Council Connection-August 9, 2018 Meeting

AUSU’s monthly Council meeting, held on Thursday August 9th at 6:30 was a quick and smooth one.  It was followed by the annual Member’s Meeting.  Despite some dial-in issues at the beginning, there were twenty participants listening in (including Council and Staff) and discussion at both meetings was positive.  Councillors Julian Teterenko and Vice-President External Melinda Goertz were absent with regrets.

After the usual formalities of calling the meeting to order and adopting last month’s minutes, the first item of new business was a motion to approve the AUSU 2018-2019 budget as recommended by the finance committee.  This motion was moved by Councillor Lisa Oracheski and seconded by Mark Teeninga.  President Brandon Simmons provided a few highlights about the financial report and emphasized that for the first time in many years, AUSU had a balanced budget, which was something to celebrate.

President Simmons said that was made possible by several factors.  The recent AUSU fee increase was the major contribution to AUSU’s financial health, but the work that was started with the previous Council and continued by the current student government regarding analyzing and improving procedures and policies have helped to optimize how and where funds are allocated.  What the improved AUSU financial situation means for AU students is that more initiatives and student “perks” will be opening up; specifically, some additional student awards and other programs such as Lynda and student discounts.

AUSU is still tweaking student awards and finding ways to optimize where the funds are allocated.  Some awards receive a high number of applications, such as the academic achievement and student volunteer bursaries, so AUSU would like to ensure the financial awards are responding to student needs.  Despite the high number of applications, these awards were receiving a lower amount of funding compared to other awards.  The emergency bursary, on the other hand, has never awarded its full share of the funds allocated to it.  The budget anticipates moving that unused portion to instead be used for the computer bursary, providing up to twelve computers.  Councillor Oracheski said that the finance committee is in a constant process to balance the academic achievement awards versus the need awards, but this process is more than simply creating more awards.

Exeuctive Director, Jodi Campbell noted that the budget is reflective of how AUSU is still growing as an organization and going forward it needs to address future needs while optimizing the current status quo.  He also said that the new budget allows for current council to also focus on other initiatives such as improving the website and student mailouts.  Having a balanced budget that everyone can be proud of will allow council to reach its goals.  This motion was carried with no opposition.

The next section of the meeting was highlighting the Executive and Committee reports.  Natasha Donohue, the VP of Finance and Administration, noted that she was trying to get more student involvement with the committees but it has been difficult.  For the awards committee, chair Amanda Lipinski said that summer has been a low period for student award applications.  AUSU’s Executive Director Jodi Campbell said that an engagement contest on Twitter and the recent launch of AUSU’s Instagram account had a positive response.

The final topic was discussion was the Communication and Members Services Coordinator’s Report.  There has been an increase in engagement both on social media and AUSU’s website, and these platforms have seen consistent traffic.  AUSU will continue to enhance its current social media strategy by using such things as a calendar outlook for future events, which will hopefully lead to increased attendance at Council meetings and the in-person events such as the meet and greets.  AU is being supportive of AUSU and wants to work with Council to increase student engagement, especially in light of AU’s Learning Framework strategy.

One question from the floor during the Q and A period was about the closure of AUSU’s Student Lifeline program, which is being replaced by AU’s new, and allegedly equivalent program, specifically about the potential for gaps in service.  Nothing has been released by AU regarding the changeover, but Student Lifeline has told AUSU that they are committed to working with students and are willing to extend their operations for free for an additional 30 days or so if it’s needed while the transition happens.

The rollout should be ready to go by the end of August, but there has been scant communication about the details of new service, just that there will be a new provider. AUSU is looking for more information from AU so that the details of the change can be conveyed to students.

Another question was about the meet and greets.  Attendance has been generally low for these events: no students showed up at the Sherwood Park event, and only one person attended in Vancouver.  One comment from the floor said that the location for these events are important, especially for students who do not drive or who have limited access to a vehicle.  Another suggestion was to reach out to students in specific programs to invite them.  But the communication between AUSU and the students who took the time to come out has been valuable.  Topics that have been discussed were the lack of consistency between courses and instructors, how teachers teach and the expectations by both instructors and students for individual courses.

The formal council meeting adjourned.  The next meetings are Thursday, September 13th, 2018, and Thursday, October 11th, 2018.  Both meetings are at 6:30pm MST and open to the public.