The first Council meeting of 2017 began with the announcement that Councillor Dixie Tolliver had submitted her resignation from AUSU Council earlier that day. It was also noted that (for the second consecutive month) Councillor Andrew Gray would not be attending the meeting. As Council continues to have a high turnover and considering the expense and effort involved with a by-election, it may be time for AUSU to look for a creative solution to this problem. A larger Council or a reserve from runners-up of previous elections are two ideas that immediately come to my mind, but it will be interesting to see if and how Council addresses this issue in the new bylaws that they are drafting.
December was quiet month at AUSU, so the January 10 meeting was a brief and routine review of AUSU business. While it lacked the drama of some meetings past, a few significant policy changes were made.
First, after voting to approve the meeting agenda and the December 13 meeting minutes, Council ratified an e-mail motion from December 22 that approved changes to AUSU Policies 2.14 and 2.15, defining “working expectations for general holidays and other scheduled AU closures” for the AUSU Executive and Council. VPFA Kim Newsome elaborated that these changes align the working requirements of the AUSU Executive, Council and staff; that is, no one will be required to work on any holidays or when AU is closed in December.
The updated policy, 2.14 Executive Accountability and Compensation, says that Executives will not be required to work any of the twelve federal and Alberta holidays or any weekday that AU is closed during the December holidays. AUSU policy did not previously address the working expectations of the Executive during holidays or AU closures. Executives will now receive paid leave for about an extra 15 days each year, depending on how long AU is closed. When asked for a comment on this increase after the meeting, AUSU President Shawna Wasylyshyn said that the Executive had reviewed AUSU records and found that “common practice had involved Executives not recording hours during the December break.” Shawna further stated that “Council determined this was a reasonable practice, considering that AUSU’s and AU’s offices were closed [during this time], and updated policy accordingly.” As this motion was passed by e-mail, we don’t know whether any councillors questioned this increase in paid leave or suggested that the Executive’s allotted vacation time be reduced to offset these new days off. We do know, however, that the motion was passed unanimously.
From then on, the bulk of the meeting was dedicated to AUSU’s human resource policies, reorganizing and condensing the policies to make them more user-friendly and consistent. In total, five AUSU policies were revised, three policies were rescinded, and all changes were approved unanimously. While most of the changes did not result in any real policy differences, there were a few items of note:
– The length of time that a former councillor must wait before applying for any paid employment with AUSU was increased from three months to two years.
– AUSU staff will now undergo quarterly performance reviews to track their progress toward goals and to identify any issues early on.
– The specific time period of ten days within which any employee performance concerns should be discussed with the employee was replaced with “as soon as possible.”
– Post-learning reports received from staff after AUSU-paid training will be included in the next council meeting package.
While reviewing these policies, Council also debated whether the AUSU Executive should be directly involved in conducting staff evaluations. It was proposed that at least one Executive Councillor should conduct all staff performance reviews alongside the Executive Director. Councillor Brandon Simmons disagreed with this point and stated that, in his view, the Executive Director should be given autonomy to manage staff how they see fit and to be held accountable for that role by Council. Executive Director Sarah Cornett commented that her approach for performance reviews is to include the input of Council and Executives and to seek out feedback from anyone who may have worked closely with the staff member. In the end, everyone agreed that the responsibility for these reviews should lie with the executive director, but that the process may include consultation with the Executive or individual councillors.
AUSU Executives, staff, and committee chairs then presented their regular reports. No AUSU committees met in December, but the Executive did attend their usual number of AU meetings and they briefly summarized their advocacy efforts. In addition, President Shawna Wasylyshyn remarked in her report on the success of the latest AUSU Meet and Greet in Edmonton, Alberta, which 15 students attended, and noted that she asked the Member Engagement and Communications Committee to create a “consistent framework” for these events across the country. VPEX Julian Teterenko reported the exciting news that ProctorU, the pilot exam service that AU launched in June 2016, will be continuing as a permanent service, welcome news for the many students who have come to love this convenience.
The next Council meeting will be held by teleconference on Thursday, February 16 at 5:30 pm MST. All members are welcome, and if you would like to attend or read the meeting reports, just send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org!