Council Connection—October 11,2018 Meeting

The October 11th, 2018 Council meeting was called to order on time and all councillors attended.  A special “welcome back” was extended to Communications Coordinator, Donette Kingyens, who was away during the summer.

Beginning with this meeting and continuing forward is a change of format to the agenda.  Meetings will begin with a question and answer period so that observers to the meeting, especially those from outside AUSU, can ask for clarification on agenda items.  This change will hopefully increase engagement and communication in the monthly meetings.

The next section of the meeting was the review of action items.  President Brandon Simmons and Executive Director Jodi Campbell noted that the Voice website was not capturing analytics with the “clicks” received each week.  The error was noticed fairly recently, but steps are being taken to correct it.  Capturing the all-important analytics has turned into a more manual process by Voice editor Karl Low, but the process will be corrected.  Overall, downloads of the Voice pdf were down, but Jodi Campbell noted that “This is because the new Voice website is now so good that it makes it easy for people to read it online without having to download it.”

The continuing process of bylaw revision encompassed the bulk of the meeting.  AUSU hosted a student consultation on the bylaw revisions but a communication glitch meant that the teleconference was not as publicized as much as it could have been.  Councillors have had some interesting discussions on the bylaw revisions during the course of this process.  Most of the revisions have been around editing and simplifying the wording.  In general, the procedures themselves were considered solid.  Councillors thought that the revisions looked good and left the bylaws in a positive position for future councils.  During the November meeting, the bylaw revisions will have a second reading and with a successful vote, will be successfully passed.

However, the policy regarding reimbursement of travel and related expenses for councillors required more revision and clarification, especially regarding legal ramifications for alternative arrangements and extended travel.  AUSU sought legal advice about this policy to make councillors aware of their obligations with travel for council and compensation for official AUSU business.  All councillors agreed with the revised policy.

An exciting development for AUSU is the creation of a Student Advisory Committee, which is an entirely new initiative.  AUSU wishes to seek out the broader opinion of its members to provide input and feedback to council on its policies and operations.  Membership in this new committee would be entirely voluntary and without honorarium.  As President Simmons noted, “There will be work with the committee but hopefully there will be a lot of interest and people will get involved.” However, Alice Namu asked whether there should be some kind of compensation for members’ time and effort.  President Simmons said that this would be difficult, as an honorarium is normally based on meetings and it is difficult to predict how much work the committee will do.  He said that the work will not be as demanding as what is involved with being a councillor but will be a great experience and great to put on a resume.  The SAC is going to be designed to be less work than a regular AUSU committee.  Jodi Campbell added to these points by saying that in designing the SAC, council spent a lot of time discussing honorariums but, with this committee, the workload and commitment is very low, perhaps four times a year at most.  However, he pointed out that “volunteer appreciation is vital and AUSU will recognize that in some way because AUSU will be grateful for student participation and would still have access to student bursaries and awards.”

AUSU has also revised its social media strategy and goal-setting with the various platforms.  Councillors all agreed with the policy.

The next main section of the meeting was highlighting the Executive Reports.  President Simmons spoke positively about what he has been involved with over the past month or so.  He attended the Board of Governors retreat and had a much more positive experience this time.  The last time he attended, AU was without a permanent president but now AU is growing and the AU executive team is hopeful about the university’s future.  The executive team also appears to be more willing to listen to students’ concerns than ever before.  Melinda Goertz, Vice President External and Student Affairs, echoed the president’s sentiments.  She also attended the Board of Governors retreat and noted that there was a lot of brainstorming about provincial policies and their implications for Athabasca University.  AU needs to play a larger role in provincial advocacy because the largest part of the student body is based in Alberta, but the decisions that the Alberta government makes has a knock-on effect to AU students elsewhere.  Students can expect to hear more from AUSU on this matter, especially as the upcoming Alberta provincial election draws closer.  There has also been lots of discussion within AU regarding fulfilling the needs of Indigenous students.

Natasha Donohue, AUSU Vice President of Finance and Administration, attended AU’s first star party in September.  The weather was not great for star-gazing but two-hundred people showed up and there were lots of meeting and greeting and children’s activities.  AU hopes this will become an annual event that will draw more tourism to the town of Athabasca and highlight the Aurora study department.

Jodi Campbell formally welcomed back Donette Kingyens to her duties, and said that she really is the “backbone” of AUSU.  The new AUSU survey will be executed very soon.  Also, the new round of award applications is now live and are a great student benefit.  There was no real update to the replacement of Student Lifeline.  AUSU is still working hard at replacing the service and getting it going for students.

Donette Kingyens reported that there was low engagement with the AUSU LinkedIn page and Council was hoping to improve that.  However, engagement on social media was “really great” in some areas, but other areas’ engagement was very low.  The goal of council is to increase student engagement on all platforms.

Councillor Darcie Fleming asked about AU’s volunteer appreciation policy.  There is not policy currently in place, and thought it would be a good idea to have one.  AUSU, in conjunction with AU want to produce more volunteer opportunities and the recent star party was indicative of that.  It is something that AUSU should revisit in the future.

The meeting was adjourned at 8:05 PM.  The next meetings are on Thursday, November 8th 2018 at Thursday, December 13th at 2018.  Both meetings start at 6:30 PM MST and all are welcome to attend by teleconference.