The first AUSU Council meeting of 2019 was held on Thursday, January 10th and marked a return to work for Council after the December break. In spite of the holiday hiatus, the AUSU executive remained busy behind the scenes.
All of the AUSU Councillors were in attendance, with the exception of Lisa Oracheski, who was ill. After the initial meeting protocols, including acknowledgement of the land, adopting the November minutes and January’s agenda, the meeting’s discussion got underway. The first major part of Council business was to announce the findings of the recent audit of AUSU’s finances. Chad Knippel, a partner of accounting firm Kingston Ross Panak (KRP), presented a detailed summary of the audit findings.
AUSU worked hard during the past few years to get its finances to a stable position and the recent audit showed that this goal was achieved. Knippel gave a thorough explanation of the auditing process, and explained that the audit was comprehensive and looked at every aspect of AUSU’s finances. While the mandate was to look for any risky situations that would indicate a possibility of fraud, the scope of the audit would not home in on individual fraudulent transactions. To get the audit process underway, Executive Director Jodi Campbell signed off on a full disclosure document that agreed that AUSU would hold nothing back and provide all the required information to the auditors.
The overall result was that AUSU’s financial picture is in great shape and is in a healthy position for the future. In fact, the increased enrollment at AU means that AUSU will have increased future revenue and projected income. The only risk that was flagged was regarding any issues that Athabasca University was having because AUSU is dependent on AU and are tied together as organizations. This interdependency required a disclosure statement.
The audit findings were moved by Amanda Lipinski and seconded by Joshua Ryan, with a unanimous vote passing the motion. KRP was then appointed AUSU’s financial auditor for the 2018-19 financial year, with Sarah Blaney Lew and Amanda Lipinski moving and seconding the motion.
The next point of discussion was regarding the ratification of the contract with LinkedIn Learning for the Lynda.cm service. In the past few months, there had been some concern about renewing the partnership with Lynda.com because of the escalating costs of the subscription. However, both AUSU and AU recognized the value of Lynda.com to AU’s learning community and both want the subscription to continue while finding a way to fund it in light of the cost increases. It was noted that perhaps one direction that AU could take was to find a way to better utilize Lynda and incorporate it into more of AU’s courses to benefit more students.
Melinda Goertz shred some exciting news with the rest of Council regarding AUSU’s proposal to host a regular podcast. The idea for a podcast project came about because Council realized that it would be a fun, flexible communication tool to share information and build a relationship with AU students. Since AU uses technology as a primary means to provide its courses and services, a podcast ties in with this mindset and will let the AU community get to know AUSU. Another goal of the podcast is to build a rapport between Councillors and the AU community. Councillor Goertz said that podcasts are incredibly versatile and can be listened to remotely whenever the listener finds it most convenient, much like studying with AU itself. AUSU is in the process of finding out how to best implement this project, including the initial equipment and software costs. Setup costs were estimated to be around the $1000 mark, with monthly costs being about $30/month. Council unanimously approved going forward with this project, with Councillor Goertz emphasizing that there will be advertising before the initial episode airs to get students interested in listening, and Council will monitor and evaluate its success after it has been implemented. Stay tuned for the launch, which is currently planned to happen during the next Executive retreat!
Another piece of good news was to announce the appointment of several AU students to the new AUSU Student Advisory Committee. The successful candidates are: Jennifer Bouley, Jon-Paul Hare, Christopher Hinbest, Landon King, Katy Lowe, Michele Mrkvan, Lionel Pinkhard, Giovanni Serebro, Zdenka Slavikova, and Raphael Ugobi, with AUSU President Brandon Simmons as the committee chair. The candidates come from a variety of faculties with representation from each. The term begins immediately and ends on September 30th, 2019. Congratulations to all the committee members!
Although Councillors had a lightened workload due to the break, several important points were raised during the presentation of their reports.
President Simmons related his experience of advocating for AU students at the recent CASA conference held in Ottawa. Another issue which is looming large for both AU and AUSU is the Alberta Government’s Bill 19, the bill that changes the Post-Secondary Learning Act. AUSU is still working on unpacking and analyzing how the bill will affect students. There were lots of presentations and discussions about the bill at AU’s most recent Board of Governors meeting. However, one bright spot in the legislation is that Athabasca University is now the only Alberta university specifically named in the legislation which is very good, as this works to safeguard AU’s future as a separate and distinct entity from the other Alberta post-secondary institutions, an issue that was previously a concern since there were rumors during AU’s troubles that some consideration was being given to folding AU into one of the other universities in the province. President Simmons noted that this will also help to maintain AU’s research status.
It was also noted in the report of the Vice-President External and Student Affairs’ Melinda Goertz, that the Faculty of Humanities and Social Science is looking toward establishing programs for a research based Master’s of Psychology, a Bachelors of Philosophy, and a Bachelors in Environmental Science, and that AUSU will be updating their website once again, this time with the help of the same firm that recently upgraded The Voice Magazine.
The meeting wrapped up at 8:01 PM. February’s meeting will include the results of AUSU’s annual survey of services. This year’s survey had 1123 responses, which is the most responses ever received by AUSU for a survey.
Tuesday, February 19th, 2019, 6:30pm MST – Public Meeting
Thursday, March 14th, 2019, 6:30pm MST – Public Meeting