Council Connection—May 10, 2018 Meeting

New Council, new rules.  The meeting started at 6:30pm, an hour later than it used to start, on a Thursday, not a Tuesday.  Twelve councillors were present, while councillor Julian Teterenko was absent with regrets.  A roll call helped to put names to some of the voices that would be heard throughout the meeting.

After approving the minutes, going through the action items noted a number of things on hold, waiting either for AU to move forward, or because Communications and Member Services Co-ordinator, Donette Kingyens, has been ill and unable to work for the last couple of weeks.  Best wishes and hopes for a speedy recovery are sent to her.

Taking us into the main business of the meeting, we started off with the vote to approve the proposed fee increase of $0.75/credit.  What might otherwise have been a fairly routine vote on this matter, as it was the second reading, was made more interesting in that this was a new group of Councillors who got to look at this and decide whether it should move forward.  There was some discussion as to why the fee was set to increase on October 1 of this year, rather than with the new year or with what is typically known as the start of a new school year at the beginning of September.

It was noted that AUSU’s financial year starts on October 1, and that the amount was calculated with that in mind, along with other changes to next year’s budget such as AUSU no longer funding the Student LifeLine service.  You read that correctly, but, like me, you’ll have to wait a little longer to find out more.

Council voted, and the motion passed unanimously.  It means an extra $2.25 cost added to most AU student courses, but will ensure that AUSU stops having to eat through its reserves to fund the programs you’re already receiving, and so can maintain them in future.

The meeting moved along swiftly after that, with the policy updates centering on regulating councillor and executive behavior to ensure Councillors remain accountable to the group and ensuring timelines were reasonable for the Executives and Council as a whole.

During the reports, President Brandon Simmons noted attending the AU Open House brought some benefits, including being able to show the Provost of AU the student side of Moodle. Something which he had never seen before, which could go a long way to explaining why the administration at AU often seems clueless when students note inconsistencies in the interface between different faculties or even courses.

He also mentioned that they used the open house and other meetings to continue to push on the issue of late exam and supplementary exam fees.  AU’s VP of Student and Academic Services, Alain May, has agreed to look into them.

There was also a question about whether the AU Board of Governors would have AUSU representatives for the next meeting on May 25th, and while this is something that’s controlled by the government, the feeling was that it would be done by then.

It was also noted that AU wants some sort of 24/7 mental health initiative, and that they want representatives from both AUSU and the AU Grad Students Association (AUGSA) on the committee.  AU apparently has money specifically ear-marked for this project available from the government and needs to move quickly if they hope to take advantage of it.  This is the reason why it was noted that AUSU would likely not need to continue paying for the Student LifeLine service, as it was something AU would find a comparable (or perhaps better) service for students to use.

While there are some concerns about the transition between the two organizations, the hope is that it will all happen very smoothly, and thoughts are being put toward how to best serve those students who may be in middle of using one service when the program transitions.

There was also a question raised as to why President Simmons noted in his report that AUSU would not be seeking a board position in the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA) this year.  President Simmons responded that while the board positions do give considerable influence, they are also a significant commitment of time, and with the various changes going on both at AU and AUSU (including the switch to a larger Council and the upcoming adjustments to AUSU’s Student LifeLine service) it was felt that AUSU should spend its time with a stronger internal focus this year.

He noted, though, the caveat that CASA is hiring a new Executive Director, which would be an excellent reason to have a board position. Fortunately, the AUGSA president is on the hiring committee for the new Executive Director and says they’re very happy with the choice, which suggests that the choice will also work well for AUSU in general.

Other executive reports also took a moment to note the value of connecting at the AU Open House, and how being able to bring student concerns and views directly to the executives in a more relaxed setting may have opened some lines of communication, including comments about how AU might want to have Councillors join other open houses so as to better communicate what studying at AU is like to prospective students.

Finally, the formal portion of the meeting came to a close and the observer question period started. Naturally I was wanting to know more about the possible cancellation of Student LifeLine and how this relates to the AU budget and fees, as that’s a significant line item on the budget.  However, AUSU has known about this possible change for some time, and knows that AU wants to have the new group selected by August, the AUSU renewal date, to ensure they keep the money the government is offering.  This is part of the reason that the fee increase was lowered to $0.75/credit rather than the previously proposed $1.50.

I remain skeptical about whether the university can achieve this timeline, as this is the university that took over 10 years to get student email addresses, but that, at least, is the goal.

With that, at 7:59pm, the meeting was adjourned, the next meeting is on June 16 at the AU Councillor retreat.  Contact if you want to attend in person or by teleconference.