The Dog Days of summer find many people looking to escape the heat, escape work, and escape the city. Some people head to the beach, some to the cottage, some to exotic destinations. Others use the long summer days to complete outdoor projects, tend the crops, or chill on the porch. Some people take a break, some dream about taking a break. Some people vote.
AUSU’s summer by-election will soon be underway. The call for nominations went out July 20; nominations will be accepted until July 31. (See the Elections page on the AUSU website for details.) The campaign period begins August 5, and voting takes place from August 21 to 24.
If You’re a member of AUSU (in general, any AU student enrolled in at least one AU undergraduate course,) you can run for seat on AUSU’s council in this election. And, whether you run or not, you can have a say in who fills the six vacant council seats by exercising your right to vote.
There are many good reasons for students to run for a council seat in this election. First of all, running for any elected position is a life-experience not afforded to most people. The process of nomination, campaign, and agonizing wait for the vote count, will give you a memorable experience?and résumé material, should you need it.
Second, for the successful candidates, sitting on a student council gives you a unique opportunity for engagement. AU students often remark on the lack of engagement with other students, and council members engage with students?both on and off council?regularly. Along with engagement, council members directly influence the undergraduate student experience.
Finally, this council term is easy, relatively speaking. Council members are usually elected for a two-year term. But this by-election is filling seats for the remainder of a term, so the successful candidates will only have a commitment of about seven months. This presents an excellent opportunity to “try out” a council seat to see if you’d like to repeat the experience for a longer term. A general election will be called early in 2016.
Elected councillors can expect a time commitment of at least eight hours per month. The main requirement is to attend, by phone, the monthly council meeting. Other duties include reviewing documents and e-mails, and some members may be asked to sit on various committees. Non-executive council members receive an honorarium of $75 per council meeting attended, and at least $50 per committee meeting. (See Policy 2.14, Councillor Responsibilities and Honoraria for full details.)
The three executive council positions, of which at least two need to be filled after this by-election, require a larger time commitment and offer a larger stipend. The executive positions are filled by an internal election among council members. The position of council president requires an average of 35 hours per week and pays an honorarium currently set at over $49,000 per year. The two vice-president council positions require an average of 30 hours a week and pay an honorarium currently over $42,000 per year. Executive council members also receive health benefits, free AU courses, and are furnished with a laptop during their term. (See Policy 2.15, Executive Accountability and Compensation for full details.)
Prospective candidates can access an information sheet with more details at http://www.ausu.org/downloads/Form_2_Election_Info_for_Prospective_Candidates.pdf. And, since council members are required to take an oath to “adhere to and respect” AUSU bylaws and policies, potential candidates should add those to their summer reading list. You’ll find the policy manual at http://www.ausu.org/bylaws/policies.php and the bylaws at http://www.ausu.org/bylaws/index.php#bylaws.
Candidates often benefit from attending an AUSU council meeting to familiarize themselves with meeting procedure and protocol. Unfortunately, AUSU council, suffering from the vacancy of one of its executive positions, announced recently that they’re unable to hold a council meeting until after the by-election. In the meantime, minutes from previous meetings can be accessed at http://www.ausu.org/council/minutes.php
This by-election might not be how you planned to spend your summer. Given that many students take the summer off, many won’t be eligible to run nor vote this August. AUSU missed the boat on an easy spring by-election and now has no choice but to hold one while most students would rather be doing something else. Just bad timing, That’s all.
Barbara Lehtiniemi is a writer, photographer, and AU student. She lives on a windswept rural road in Eastern Ontario