Council Connection—July 12, 2018 Meeting

At 6:39pm on July 12, the July meeting of AUSU Council got rolling with all councillors present.  The early business was fairly routine, with the one exception being that, once again, AUSU is delaying the removal of position policy 9.22 pending AU getting the student bookstore up and running.  While this isn’t beyond the routine in itself at this point, it was noted that AU now plans for the bookstore to launch in October, but it will only be selling books for courses starting in February.  The reasoning behind this move is that some students will register six months in advance (if only my life was that organized).  AU is aware, and if not, AUSU made them aware, that doing it this way is bound to cause some confusion for students between October and February who will see the bookstore is open but be unable to use it for their courses. AU is apparently working on a plan to ease the transition.

Cynical minds among us (meaning me) wonder if this may be a semi-deliberate ploy to sabotage the bookstore idea, as it would no doubt be easier for AU if they didn’t have to administer such a thing at all.

However, moving on to new business, AUSU Council then approved the draft executive workplan.  This is essentially AUSU’s new form of their goal list for the upcoming year, with certain areas and goals identified and assigned to an executive’s area of responsibility.  I’ve been told that when the plan is finalized it is currently intended that it will be made publicly available for any student who wants to see it.

The next item, titled simply, “AU Learning Framework” took up the bulk of the meeting.  In response to Ken Coates’ Third Party Review, AU has set up four work committees to tackle each section of AU’s “Imagine” action plan.  AUSU and the AUGSA have representatives on the steering committee that is guiding these four committees.  President Brandon Simmons noted that these committees have asked AUSU for help getting information from students as to where they see AU fifty years out.  AUSU has put together a rough timeline for how to do this and is currently waiting for some information from AU as to what areas have the largest concentration of program students to aid in targeting students.

He also asked Council at that time for some brainstorming as to issues they think AU will need to be dealing with in the next fifty years.  Some ideas that came forward include the ability to adapt to trends and changes in technology are an area that AU has been held up on, better ways to bring collaboration to the learning environment, ways to address different styles of learning, and the possibility of creating open courses for people who aren’t necessarily students as a means of promoting AU courses.

Personally, I wonder if this exercise is little more than a cat chasing its tail. The cat certainly thinks its being productive, and a lot of effort is put into the activity, but ultimately it changes nothing.  Fifty years ago the internet didn’t exist.  The idea of a student taking a course from Canada while riding a bus in Germany on their way to take their invigilated final exam from the comfort of their own home was ludicrous, and the pace of change has only accelerated. For all we know, in fifty years having some sort of brain implant that instantly provides a person with the knowledge they need as they need it might be commonplace.

Moving into policy adjustments, only the awards policy was up for examination during this meeting, but there were several adjustments made to it, including limiting the number of awards a single student can receive each year with the goal of being able to provide support to a larger number of members and adding a GPA requirement to the academic achievement award to lower the bulk unsuccessful applications. Council also made some significant adjustments to the travel bursaries for those times when students might need to rent a vehicle.  These changes were approved unanimously.   I asked about the new limits to the number of awards a student can receive and how Council intends to determine which specific awards a student receives if they apply (and qualify) for several.  The response was that, for now, this will be one of the things that the awards committee will discuss when deciding who wins an AUSU award.

With policy complete, the various reports were presented.  President Simmons noted that he had a meeting with the Provost Dr. Alain May, where it was noted that AU is working on the policy and the IT so that exam timelines are more flexible for people taking online exams, and are working to make as many of their exams online (as opposed to on paper) as possible.  AUSU was also notified that if the tuition freeze is lifted (something extremely likely if the UCP gets elected in Alberta) AU will be reviewing all of their mandatory fees “to see what is appropriate”.

VP External, Melinda Goertz, noted that AUSU’s priorities have been sent to CASA delegates and they are waiting to see what happens with those in future, and also wanted to highlight that the Vice-President of University Relations hiring committee has been created.  Personally, I think that this position is yet one more step into the corporatization of academia—why should a public university need what seems to be, essentially, a marketing manager—but I’m not the one who makes these decisions.

Then it was time for the VP Finance, Natasha Donahue, to make her report, where she noted the joint Board of Governors and General Faculties Council session that took place on June 21, which dealt with issues raised by Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Committee, specifically those issues revolving around communication and engagement with indigenous learners.

She also noted that the university has concluded it’s search for a new VPFA/CFO although she was not sure if she was allowed to release the name of the chosen candidate during the Council meeting.  Finally, she pointed out that the budget process for next years AUSU budget, the first with the new fee structure, has begun.

A final note of interest was from the MECC committee report, where it was pointed out that AUSU has obtained 125 ProctorU exam codes to give to students as prizes, allowing them a free exam through the ProctorU system.

It was also confirmed that AUSU will be hosting more Facebook Live events, with the current plans being to hold one while at the CASA conference.

With that the meeting was closed, with the motion to adjourn coming at 8:04.

The next meeting will be held on August 9th at 6:30pm, and will have to be a short one, since the Annual Members Meeting is being held immediately after at 7:30pm.  The Annual Members meeting is slightly different from the normal Council meetings as all students attending are invited to speak their minds and, if so inclined, raise motions to be put on the agenda and discussed.  Contact for more information if you want to attend either.