUSU Council. If the student members of AUSU are expected to cast a thoughtful, informed vote on this proposed Special Resolution at the Annual General Meeting April 21, they will certainly need more information.

Here’s what I know now, with the information that is available. In the meeting notice posted on the AUSU website for the April 21, 2015 Annual General Meeting, agenda item 5.0 reads:

Special Resolution Motion to replace Section 7.5 with Writer In Residence.

In the AUSU bylaws, Article 7.5 currently reads as follows:

7.5 The Voice Magazine
7.5.1 The Voice shall be allocated 12.5% of AUSU student fees for each fiscal year as the operating budget.
7.5.2 The Voice shall manage its own affairs with the monies provided by AUSU.
7.5.3 The Voice will operate an autonomous publication without interference from AUSU regarding content.

The Voice Magazine, according to AUSU Policy 7.3, has a mandate and mission statement as follows:

Mandate
The Voice is an online publication used for communicating with the members of Athabasca University Students’ Union. The Voice will endeavor to provide current, factual, pertinent information and entertainment in a clear and understandable format, and also to provide a forum where students may gain experience with having their writing published. The Voice will maintain an open submissions policy and actively encourage student participation.

Mission Statement
a) The Voice will focus on issues and topics of importance or interest to AU students
b) The Voice will represent the students? point of view.

I’ve been reading The Voice Magazine regularly since I became an AU student in 2012. I find The Voice to be the single-best source of information for news about Athabasca University. While AU does a decent job of getting good news out to its students via its website and direct e-mails, It’s AUSU that makes sure I learn all the not-so-good news about AU that students also have a right to know. And AUSU does that primarily via The Voice Magazine.

The Voice, in its turn, publishes news about AUSU, including the good, the bad, and?heaven forbid?the ugly. Because AUSU is funded solely through student fees, students have a right to know what goes on at AUSU. We, the students, provide the oversight to AUSU Council. We, the students, vote in members to represent us on council. We, the students, are the ones to whom AUSU Council is accountable.

Having an independent press like The Voice encourages, if not ensures, that AUSU council perform their duties in a forthright manner. Having an independent press gives students news?the good and the bad?about AU and AUSU, as well as perspective, entertainment, culture, and those ever-helpful study tips. The Voice also gives student writers a chance to get published while honing their composition skills.

Is a Writer in Residence going to serve students? interests with the same breadth and comprehensiveness that The Voice does? AUSU Council, you have 11 days in which to attempt to convince us, the students.

Barbara Lehtiniemi is a writer, photographer, and AU student. She lives on a windswept rural road in Eastern Ontario

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