Council Connection – Nov 23rd & Dec 13th Meetings

The December 13th AUSU Council meeting began with the swift approval of an agenda and two sets of meetings minutes. The second set of minutes was from a special meeting of Council held on November 23rd to discuss what was intended to be the final report of the Joint Council-Voice Action Plan Committee. Since I am a member of that committee and attended that meeting, I will provide you with a synopsis of it here before diving into the details of AUSU’s most recent Council meeting (two for the price of one!)

First, I should note that the Joint Council-Voice Action Plan committee was formed July 2016 to provide student insight to AUSU Council on an action plan for improving the Voice and increasing its readership, and to advise Council on how they could achieve their goal of supporting the Voice through non-financial resources. In their report, one of the committee’s primary recommendations was the establishment of a Voice Editorial Advisory Committee which would include the Voice Editor-in-Chief, Editor, writers, elected student representatives, and one AUSU Councillor as a non-voting member and Council liaison. The committee could provide direction and accountability for the Voice on ongoing basis, increase student engagement, and bring a variety of voices to the table, while lightening the workload of the Voice’s lone staff member, Editor Karl Low.

Council disagreed. Councillor Andrew Gray felt strongly that the committee should have offered more concrete recommendations for changes to the Voice in the areas of format, content, and marketing, along with a more detailed timeline. He offered pointed criticisms about how long the committee had worked on the report, as well as frustration that work had not yet started on a new website. AUSU President Shawna Wasylyshyn expressed that she did not want AUSU Executive or staff to invest any time and energy in getting a new committee off the ground, but would prefer the Voice to work with the resources it already has. Council supported these arguments and accepted the committee’s report as an interim report only, sending the committee back to the drawing board with more specific details of what they would like the committee to recommend.

As for the December Council meeting, the first bit of new business on the agenda was to approve an annual budget for the Voice. After general agreement to remove the memos to the budget from the public document, the budget was passed unanimously. The budget proposes a deficit of $45,386 (about 40% of Voice cash reserves) including $25,000 for a new website, $5,500 to archive old publications on that website, $8,000 for other promotional expenses, and $1,500 to fund a student focus group to help get all these changes off the ground. 2017 promises to be an exciting year for the Voice!

The next item was a motion to relax the criteria for AUSU’s new Single Parent Bursary from a minimum of 45 credits to a minimum of 30 credits. This recommendation came from the AUSU Awards Committee in response to an absence of applications for the bursary in the latest awards cycle. The bursary also requires applicants provide a reference letter from a non-family member. This is an unusual request for a bursary of such a personal nature, and it could put potential applicants in the uncomfortable position of having to reveal their financial situation to a boss or co-worker. It is possible that this requirement contributed to the lack of applications. But these are simply my musings; none of this was discussed in the meeting and the motion was passed unanimously.

A discussion item was brought forward concerning AUSU’s annual audit. VPFA Kim Newsome wanted to ensure that Councillors had read and understood an important e-mail that detailed their obligations surrounding the annual audit and their fiduciary duties to AUSU members. Then, after some straight-forward policy edits eliminating redundancies in AUSU’s policy manual, Council moved to go in-camera. All non-Councillors, myself included, left the meeting and waited patiently for an e-mail that would tell us when we could return. After 25 minutes (of eating my supper and working on that assignment I’d been procrastinating), I re-entered the meeting and AUSU President Shawna Wasylyshyn read the resulting unanimously-approved motion: “Be it resolved that AUSU Council remove Mark Swarek’s good standing as an AUSU Member and record him as a member not in good standing, effective immediately.”

No information was provided as to what lead Council to this decision, but as indicated in AUSU Policy 4.08, the decision to remove a member from good standing is at the “sole and absolute discretion” of Council. You might remember this Voice article from September 2016 that featured interviews with various candidates of the AUSU Council by-election. Mark Swarek was one of those candidates. Unfortunately for him, one of the main ramifications of being a member not-in-good-standing is that he will no longer be able to run for a seat on Council.

And with that, the excitement was over. AUSU Executives and staff presented their monthly reports and, as usual, these reports were filled with interesting information about AU meetings, advocacy work, current membership usage of AUSU services, and much more. This month, the highlights were that the #igo2AU contest was a great success that yielded a large increase in social media activity, AUSU mobile app accounts, and course evaluations; AUSU’s website is now more interactive, as students can post comments and share articles directly to social media; and lastly, AUSU’s Smart Draw subscription expired on November 30th and will not be renewed. For the most part, everyone does a good job of providing very detailed reports of their activities, and the reports are well worth the read.

The next Council meeting is scheduled for January 10th at 5:30 MST. In the meantime, happy holidays to you and yours!