The penultimate meeting of the last student Council was held on March 13, 2018, starting promptly at 5:30pm. In addition to the regular council and staff, several members of the new council were also present, listening in to the discussions.
Council started by pulling policy 8.09 (the Terms of Reference for the Executive Committee) from the agenda as something that needed more work before it was ready for Council discussion and approval.
A review of the action items noted that the removal of policy 9.22 (AUSU’s position policy on e-texts and cost-savings sharing of e-texts) would not take place until the promised AU Bookstore was up and running, but that this was expected to happen soon.
The meeting proper got started with the first motion which was an interpretation of the AUSU Bylaws section 3.16. This section states simply that the students’ union membership fees are non-refundable. The motion first made sure to explicitly note that AUSU Council was allowed to do this kind of thing (make interpretations of the bylaws that may not be obvious), and then went on to approve the interpretation that non-refundable applies to course withdrawals that occur after the course start date, but not those that occur before the course starts or that happen due to compassionate case refund requests (such as recently happened with the fires in Fort MacMurray where several students lost not only homes, but books and work completed). It was noted that in the past, AU had automatically (and mistakenly) been taking back the student union fees from students who withdrew for any reason. When that withdrawal happened before the course start date or for compassionate case reasons, those student union fees had been being refunded to the student. However, in the case of withdrawal after the course start date, AU keeps all the fees paid.
Council noted during the meeting that they would not be pursuing AU for any fees refunded from the students’ union from before January 1, 2018, as neither the university nor AUSU had made any note of this happening.
It was also noted strenuously by the Councillors present that making an interpretation of the bylaws in this fashion was not something that should be done lightly or often, with this being the only case to date of it happening. However, it was felt that in evaluating the options available: either stopping all refunds of student union fees, or going through a lengthy bylaw amendment process, this was preferable to make sure that students and AUSU were treated fairly as quickly as possible. The motion passed unanimously.
Several policy revisions came forward next, with the first adjusting the duties and responsibilities of the Executive Director. This primarily added the duties of Editor in Chief to The Voice Magazine into this policy and specifically noted the Executive Director’s role in managing the finances of AUSU in conjunction with the VPFA. It also provided that should the President or a Councillor have to take on the role of the Executive Director, they would be allowed to claim 40 hours of work per week for pay rather than the 35 allotted to the President alone.
Council also created a new policy surrounding Councillors and Executive Councillors seeking other political or elected positions. This policy is a timely one considering that 2019 will have both federal and provincial elections, and in essence it prevents councillors or executives from running for a political party, or generally engaging in partisan activity for a campaign while on AUSU Council.
Finally, AUSU addressed a long-standing deficit in its policy manual by passing a new position policy on student aid and student financing. AUSU was perhaps unique among student unions for not having a formal position on student financing for the past three years, having repealed the last policy back in the early weeks of March, 2015. I wrote about this change then, and President Shawna Wasylyshyn noted that it was that article that caused her to realize what being on a student union was about. So while it’s taken three years to redress, I have to give credit for AUSU Council coming back to correct this, as the motion passed unanimously.
Following policy, the reports were read and a theme that emerged was frustration with some of the AU Governing Council sub-committees that AUSU has representatives on that simply haven’t met or done anything as AU concentrates on other things from the Third Party Report. The meeting adjourned at 6:52, with the next meeting scheduled for April 10, 2018, where the proposed fee increase will once again be coming forward for a vote at the last meeting of the outgoing Council.