Council Connection—Out with the Old, In with the New

April 10, 2018 Meeting

At 5:30pm the last meeting of the 2016-2018 AUSU Council convened.  With the new Council being sworn in and the previous council there to have their final meeting, the teleconference was packed.  Still, the meeting ran smoothly, with the Councillors elect all mostly maintaining their silence until they were called upon to take office.

But, before that happened, the old council had some final business to wrap up.  While you might expect that a final meeting would be mostly spent tying up loose ends, this council chose to add to the agenda a motion on an item that was only a few hours old.  It was an interesting change from the normal pace where much of the policy decisions have been made in email discussions before the public meeting ever starts.  It was also likely a very useful demonstration to the new Council, who were all present, as to how to conduct business over the teleconference.

The first piece of final business attended to by the old Council, however, was the presentation of AUSU’s annual report.  The report goes through everything AUSU did and has been doing for students over the past year, and includes the budget that shows that although AUSU budgeted for an almost $151,000 deficit for 2017, the final results only showed a $4,000 deficit.  This is something that’s been fairly common for AUSU over the past years, where budgets were planned with large deficits, but tend to end the year with only a very modest deficit.  If you ever wondered just what AUSU does with your student union fee, this is the place to look.

Next, a motion to adjust AUSU’s financial reserves to address the, well, reservations, that certain Councillors had about increasing the AUSU student fees while AUSU’s significant reserves were available with no concrete plans as to their use.  $360,000 was reserved as a contingency fund, or basically, a fund to allow AUSU to continue operation if there was some interruption in student fees, and $60,000 reserved for “future AUSU leasehold improvements.”  This contingency reserve, when combined with the already present operating reserve (or basically, cash that AUSU keeps on hand to pay bills month to month) would cover approximately 60% of AUSU’s annual budget, allowing it to operate for up to six months while dealing with an interruption or significant decrease in student fee revenue.

The next motion was the new addition to the agenda.  This motion was to address how the AUSU travel bursary was awarded.  The policy states that AUSU must book and pay for all travel directly, however it was noted that in some cases this can be problematic, especially if that travel involved a vehicle rental.  If AUSU were to directly rent the vehicle, AUSU would then be responsible for any damages or fines that were incurred by the driver.  On the other hand, it might be impossible for a student to attend their practicuum or other academic activity that they needed the travel bursary for without a vehicle.

It was also noted that the policy limited AUSU from being able to provide partial payment, which might mean that an award recipient would not be able to receive the full benefit of the $1000 award.  At the same time, there was some reluctance to simply provide the full value as cash, as it was noted that some applicants had over-stated their costs to travel, which then limits how many travel bursaries can be given.

Eventually, a compromise was reached for the few special cases where these concerns would be a problem, and the motion passed unanimously.  Future applicants can rest assured that if they really need the full $1000, AUSU will do what it can to arrange the travel and disbursement of funds in such a way that gives students what they need up to the limits of the award, but maintains control to ensure that the money is being used for the purpose intended.

Finally, the big motion of the evening came forward for the old council. This motion was the first reading (again) of AUSU’s proposed fee increase.  This time, the fee increase had been reduced to $0.75 per credit from the previous incarnation’s $1.50.  In addition, with the earlier motion tonight, some questions as to what AUSU was doing with its reserves had been answered.  The motion passed unanimously, with council members noting that rejecting the motion the first time did turn out to be the right course of action, as staff and council took the extra time it gave them to determine that the fee increase only needed to be half of the original proposed amount.

While this fee increase has to be voted on again at the next AUSU Council meeting (with the brand new Council) if it passes, it means that your AUSU fee will increase by $2.25/course, bringing the total AUSU course fee to $11.25 for a 3 credit course.  It is estimated by council that this increase will cause AUSU to have budgets with a surplus of approximately $30,000, rather than deficits of over $100,000.

The old council then went through their last set of reports, with outgoing President Shawna Wasylyshyn noting that she had put in strong objections to AU’s new resource plan which is proposing a 4% increase across the board on everything that AU could increase, so all non-mandatory fees, such as extentions or exam retake fees, as well as out of province and international tuitions.  However, most of the reports passed without significant comment.

This would normally bring us to the end of the meeting, but this was a council changeover meeting, so there were two more items of business for the old council to do.

The first was the dissolution of the 2016-2018 council, with various goodbyes and praises passed around between executives, councillors, and staff members.

The second was introduction of the new council and the recitation of the oath of office.  Every council changeover, all of the incoming council are required to read the oath of office, but instead of going around the table and doing each individually, it is AUSU’s tradition to all read it together.  What might in some organizations be a chorus of voices pledging to help students and lead AUSU ethically, in our case—with a long oath and unity being hampered over teleconference—it turns into a cacophony of voices, unintelligible to anyone, but relying on each of us to simply trust that they’re doing it right.

Personally, I tend to think of it as symbolic of how distance education operates, we all do our own thing and, even though it’s the same thing, to anybody looking from the outside it’s complete chaos.  To anybody within, all that matters is you get your part of the job done and trust that those around you are doing theirs.  What could be a more accurate reflection of how AUSU, and even AU works?

With that, most of the old Council bowed out, and the new Council got on with their first and only task of the evening, filling in all the AU standing committee seats with councillors.  With 13 people now on Council, filling all seats in each committee was easy, and even required spur-of-the-moment speeches and elections.

The results are as follows:

Finance Committee (acclamation):
  • Darcie Fleming
  • Alice Namu
  • Lisa Oracheski,
  • Joshua Ryan
  • Mark Teeninga
Awards Committee (acclamation):
  • Melinda Goertz (executive position)
  • Sarah Blaney-Lew
  • Christine Hudder
  • Amanda Lipinski
  • Lisa Oracheski
Member Engagement and Communication Committee (election):
  • Brittany Daigle
  • Christine Hudder
  • Amanda Lipinski
  • Joshua Ryan

With that concluded, the meeting adjourned at 7:52pm, with the next meeting scheduled Thursday, May 10th.  Note that the Thursday meeting time is a change from the 2016-2018 council, which used to meet on the second Tuesday.  So, if you always wanted to attend before but were busy on Tuesdays, perhaps now’s your chance.

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